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Comfortably Numb - Looking at the Wild Card, Part 2 (American League)

The second installment of this two-part article with Pink Floyd-themed titles is to follow. I still don't know why I picked the titles that way, but I guess it doesn't have to make sense.

On Saturday, I took a brief look at the chances of some of the NL's contenders for the wild card, setting the goal at 90 wins. For the AL, let's use 93 wins as a goal. (To calculate this, I took the current winning percentage of the wild card leader, extrapolated it to a full season, and added one. It's a ballpark estimate.)

93 wins being the goal for the AL Wild Card, who reasonably has a shot?

TEAM            W       L       GB
Oakland         67      51      --  
NY Yankees      65      52      1.5
Cleveland       63      55      4
Toronto         61      57      6
Minnesota       61      57      6
To get to the 93 win threshold, what do the contenders have to do?
TEAM            W       L       WP
Oakland         26      18      .591
NY Yankees      28      17      .622
Cleveland       30      14      .682
Toronto         32      12      .727
Minnesota       32      12      .727
Assuming, for a moment, that the White Sox have locked up the AL Central, there are 3 spots in question. The Red Sox have all but locked up the East, but that's not a guarantee.

So, for the three spots left for the playoffs, you have the following teams:

  • Oakland
  • Los Angeles
  • Boston
  • New York
  • Cleveland
It's a fairly safe bet that three of those five teams will be in the playoffs, and two will be on the outside looking in. As of now, the Red Sox are the only team with a substantially better chance than anyone else.

So, for the final four teams, who has the easiest road, according to the BTB Power 30?

Los Angeles - 12.8
Oakland - 13.5
Boston - 14.9
New York - 15.4
Cleveland - 17.4

The caveat of the ranks is that a lot of the difference in the LA v. Oakland schedules is each other. I don't eliminate the teams who play against each other and you really can't except in a direct, head to head comparison. In reality, the Oakland and Los Angeles schedules are highly comparable, and LA's might be slightly easier when accounting for the fact that there are several games remaining with the A's. A similar phenomenon occurs between the Yankees and the Red Sox, but in the other direction. Because New York is rated lower than Boston, New York's appearance on Boston's schedule should make Boston's schedule appear easier. However, this is not the case, and the Yankee schedule is a bit easier than that of the Red Sox.

The real thing this tells us is that Cleveland's schedule is the most favorable. Everything else is subject to interpretation.

So what are we looking at, overall?

We will see at least one of Oakland and Los Angeles in the playoffs. We will also see at least one of New York and Boston in the playoffs.

The non-division winners in those divisions will have the challenge of outplaying Cleveland, with the most favorable schedule of the bunch. Realize, as well, that the non-division winners will have most likely lost the majority of the games with the division winners.

Deep breath.

Cleveland's got a real shot at this.

So, from eyeballing it again, my guess is that the A's and Red Sox take their respective divisions, and the Indians surprise and sneak into the playoffs, possibly with slightly fewer wins than 93.

If the Yankees, however, clean up in their remaining games with the Red Sox, they could squeak into the division lead, relegating the Red Sox to wild card favorite. Prospectus' simulator agrees with that; in almost half of the non-Red Sox division winner scenarios, they end up with the wild card.

Finally, the White sox have lost their last three. If the Indians had won their last 3, they'd be only 9 out. I'd say that any hope for a miraculous comeback fizzled with that failure.

The AL races will be very entertaining down the stretch. But I guess things usually turn out the way they're expected to; 6 teams will be battling for 4 spots in the AL, and the NL is wide open for the wild card, still.

The AL wild card race is difficult to handicap, much more so than the NL's simply because the questionable divisions leave too many possibilities. It certainly will be an interesting stretch run, though...