The MLB sprint has entered its home stretch as teams jockey for position across the league. The playoff window is closing quickly for some teams as the final day of regular season games is on Sunday, September 27.
As we stand today, four divisions have a gap of less than four games separating first and second place. This includes the American League Central that has three teams within 2.5 games of each other.
The American League Central is set to have a fantastic, drama filled ending over the next two weeks. Entering today, the Chicago White Sox had a one game lead on the Minnesota Twins and a 2.5 game lead over the Cleveland Indians. The White Sox have four games left against both Minnesota and Cleveland, while the Twins and Indians finish their season series this weekend.
Another interesting division is the National League East. The Atlanta Braves currently have a 2.5 game lead over the Philadelphia Phillies, a three-game lead over the Miami Marlins and a five-game lead over the New York Mets. At face value, the Braves appear to have the easiest remaining schedule with 11 of their remaining 15 games against teams below .500.
The Phillies and Marlins are currently in the middle of a seven (yes seven) game series which may solidify one team’s playoff spot in a crowded National League field. The Mets do not have it easy as 11 of their last 15 games come against teams over .500.
The race for the American League’s top seed is in full throttle as the Tampa Bay Rays and Oakland A’s are tied for the top spot. Trailing only a 0.5 game and 1.5 games behind them are the Chicago White Sox and Minnesota Twins.
Both the Rays and A’s play mediocre schedules down the stretch as they each face desperate opponents fighting for their playoff lives. These games could be extremely dangerous and even affect their playoff seeding if they were to lose too many of these trap games.
Possibly the most exciting race down the stretch is the scramble for the National League playoffs. It should be safe to say that four NL teams are virtual locks to the Postseason. The Los Angeles Dodgers, San Diego Padres, Atlanta Braves, and Chicago Cubs all appear to be safely inside the field of eight playoff teams. That leaves eight plausible teams left for only four spots.
In the 2020 playoff format, the second-place team in each division clinches a playoff birth in addition to two wildcard teams. Both the National League East and Central divisions have three teams within three games of each other.
The NL Central is extremely interesting as the St. Louis Cardinals, Milwaukee Brewers, and Cincinnati Reds have all under-preformed this season. The Cardinals are currently finishing their season series against the Reds this weekend and have 10 games with the Brewers remaining. Milwaukee and Cincinnati play each other three more times.
The San Francisco Giants and Colorado Rockies round out the National League Field as they hunt for a wildcard birth in the competitive NL West. The Rockies and Giants play four more games together in San Francisco later this month.
The final race to watch down the stretch is the race for the number one overall draft pick. Currently the Pittsburgh Pirates are the worst team in MLB with a .333 winning percentage. The Texas Rangers and Boston Red Sox are not far ahead with winning percentages of .341 and .348 respectively. The Arizona Diamondbacks, Kansas City Royals, and Los Angeles Angels round out the bottom of the league.
Here are my playoff seeding predictions:
#8 Toronto Blue Jays vs #1 Tampa Bay Rays
#7 Cleveland Indians vs #2 Oakland A’s
#6 Houston Astros vs #3 Chicago White Sox
#5 New York Yankees vs #4 Minnesota Twins
#8 Miami Marlins vs #1 Los Angeles Dodgers
#7 Milwaukee Brewers vs #2 Atlanta Braves
#6 St. Louis Cardinals vs #3 Chicago Cubs
#5 Philadelphia Phillies vs #4 San Diego Padres