The American League wild card race appears that it will come down to the final few days as there are 11 teams that have a legitimate chance of securing a playoff berth in 2016 with about 45 games remaining.
Currently, the Toronto Blue Jays and Baltimore Orioles, Cleveland Indians, and Texas Rangers sit atop of their respective divisions. The Rangers, who own the most wins in the AL, have the biggest lead of any of the three division leaders. Texas holds a five-and-a-half game lead over the Seattle Mariners and a seven-and-a-half lead over the Houston Astros.
While the divisional races are kind of tight, particularly in the AL East, the wild card race is even murkier with eight teams within 10 games of both wild card spots. The Baltimore Orioles and Boston Red Sox are in the most favorable positions but their lead is very tenuous as the Detroit Tigers, Mariners, Astros, and New York Yankees are all within six games. The Kansas City Royals and Chicago White Sox are still in the running though they are further down the standings.
The Oakland A’s, Los Angeles Angels, Tampa Bay Rays, and Minnesota Twins are all more than 10 games out of the last wild card spot, and therefore, they are essentially eliminated from playoff contention.
Here are the power rankings of the teams in contention for a playoff spot.
1. Cleveland Indians (67-49) stay the same. Cleveland owns a five-game lead over Detroit in the central division. The Indians are tied with the Boston Red Sox for the highest run scoring difference (+104) in the AL. The Tribe are 7-4 in their last 11 games.
Cleveland ranks in the top 10 of the Majors in all eight major statistical categories, both offensively and for pitching. FiveThirtyEight projects that the Indians will finish with an AL-best 93-69 record and gives them a 92 percent chance to make the playoffs and 83 percent chance to claim the division title. In the meantime, MLB has the Tribe at 95.1 percent to make the playoffs and 88.8 percent to win the Central.
Strengths: The Tribe can beat teams a number of different ways offensively. Four of the Indians top seven hitters are batting over.290, led by SS Jose Ramirez (.311). Cleveland has three players with 20 or more home runs – Mike Napoli (29), Carlos Santana (25), and Jason Kipnis (20) — and ranks seventh in the Majors with 150 long balls. They are also fourth in all of baseball with 93 stolen bases as four players have double-digit steals – Raja Davis leads the way with 32. Cleveland is hitting a league-high.287 in the second half of the season.
Cleveland has one of the best rotations in the Majors. Cody Kluber (12 wins), Danny Salazar (11), and Josh Tomlin (11) all have double-figure victories. The Indians bullpen also has been solid, earning 16 victories and blowing just 10 saves.
Weaknesses: Pinch-hitting and giving up home runs. Cleveland ranks last in the Majors with a.132 batting average by pinch-hitters (7-for-53). The Indians’ pitchers have surrendered 95 home runs, the eighth most in the league.
Biggest question: Tomlin (11-6, 4.14 ERA). The 31-year-old was on the verge of having the best season of his career but has been shelled in four-of-his-last-seven starts. Tomlin has failed to reach the fifth inning in three of those starts and has surrendered 50 hits along with 32 runs during the seven-game span. He gave up two home runs vs. Boston on Aug. 15 and has surrendered 29 this season.
2. Texas Rangers (70-52) moved up one spot from No. 3. Texas is on pace for 92 victories and have an 89 percent to make the playoffs and 79 percent chance of winning the West, per FiveThirtyEight. MLB gives the Rangers a 94.4 percent chance of making the playoffs and an 86.5 percent shot at taking the division.
Texas snapped its two-game winning streak with a 5-2 victory over the Oakland A’s Monday. Down 2-1 in the bottom of the fifth, Adrian Beltre hit a grand slam to give the Rangers the victory. The home run was Beltre’s 19th of the season and 432 of his career.
Martin Perez (8-8) pitched seven strong innings to pick up his first victory since June. The 25-year-old lefty permitted five hits and surrendered two run, though just one earned, while striking out six.
Texas did receive some bad news as Shin-Shoo Choo will likely miss the rest of the season as he broke his forearm when he was hit by a pitch from Oakland’s Ross Detwiler. The Rangers summoned OF Ryan Rua from the minors to replace Choo.
The Rangers, who are the seventh highest scoring team, have been shutout in each of their last two games. They also rank eighth in batting average, 10th in slugging percentage, and 18th in on-base percentage.
Strengths: Texas has good offensive balance as their top five regular hitters are hitting.277 or better. The Rangers also have three players with 20 home runs and five players with 13 or more dingers.
Cole Hamels and Yu Darvish are top flight starters. Texas is second in the Majors with 43 saves and has converted 75 percent of their save opportunities, which ranks sixth in the Majors. They have five players with at least one save, led by Sam Dyson’s 27, who picked up his 27th save of the season on Monday.
Weaknesses: DH, pinch-hitting, bullpen and fielding. Texas is getting the worst production of any team in contention for a playoff spot from their designated hitter. The Rangers’ DH’s are hitting a combined.227 with 13 home runs and have a.309 OBP. Texas’ pinch-hitters also have just six hits in 37 at-bats (.162 average).
Big Question: Health of the starting rotation. The Rangers have used 11 different starting pitchers as Darvish has only made nine starts this year, and Colby Lewis along with Derek Holland are currently on the disabled list. Lewis is having the best season of his career, posting a 6-1 record with a 3.21 ERA and 1.02 WHIP. Holland and Lewis are expected to return sometime in September.
3. Toronto Blue Jays (67-52) moved down a spot from No.2. Toronto trails the Baltimore Orioles by.01 percentage points after being shutout by the New York Yankees (1-0) in their first of a three-game series Monday night. The Blue Jays managed just three hits as they were kept off the scoreboard for the fifth time all year. R.A. Dickey (8-13) gave up the lone run on four in five innings of work. He walked four batters and fanned six. Dickey is 1-4 and has a no-decision in his last six starts.
With Monday’s loss, Toronto drops to 5-1 against New York this season. The Jays have now loss three straight road games and is 5-5 over their last 10 contests.
Marco Estrada (7-5, 2.92 ERA) will take the hill for Toronto in Game 2 of the series against New York. Estrada had a difficult outing in his last start but has gone at least six innings in 17 -of-his-20 starts. The 33-year-old hasn’t given up more than three earned runs in any of his previous 13 starts. He has gone 3-2 with a 3.92 ERA in seven starts against the Yankees since joining the Blue Jays last season.
The loss to the Yankees on Monday, dropped Blue Jays projected win total from 91-to-90 games and their playoff chances from 79 percent to 75 percent. The Jays now have a 40 percent chance of claiming the AL East, according FiveThirtyEight, which is down from 46 percent. Their percentage of making the playoffs also have taken a slight hit in MLB’s projections as they now have an 81.0 percent chance at making the playoffs, and a 38.0 percent shot at winning the division.
Toronto ranks in the top-11 in runs, slugging percentage, and on-base percentage. The Jays also rank in the top-six of all four major pitching categories.
Strengths: Toronto has one of the best starting pitching staffs in the Majors. – J.A. Happ (16-3), Aaron Sanchez (12-2), and Estrada have been outstanding. Closer Robert Osuna has converted 26-of-28 save opportunities, including 13 straight. The 21-year-old right has only blown five-of-his-51 save opportunities in his career.
Toronto has hit the second most home runs in the Majors with 166. Edwin Encarnacion leads the team with 33 homers (second in the Majors) and leads baseball with 97 RBIs. Josh Donaldson (28), Michael Saunders (20), and Tulowitzki (20) also have at least 20 long bombs. In total, the Jays have eight players with 10 or more homers.
Weaknesses: Batting average, strikeouts, bullpen.
Big question: Who will replace Jose Bautista production? Bautista has missed the past three game and is currently on the 15-day disabled list. While Bautista has struggled all season, his power potential can’t be ignored by pitchers as Bautista has hit 15 home runs in 80 games this year.
Update: Darrell Ceciliani has taken over the left field spot for Bautista. The 26-year-old has gotten a hit in three-of-the-four games (3-for-13) — two of those hits have been doubles — and has scored a run and drove in a run. Overall, Ceciliani is hitting.158 (3-for-19) with eight strikeouts.
4. Boston Red Sox (65-52) stayed the same. Boston has won four in a row with their 3-2 victory over the Cleveland Indians on Aug.15. Trailing 1-0, David Ortiz hit a two-run home run in the top of the sixth inning to put the Red Sox up 2-1. Two batters later Jackie Bradley deposited his 19th hit over the fence to give the Sox a 3-1 lead.
Boston is one-game behind Baltimore/Toronto and two games up on Seattle in the wild card standings. MLB gives the Red Sox the best chance to win the AL East at 44 percent and 83.4 percent chance of making the postseason overall. FiveThirtyEight, on the other hand, gives the BoSox just a 61 percent chance of advancing beyond the regular season.
Drew Pomeranz picked up his first victory as a member of the Red Sox, scattering five hits and two runs over 7 and two-thirds innings. He also struck out six and walked two. Craig Kimbrel picked up his 20th save in 22 opportunities.
Strengths: Boston is the top offensive team in the Majors, leading the league in all four major categories and they have a +104 run differential. Mookie Betts leads the team lead in batting average (.313) and is second in home runs (26). Xander Bogaerts, David Ortiz, and Dustin Pedroia are also hitting above.300. Ortiz has 27 home runs on the season and 529 career round-trippers.
David Price was expected to be the ace of the squad when he signed his massive contract, but he has failed to live up to that billing so far. However, Steven Wright (13-5, 3.01 ERA) and Rick Porcello (16-3, 3.30 ERA) have far exceeded expectations. Wright was placed on the 15-DL with a shoulder injury on August 14, although he will be eligible to come off it on August 23, according to ESPN.
Weaknesses: Fourth and fifth starters, set-up men. Boston has used seven pitchers as the No. 4 and 5 starters, and they have combined to produce an 8-16 record. Also, all seven of those pitchers have an ERA over 5.00. Pomeranz and Eduardo Rodriguez currently hold the final two spots in the rotation. Pomeranz is 1-2 with a 4.59 ERA in six starts since being acquired from the San Diego Padres while Rodriguez is 2-5 with a 5.43 ERA in 12 starts.
Big question: Can Andrew Benintendi continue his hot start. The 22-year-old left fielder has just 12 games of ML service, but he has been fabulous, hitting in seven of those games and posting an.351 average (13-for-37) with six runs and six RBIs.
5. Baltimore Orioles (66-51) stays the same. Baltimore leads the wild card race though they are just 5-5 in their last 10 games. The O’s have been given a 69 percent chance to make the playoffs by FiveThirtyEight while MLB just gives them a slightly better than 50 percent chance of advancing to the postseason.
Baltimore ranks in the top 15 in all four major offensive categories.
Strengths: The Orioles are one of the best power-hitting teams in the Majors and has a league-high 176 home runs as seven players have hit 10 or more dingers. Mark Trumbo leads MLB with 34 homers and is fourth in the league with 85 RBIs. Manny Machado, who has been the team’s best hitter, has been hot lately – hitting.327 with four home runs in August.
Baltimore has one of the best bullpens in the Majors. The Orioles’ pen has the second most wins in the Majors (27-9) and third best ERA (3.15). They also lead the Majors with 43 saves, converting 76.9 percent of their save opportunities. Closer Zach Britton has been lights out, producing a 2-1 record with 37 saves and a.52 ERA along with a.84 WHIP. All-Star set-up man Brad Brach has also been excellent though he has gone through a rough stretch lately.
Weaknesses: Starting pitching, speed and road woes. Chris Tillman is the only starter with a winning record (15-4, 3.46 ERA). The O’s are only 27-34 on the road.
Big question. Can Chris Davis turn his season around? Davis has struggled badly after signing a monstrous contract this past offseason. He is hitting just.220 with 24 home runs and 67 walks. Davis’ production is line with his career averages but a far cry from his top seasons in 2013 and 2015.
6. Seattle Mariners (63-54) stays the same. Seattle has the best winning percentage in the AL since the All-Star break (18-10) and are the hottest team, winning 9-of-11. The Mariners are two games out of the wild card spot, but they have been given only a 34 percent chance by MLB to advance to the postseason. They have been given a 17 percent to win the West by FiveThirtyEight.
Seattle ranks in the top-13 in all four major offensive categories and in the top 14 in all four major pitching categories. The M’s are ninth in ERA, ninth in WHIP, and 10th in batting average against.
Strengths: Kyle Seager and Robinson Cano are having solid offensive seasons, but the team’s biggest offensive threat is the long-ball. The Mariners have hit 163 homers and have eight players with 11 or more round-trippers. Nelson Cruz leads the way with 29 home runs, and he is followed by Cano (26) and Seager (22).
Veteran Hisashi Iwakuma leads the pitching staff with a 14-7 record and team-high 150.0 innings. Rookie Edwin Diaz has converted all six of his save opportunities since being inserted as a closer. The 22-year-old right-hander has only allowed two hits and one run in his last seven appearances.
Weakness: Speed. Seattle only has stolen 34 bases in 59 attempts. Leonys Martin leads the team with 12 steals in 17 attempts.
Biggest question. Health of pitching staff? The M’s have used 29 different pitchers, including 12 starters. Ace Felix Hernandez has only made 15 starts and several relief pitchers are currently on the disabled list.
7. Detroit Tigers (63-55) have scuffled lately, going 4-6 in their last 10 games, although they still have the most second-half victories in the AL with 17 (tied with Seattle). The Tigers have been given a 36-to-48 percent chance to make the playoffs. They have been given an 11-to-18 percent chance to win the Central.
Strengths: Detroit has a +33 run differential and rank in the top-nine in the four major offensive categories. The Tigers, led by Miguel Cabrera, have five players hitting at least.286 and 15 or more home runs – the other players are Victor Martinez, J.D. Martinez, Ian Kinsler, and Nick Castellanos.
Justin Verlander (12-6, 3.42 ERA) is having his best season in his last four years. Rookie Michael Fulmer (10-3, 2.25 ERA) has been fabulous while Jordan Zimmerman (9-5, 4.44 ERA) has had his moments though he is currently on the 15-day disabled list.
Weaknesses: Injuries and bullpen. The Tigers have six players on the disabled list, including three regulars (Castellanos, Jose Iglesias, and Cameron Maybin) and two starting pitchers (Zimmerman and Mike Pelfrey). Detroit has used 20 different relievers, and their two best relief pitchers – Alex Wilson and Shane Greene – have an ERA above 2.75. Closer Francisco Rodriguez has been effective but not unhittable.
The big question is can Matt Boyd be the team’s fourth or fifth starter the rest of the year? Detroit has yet to find a reliable late rotational starter as Anibal Sanchez and Pelfrey have struggled mightily all season long. Boyd is coming off his best start of the season on August 13, permitting two hits over seven innings in a 2-0 victory over Texas. The 25-year-old lefty is 4-2 on the season with a 4.16 ERA.
8. Houston Astros (61-57) stays the same. Houston still has a fighting chance to make the playoffs as both FiveThirtyEight and MLB has the Astros chances of reaching the playoffs at 18 percent. The Astros have a +44 run differential, thanks in large part to their stingy pitching staff. Houston has surrendered the second-fewest runs in the AL.
Strengths: 2B Jose Altuve is having an MVP-type season, hitting.362 to go along with.427 on-base percentage and.573 slugging percentage. He has hit 19 home runs, drove in 73 runs and stole 26 bases.
Doug Fister (11-7, 3.61 ERA) and Lance McCullers (6-5, 3.22 ERA) have been the most consistent of the starters. However, the Astros’ bullpen is a major reason the team is still in contention for a playoff spot. Houston’s relievers are 19-14 with a 3.27 ERA and 30 saves as well as a.236 batting average against. Luke Gregerson (14 saves) and Will Harris (12) have combined to blow seven saves, but overall they have been relatively effective.
Weakness: Batting average.
Big Question: Can Carlos Correa be reliable? Correa has hit in 10 straight games and is batting.345 with three home runs and 15 RBIs in August. Since the start of the month, the 21-year-old has raised his batting average from.266 to.277, and he now has 18 home runs and a team-high 82 RBIs.
9. New York Yankees (61-57) stays the same. New York will be fighting the rest of the season to remain in position for a playoff spot. The Yanks blew a great opportunity with their 12-3 loss to Tampa Bay on Sunday and have a 4 to 7 percent chance of reaching the postseason for a second consecutive season.
New York has made several deals for prospects in order to build for the future recently. Since the trades, the Yankees have decided to go with younger players such as Tyler Austin and Aaron Judge. And that decision has paid immediate dividends as Austin and Judge have combined to go 6-for-15 with three home runs, four runs, and three RBIs.
Buster Olney of ESPN reported that despite the fact the Yankees are still in the wild card hunt, they plan on giving their youngsters as much playing time as possible. Their prospects include C Gary Sanchez, RHP Chad Green, RHP Luis Cessa and SP Luis Severino.
T-10. Kansas City Royals (58-60) and Chicago White Sox (56-61) have little hope of making a strong playoff push. Both teams have awful run differential numbers, and neither team is good on the road.
[Photo by Steven Senne/AP Images]