A Quick Look at the AL Playoff Picture

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There are currently seven teams in the American League with records at or better than .500 (KC, TOR, HOU, NYY, TEX, MIN and LAA) with the Royals and Twins being the only idle teams today. The other five all have games against teams that are below .500.

So what does the rest of the season look like for these teams?

Let’s look at some figures that could map out the final month of the 2015 season and into the playoffs.

Right off the bat, the Los Angeles Angels have been fading fast (2-8 in their last 10) and the rest of the season doesn’t look much better. Of their final 32 games, 17 are on the road. They are 26-38 on the road in 2015. 20 games are against teams better than .500 and a whopping 16 games against teams in the playoffs as of today. The next highest of the A.L. contenders is the Twins with nine. So we can pretty much write them off now.

The Twins have been playing really well lately, 8-2 in their last 10. They have a pretty favorable schedule for the rest of the season. Only 13 of their 22 remaining games are against teams above .500. They have an even split of home and away games. They are 15 games above .500 at Target Field, but 11 games under away from the Twin Cities. It would be tough with similar metrics to catch the Texas Rangers, who have been much better on the road (35-29) and an even 32-32 at home.

The Houston Astros and Toronto Blue Jays seem to be on their way to division titles. Both won’t have it easy, though. The Blue Jays have 26 games within their division, including seven more against the Yankees. Toronto has 17 games on the road where they are below .500 (31-33). What is playing in their favor, however, is that the Birds only remaining games against a .500 ball club are the seven with the Yanks.

The Astros have a similar 25 games within their division, and seven against the Rangers. Barring Texas taking five or more of those head-to-heads, it looks like the Astros will continue their Cinderella season with an A.L. West Division Title.

All that being said, the A.L. Wild-Card Game would have the New York Yankees playing host to the Rangers. So far this season, these two teams have played seven times and the Rangers have won five. As mentioned above, the Rangers are actually better on the road than they are at home so this might actually play in their favor. When the teams met at Yankee Stadium in May, the Rangers swept all three games outscoring the Pinstripes 30-15.

Let’s play the stats and say the Rangers move on. It doesn’t hurt when you have a horse like Cliff Lee to pitch in that one-game playoff.

Before the Royals first playoff game, we’ll look briefly at the Houston v. Toronto potential series. It is well documented how well the Blue Jays play at home. And it certainly doesn’t hurt that MinuteMaid Park in Houston favors right-handed hitters (i.e. Tulowitzki, Donaldson, Bautista and Encarnacion). The Astros did win the season series against the Blue Jays this season 4-3, with the home team winning every game of the series. Moral of this story: whoever has home-field will likely win this series.

The Royals played the Rangers seven times in 2015. They split a four-game series back in early May in Arlington, but were outscored 17 to 22 overall. The Rangers caught the Royals at one of their worst stretches of the year when they traveled to the K in June. Kansas City lost two of three and again was outscored six to 11. When the Royals lost their second straight to the Rangers, they were in a 2-8 stretch. Both teams are in a very different place than they were when they met last, and with both teams playing very well on the road, it’s a toss-up.

One of the best things about baseball is how fluid things can be. If the right team gets hot, you never know what could happen. There are teams not even mentioned above that we could be talking about as World Series Champions in November. The Royals weren’t in playoff position at this time last year. The lackluster American League this year has put almost everyone in position to make a run. The Cleveland Indians are hot and only five games back of the Rangers. Crazier things have happened.

It’s going to be a fun ride and I can’t wait.

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Author: Dave Sullivan

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