Deciphering The AL Wild Card Race
With the trade deadline upon us, Betting Sports decided it was time to take a look at the wild card picture in the American League.
There’s still two months of baseball to be played which means there will be plenty of opportunities for storylines to break and surprises to emerge, but right now there’s a distinctive feel to the league and how it will play out before October.
Below you’ll find a summary of all 15 American League clubs and how we expect their season will come to a close. Let’s start with those clubs already planning ahead.
Out of the Race
While some fan bases might not want to admit it, the 2014 campaign is over for a selection of American League teams. Here’s a look at who’s already planning for next year.
Texas Rangers (43-65)
The Rangers waved goodbye to the season weeks ago and will be well and truly putting preparations in place for a bounce back year in 2015.
Houston Astros (44-64)
The Astros were never truly in the race but at least this year they have a shot at earning the title of best team in Texas.
Boston Red Sox (48-60)
Some believe the defending champions should fight until the last bell but the BoSox front office knows a dead horse when it sees one. All that’s left now is to see whether the likes of Jon Lester, John Lackey and Shane Victorino will be donning a new uniform this weekend.
Minnesota Twins (48-58)
Any remaining hopes of a wild card berth in the Twin Cities are exclusively the property of big dreamers. Simply put, there are too many better teams ahead of the Twins.
Chicago White Sox (52-56)
At just four games under .500, the White Sox should still be in with a shot at a postseason berth, but the American League is simply too strong this year.
Not Done Just Yet
With 50-plus games left on the docket, it only takes one prolonged spell of good play to climb the standings and make a push for the postseason. It also only takes one prolonged spell of poor form to see a team tumble out of contention. Here are the teams that look likely to be out of the picture sooner rather than later.
Cleveland Indians (53-54)
The Indians are a good side. They’re a better side than the bookmakers expected at the beginning of the year. However, they’re not good enough to catch the Tigers in the AL Central, which would be their easiest route to October play.
Kansas City Royals (54-52)
Like the Indians, the Royals aren’t good enough to catch the Tigers, and they’ll be punished for playing in the Central. This year’s wild card berths will go to the East and West.
New York Yankees (55-52)
The Yankees’ well-documented injury woes should have seen the team written off a month ago but somehow the Bronx Bombers remain relevant. If the side continues to play as it has it will at least stay alive, although it’s likely the team will come up short eventually. However, if Masahiro Tanaka and Michael Pineda make it back into the rotation, and if Brian Cashman scores a big bat at the deadline, who knows how far this team can go? One thing’s for sure, most of us can imagine the Yankees sneaking into the postseason simply because they’re the Yankees.
Seattle Mariners (55-52)
The Mariners will be punished for playing in the AL West. Things have gone, and will continue to go, too well in Oakland and Anaheim for the team to win a division title, and with one of those sides taking a wild card berth, a postseason appearance seems unlikely, unless the AL East has a complete meltdown between now and the end of the season. That’s even more unlikely though.
Tampa Bay Rays (53-55)
How does a sub-.500 team make a list of postseason contenders? Simple. Since June 28 the Rays are 19-7 (.731), a record that has seen the club look like the best in the AL East. If the team keeps that pace, it would finish with 90-plus wins. That might be enough for a Wild Card berth, or it could be enough to steal first place in the division. Of course, if the Rays buckle and trade David Price, things could be very different.
Toronto Blue Jays (59-50)
The Blue Jays are a real borderline team right now. It’s easy to imagine the side continuing to win and make the postseason– the club currently owns the second wild card berth. However, it’s easy to see the side stumble – as it did heading into the break – and miss out altogether, especially with the threat of New York and Tampa Bay just at their heels. The Jays are a risky proposition right not.
Los Angeles Angels (63-43)
The Angels pose a legitimate threat to finish the year with baseball’s best record, which means the club could be sitting pretty with an automatic berth. Mike Scioscia’s club should expect a wild card berth as a failsafe should they fail to catch the A’s within the division.
Baltimore Orioles (60-46)
As things stand, the Orioles look good for an automatic berth but the AL East has always been a tricky path to navigate. The chasing pack (New York, Tampa Bay, Toronto) could all put a spanner in the works, but providing Buck Showalter can keep his club leveled out, a wild card berth is the bare minimum the side should expect.
Detroit Tigers (58-46)
The Tigers are experiencing a down year. Fortunately, so is the AL Central. It’s hard to see the Royals or Indians catching the Tigers, but if they do, the Motown side should be worried: a wild card berth would be unlikely.
Oakland Athletics (66-41)
Like the Angels, the A’s could finish the year with baseball’s best record. Like the Angels, finishing with the second best record would likely secure a wild card berth, so it’s about staying the course right now. It’s likely that the team that tops the AL West will be decided by the remaining head-to-head schedule: the two clubs will meet 10 more times this season, with Oakland leading the series 6-3.
Betting Sports Prediction
If push came to shove and Betting Sports was forced to lay money down on the final AL standings, here’s how we see things playing out:
1. Oakland Athletics (AL West champions)
2. Baltimore Orioles (AL East champions)
3. Detroit Tigers (AL Central champions)
4. Los Angeles Angels (1stwild card)
5. Tampa Bay Rays (2nd wild card)
Of course, today’s trade deadline could alter all of this, especially if the Rays wave goodbye to Price and the A’s secure Lester, as some reports suggest.
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