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8/24/2007 09:51:00 AM

Wild Card: AL Contenders

Kevin Youkilis
Kevin Youkilis has cooled considerably after a torrid first half.
Jim Rogash/Getty Images
By Cliff Corcoran

There's been a crisp, cold spell in the Northeast this past week. It smells like playoff baseball. September is almost here, and the pennant races are heating up with half of the teams in the majors within five games of a playoff spot with just five weeks left in the season. With that in mind, here's a quick guide to the contenders in the American League (I'll look at the NL contenders next week):

Boston Red Sox
Status: 5-game lead in the AL East
Record since the All-Star break: 23-17 (.575)
Baseball Prospectus Playoff Odds: Division: 91.5 percent, Playoffs: 98.6 percent

The Red Sox don't have much to worry about other than perhaps home-field advantage in the postseason. They do, however, have six games left against the Yankees. To that end, all the Sox really have to do to seal the division is to beat the Yankees head-to-head. Heck, they don't even have to beat them that badly, just split those six games and the Bombers will be hard pressed to make up the difference against the rest of the league, no matter how easy their September schedule is. To do that, however, the Sox are going to have to sock. The Yankees are pounding the ball against everyone in the second half, scoring 7.17 runs per game and scoring five or more runs in 32 of their 41 games since the break. Meanwhile, the Yankees have allowed fewer than six runs in just two of their 13 losses over that span. The Sox have scored 5.43 runs per game in the second half, so they should be up to the challenge.

Key Player: Kevin Youkilis, who has hit just .209/.320/.314 in the second half after a .328/.419/.502 first half. Since protecting David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez in the order with J.D. Drew didn't work out, the Sox need Youkilis to start getting on base ahead of their two mashers again.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Status: 1-game lead in the AL West
Record since the ASB: 21-18 (.538)
BP Playoff Odds: Division: 71.1 percent, Wild Card: 12.9 percent, Playoffs: 84 percent

The Angels are just two games behind the Red Sox for the best record in the majors, but their hold on their division is far more tenuous, with seven head-to-head games left against a pesky Mariners team that has defied not only expectation, but explanation. The good news for the Angels, who play .689 ball at home but are 32-34 on the road, is that, with the exception of three games in Seattle starting on Monday, they host all the tough teams remaining on their schedule and play only patsies on the road. They also have an 8-4 record against Seattle this season, though they dropped two of three to the M's at Safeco Field at the end of July.

Key Player: Ervin Santana, who was demoted shortly after the break after going 0-3 with a 12.56 ERA in three July starts, returned with a gem against Boston last Friday but struggled in a loss to Toronto yesterday. The last quality start the Angels have gotten from the fifth spot in the rotation other than Santana's outing against the Red Sox was by the currently disabled Barolo Colon, on June 30.

Cleveland Indians
Status: 2.5-game lead in the AL Central
Record since the ASB: 18-20 (.474)
BP Playoff Odds: Division: 69.1 percent, Wild Card: 2.3 percent, Playoffs: 71.4 percent

The Indians are three games behind Seattle in the loss column and a game behind the Yankees in the win column, which means they can't count on the Wild Card should they lose their grip on the division. The good news is that the Tigers are in freefall. The bad news is that the Tribe isn't doing much better. (Just look at that losing record since the All-Star break.) Cleveland has a soft schedule remaining, with just three head-to-head games against the Tigers, all at home (they just took two of three in Detroit this week), and 16 games against losing teams. Still, it would behoove them to start scoring runs again. The 4.13 runs per game they've scored since the break won't suffice.

Key Player: Travis Hafner has been missing in action since the end of April. Now that everyone else in the lineup is tailing off as well, Pronk needs to go back to being the Central's version of David Ortiz.

Seattle Mariners
Status: 2-game lead in the Wild Card, 1 game behind in the AL West
Record since the ASB: 23-17 (.575)
BP Playoff Odds: Division: 28.5 percent, Wild Card: 22.5 percent, Playoffs: 51 percent

The M's looked like they were finally going to tumble when they went 5-10 coming out of the break, but they've recovered to go 18-7 since. The key victory in that stretch came in the rubber game of their home series against the Angels on Aug. 1 when they recovered from just the second blown save of the season by J.J. Putz to win in 12 innings. The M's are in a great position in the standings, leading the Wild Card and threatening the division, but they have a doozy of a schedule remaining with those seven games against the Angels, five against Cleveland and three each against the Tigers and Yankees. In fact, just nine of the Mariners' remaining 37 games are against teams that currently sport losing records compared to 15 of 35 for both the Angels and Yankees.

Key Player: Putz. The Mariners have only scored four more runs than they've allowed in the second half. That means every lead is precious. If Putz, whose only two blown saves on the season have come in the last month, stumbles, the team will fall.

New York Yankees
Status: 2 games behind for the Wild Card, 5 games behind in the AL East
Record since the ASB: 28-13 (.683)
BP Playoff Odds: Division: 8.5 percent, Wild Card: 50.1 percent, Playoffs 58.6 percent
The Yankees have the best second-half record of any AL contender by far and have scored a staggering 7.17 runs per game since the break, which is good because they've also allowed 5.1 runs per game during that span despite facing a series of cupcakes coming out of the break. Something's got to give, and it could just be the Yankees' playoff hopes. Then again, their remaining schedule isn't that much tougher. They have six games left against Boston and three games left against Seattle. Beyond that and a four-game set that starts tonight in Detroit against the plummeting Tigers, the only "winning" team they face the rest of the way is the 64-63 Blue Jays, though they will have to figure out how to beat the Orioles, against whom they're 4-8 this season and have six games remaining, if they want to keep playing into October.

Key Player: Chien-Ming Wang. The Yankees have enough age-related question marks that they can't afford for a star in his prime such as Wang to perform like he has of late, posting a 6.42 ERA in his past six starts.

Detroit Tigers
Status: 2.5 games behind in the AL Central, 5 games behind for the Wild Card
Record since the ASB: 16-25 (.390)
BP Playoff Odds: Division 27.8 percent, Wild Card: 3.8 percent, Playoffs: 31.6 percent

Things aren't looking good for the defending AL Champs. They just got Joel Zumaya and Andrew Miller back, but Zumaya took the loss to Cleveland yesterday, and Gary Sheffield's out indefinitely with a sore right shoulder. Meanwhile, despite their well-regarded pitching staff, they can't keep runs off the board, allowing 5.98 runs per game since the break. The Tigers have not won a series since sweeping the Twins in Minnesota in mid-July. Since then they're 11-23 (.324) and have allowed 6.5 runs per game. The Tigers probably have the easiest remaining schedule of any of the six contenders listed here, but if they keep playing like that, it won't matter.

Key Players: Justin Verlander, Jeremy Bonderman, and Andrew Miller. Just look at the second-half ERA's of the Tigers' young studs: Verlander (5.83), Bonderman (7.16), and the recently reactivated Miller (6.08). No team can win like that.


posted by SI.com | View comments |  


Posted: August 24, 2007 11:37 AM   by gatesoffire
51% chance for the Mariners to make the playoffs???
Are you kidding me? They have just as much of a chance as anyone! They are 1 freaking game behind the Angels and 2 over the Yanks in the wild card?
Give them the credit that is due! Maybe next year NY!
Posted: August 24, 2007 11:37 AM   by Anonymous
I Think with the current playoff teams, the M's, Red Sox, Angels, and Cleveland, the M's would have the best chance at the World series
Posted: August 24, 2007 12:20 PM   by Anonymous
don't forget the Twins! always dangerous in September!
Posted: August 24, 2007 12:29 PM   by Anonymous
the M's have the best chance at the world series? Are you kidding me? Have you seen their rotation. The minute they make the post season (if they make it) they're getting kicked out in the division series
Posted: August 24, 2007 12:36 PM   by Dennis H
Has everyone forgotten how the A's do it every year. They always have a second half surge and they are doing it again. It started a little late this year but here they come again. Don't count them out yet!
Posted: August 24, 2007 12:38 PM   by Anonymous
The M's have the best chance? Are you basing this on their .435 winning percentage against the Red Sox, Angels, and Indians on the season? Not to mention their .273 winning percentage away from home against those teams. but really, good call.
Posted: August 24, 2007 12:51 PM   by Anonymous
Ok i don't think they just made up those stats! It's based on the BP formula. I'm pretty sure MATH is giving exactly the credit that is due...
Posted: August 24, 2007 1:00 PM   by Anonymous
ARE YOU Serious???!! the mariners are just a normal team with marginal pitching that has but one good pitcher: Felix Hernandez. This is the year of either the Red Sox or Angels.
Posted: August 24, 2007 1:36 PM   by Anonymous
How dumb can you people be?

It's a stastical model of a million different ways the season could end with the games remaining to be played. In the case of the mainers, in 51% of those million scenario's, the M's maid the playoffs.

Learn to read.
Posted: August 24, 2007 1:48 PM   by Anonymous
I think they did make up the stats. I know I'm not the sharpest knife in the drawer, but 5 teams have over a 50% chance of making the playoffs? Isn't that impossible, since only 4 teams make it?
Posted: August 24, 2007 1:50 PM   by Anonymous
Where are the 1987 and 1991 World Champion Twins??? I think you guys need to get a new computer algorithm that takes into account heart. Go Twinkies!!!
Posted: August 24, 2007 2:00 PM   by Jet Carson
The Mariners are firing on all cyclinders...they face a rough final stretch with the teams they have to face, but I think they're for real and have the depth to push for the pennant and world series. Dont ever count them out.
Everyone thinks the yankees are not going to make it. All we need is the wildcard to get in. I am sure we will get the angels in the 1st round and we will extract the revenge and go on to the series with the red sox, get revenge there and play the mets in the WS to complete the trilogy of revenge.

how about that!!! Holy Cow
From now on, the Fungoes blog should just give every team a 92.6% chance of making the playoffs so nobody will come in here and get butt-hurt about their team. Why not, these percentages are just numbers somebody pulled out of their ass anyway.

As for me, yes, it's nice to see the Angels given so high a probability of making the playoffs, but I recognize that doesn't mean a thing. The only thing that matters is the play on the field, and the final records after 162 games.

But I'll tell ya, I really am nervous about those Mariners in my rearview mirror, and I can't help but hope the Yankees tank so the Wild Card remains open...

Of course, it would be even nicer if Boston REALLY tanked. The Angels can easily handle the Yankees, afterall!

-Sid McHenry
Posted: August 24, 2007 3:21 PM   by Anonymous
those stats are not made up. there are 4 teams that make the playoffs therefore the total percentage should be 400. (4 teams that get in, obviously if you get in, you have 100% chance). When you add up all the percentages of those teams it comes out to about 396. I think this is a bit flakey because I would think all the other teams have better than a 4% chance combined to make the playoffs but then again, stats and predictions are always flakey. According to certain statistics done in a certain way it could be expected that any major league team could win anywhere from 25 games over .500 to 25 games below .500 on any given season...This is why it is best to ignore certain statistics and predictions especially when it is unknown how they are calculated. Just let 'em play ball and we'll see what happens. As a die-hard RedSox fan though, fabian I think you really need to stop dreaming and remember what wins in october: pitching. And the Yankees sure need some help...especially with the Joba rules...and Luis Vizcaino is the next Scott Proctor...very good until he is over used by Joe Torre...never mind their excuse for a starting rotation
Posted: August 24, 2007 5:00 PM   by Anonymous
Are you guys serious? Click on the red link at the top of the page under that says the baseball prospectus on it. It's a mathematically based system where every game is simulated. These are facts, not made up statistics.
Posted: August 24, 2007 5:20 PM   by Anonymous
everyone knows the fate of the bronx bummers if they get in the playoffs the go 1 and out in the division series against those mighty angels who have totally ruled them in the division series in 02 and 05 its funny how today's kids pick on totally overweight kids by saying having way more fat than brains the yankees have way bigger payrolls than winning or talent put together sorry but the truth has always been totally hurtful because truthful words have always been words to love and hate not some sports team who has the highest payroll in baseball and loses in the division series year after year
"The M's have the best chance? Are you basing this on their .435 winning percentage against the Red Sox, Angels, and Indians on the season?" First of all, using a combined win percentage is a total misrepresentation of fact. The M's are .500 against the Indians this year and .555 against the Red Sox - with no more games to play, so the M's beat them for the year. Additionally, The M's are .571 against the Yankees. Their biggest rival, of course, is the Angels, with whom they have a miserable .333 record, but the M's did win the last series against them earlier this month & are 14-6 for the month of August - so they are a better team than they were earlier in the year. Anyway, you can manipulate the stats any way you want to make a point, but combined win percentage is just ridiculous. I'm the richest woman in the world if you combine my & Bill Gates' salary.
wow wow wow. Let's see. Where shall i start. M's you guys are lucky. You have no idea how many articles i have read about the enigma that is the Mariner's. Baptista and Hernandez are your only decent pitchers. JJ pitches 1 inning a game. Ooooooo its not big if he doesnt have the lead. Get out. You've been hot but that will go away. Tribe and Tigers I knew both would get their rearends handed to them. Lets see those Red Sox. Damn pesky bastards. Keep winning and their offense has foundsort of life by coming back in games they didn't all year. Congrats on winning the division (if you do) no one cares but the fans. Now to my Pinstripes. As a rabid Yankees fan who studies the game a crapload this is my evaluation of them. We will take the back door entrance to the playoffs this year. No embarassment there, that's what its there for to be occupied. Ok our offense has been pehnomenal. Plain and simple. Everyone can hit. Clutch, blowouts, any situation and all of our hitters hit. .292 team ba proves it. Pitchers pitch well. Since the break the yanks have given up 229 runs in 42 games. The yanks have blown out their opponents and only enough the Yanks have been blown out. In 5 starts in which the yanks have been blwon out they've managed to give up a total of 73 runs...
73 runs is 31 % of the runs they've given up so that goes to show you how our starters have been ugly but our relievers haven't limited the damage. So their second half era is a bit skewed. But just to point out to all those HATERS who said 'oh wait till their schedule catches up and they look horrible again'. eat it. Lets look at our fellow contenders we've face since the AS break. Angels Clevland Detroit. We're 7-3 vs these teams. .700 baseball gentleman. They smashed Fausto, Bonderman, Escobar, Lackey. Gave Verlander a nonquality outting. SOooo eat it haters. We're for real. Come postseason there are built in days off so forget Joba rules. Pettite is pitching great as is Rocket. Wang will shape into postseason form. And Moose well god help him. As for Visc. he's still performing well despite his recent problems as is Mo. We'll get to the World Series guarenteed.
Posted: August 24, 2007 9:59 PM   by Anonymous
it's amazing how 'fans' don't know much about sports... this blog shows how little most people really know.

Baseball is no different then the NBA in that over the loooonnnggg season teams go up and down and you really shouldn't put much stock into the first 100 games of the baseball season. So what if a team is 4-8 or whatever against any given team in the first 100 games of the season.

Over the past month, the Yankee's and Mariner's are the best teams, by far, in the league and over the past 2 weeks the Mariner's are now the best team... and this is now when it matter's.

Wiht Eight players with 50 RBI's - the bottom 1/3 of the order hitting and setting up the top third, and a lights out bullpen the Mariner's will make the playoffs and may beat the Angels to the top.

And Frank Herdandez is the 4th best starting pitcher ( don't just look at ERA ) --- right now on the team.

I'll bet most of you didn't know the Mariner's were dead last in hitting and pitching at the end of April? How much does that matter now?

Very consistant, injury free and having fun every day.

I'd say their playoff chances are closer to 75%.
Posted: August 24, 2007 10:10 PM   by Anonymous
"How dumb can you people be?

It's a stastical model of a million different ways the season could end with the games remaining to be played. In the case of the mainers, in 51% of those million scenario's, the M's maid the playoffs.

Learn to read."

I love it when someone calls people "dumb" and say to "learn how to read," but misspells statistical, Mariners, scenarios (no apostrophe, genius) and made ("maid"???).
Think before you throw stones.
Posted: August 25, 2007 2:18 AM   by Anonymous
The M's, despite the lack of names on the starting rotation, have put together a remarkable season. Their DH (Vidro) will finish without 100 RBIs, but three other players will finish over (Guillen, Beltre and Ibanez). No position player is having a "break out" season, rather, some of the M's hitters have been struggling to reach their career averages (Ibanez and Sexson). This isn't 2001 where players like Brett Boone and Paul Abbott had career years; it is about consistent play and the starters keeping the game within reach to get a win.

This team isn't a fluke, they are a solid team that will make the playoffs as the West winner (w/ the Angels getting the Wild Card).
By the way as much as I despise the Yankees I still believe that A-rod should be MVP, his numbers are sick. As of Aug 25 he is hitting .293 with 43 homers and 123 RBI's. Now how can you say that isn't MVP numbers.
P.S. He would look very good in a Sox uniform next year... hint hint Theo Epstein
Posted: August 25, 2007 9:30 AM   by Anonymous
This years meltdown in Motown came early. The Tigers will not make it. The Twins will make a run for it falling just short of the wild card and will end up finishing in 2nd place behind Cleveland. Sorry Detroit, you are looking at 3rd place. Look for the Red Sox, Indians and Angels to win their division and yep you guess it, The Yankees take the wild card. Sorry Seatle fans, THIS IS NOT YOUR YEAR, but you will make it interesting!
Posted: August 25, 2007 9:51 AM   by Anonymous
We're coming !!! Don't count out the mighty twinkies just yet.
Posted: August 25, 2007 11:23 AM   by Anonymous
yanks excuse for a starting rotation? are you high? of the contenders they have the second best rotation under the bosox. wang has won the most games in all of mlb since 2006....clemens is big time pitcher, first ballot....pettitte is a second half ace...phil hughes is one of the highly regarded rookies in baseball. so unless you judge the whole rotation on mike mussina (your 5th best starter as of late) then you are correct.
Posted: August 25, 2007 11:54 AM   by Anonymous
NOTE: to the guy who said that everyone was stupid and couldn't read.... "The M's MAID the playoffs!". MAID? Who's MAID? Like a French one? A-Rod's maid? Jeter's maid? Is there some kind of maid competition that I don't know about? Did I miss the entire maid season and now the playoffs are starting?

It's one thing to mistype, it's another to be the pot calling the kettle black.
Posted: August 25, 2007 12:27 PM   by Anonymous
CAN YOU SAY EAST COAST BIAS? Give me a break, according to these numbers the Mariners have a better chance of beating the Angels (whom they trial by 1 game) for the the division title than they do winning the wild card (which they lead by 3 games over the Yankees)? By this logic, Corcoran is saying the Yankees are better than BOTH the Angels and the Mariners. HA HA HA!!! I guess Corcoran forgot the Yanks played the easiest schedule the month directly after the All Star Game and that they've only won 4 of their last 10 (amazing how they start losing when not playing Tampa Bay every series). Next time you run these "so called" statistics, leave the bias at home.
Posted: August 25, 2007 12:38 PM   by Anonymous
The Mariners all the way all you haters out there will see that this team is legit. M's and Mets in the WS M's win in 6 you heard it here first
Posted: August 25, 2007 12:40 PM   by Anonymous
I like the Mariners chances to take either the division or the wild card. The M's don't need to have other teams lose to make the playoffs where as the Yankees do... as far as the tougher schedule for the rest of the year goes, I think it will fuel the fires. The pressure and high level of competition will make the Mariners play better, not worse. Then come playoff time they will be ready - a team playing together with chemistry.
Posted: August 25, 2007 12:50 PM   by Anonymous
There is a significant problem with these projections. The projections have both the Angels and the Mariners playing sub-500 ball for the rest of the season. DO YOU REALLY EXPECT BOTH OF THESE TEAMS TO LOSE MORE THAN HALF OF THEIR REMAINING GAMES?

Original data can be found at http://www.baseballprospectus.com/statistics/ps_odds.php
Posted: August 25, 2007 1:04 PM   by Anonymous
how the hell do you count out the twins when they are suddenly 5.5 games back of the indians and have been sitting just off the pace all year long? please explain this to everyone.
Posted: August 25, 2007 1:53 PM   by Anonymous
The Mariners might make the playoffs, but they will be out right after it starts because Seattle is a loser city i.e. Seahawks can't win the big one, Sonics are on their way out of town and the Huskies are horrible. People are more concerned about the tree's around here. Don't count the Yankees out yet!
Posted: August 25, 2007 2:02 PM   by Anonymous
Every year there are teams discarded by the 'experts' who end up making a run nonetheless. Look at the '03 Marlins, '05 White Sox, and last year's Cardinals. Here is hoping that this years Mariners and D-backs continue to defy the experts. Even better, let them meet in the World Series and keep teams from New York and Boston out.
You know what I say about "percenatges" and how much they're worth???

The 2007 NBA Draft Lottery.

Posted: August 25, 2007 4:43 PM   by Anonymous
fabian319, I hear that! "The Trilogy of Revenge". It has a nice poetic ring to it. I'm not quite certain we can pull it off, but I like the way you think, son! There will be no sneaking into any titles this year!

Posted: August 25, 2007 4:46 PM   by Anonymous
don't forget fabian319, we owe no revenge to the Mets. We smoked them in the '00 Series, so if anything, they're still waiting on revenge on us...

of course, the mariners don't get credit where it's due....typical..
maybe ya'll should watch them before you bash them
Posted: August 25, 2007 7:18 PM   by Anonymous
The M's are gutsy. They hit 1 through 9, and their bullpen is the best in baseball. They WILL make the playoffsm, and go deeper then many think....and if anyone says otherwise, I'll send the Moose and his ATV after you!
Posted: August 26, 2007 12:19 AM   by Anonymous
It is obvious that you are a yankees promotor. i knew as soon as I saw the 5 game lead-it is 6.5 funny you got all the rest right. so I googled your name and low and behold your a yankee beat writer. I bet you think Clemons shouldn't have been suspended either. Die yankees die. a real baseball fan hates the yankees
OH MY!!!!!

Did everyone posting on this miss out on their 6th grade math class?

this last person was adding up the %'s and subtracting from 400???? seriously??

You don't go adding up each of the teams chances to understand this you nincompoops. Each teams number is their own % chance that they will be one of the 4 teams that makes it. Every team starts the year off with a 26.6% statistical chance of making it to the playoffs. Having over 50% chance at this stage in the game is a good thing. And more then 4 teams can have over a 50% chance.

Keeping this great logic going you should know that the cubs currently have a 100% chance of winning the whole thing because if you add up the jersey numbers of Lee, Ramirez, Zambrano, Soriano, Theriot, and DeRosa you get 100.
Hmmm... All I'm gonna say is that the BoSox have the best record in basball, 2 starters tied for the most wins at 16 and just put up 46 runs over that last 4 games. Add on to that the 8th-9th combo of Okie and Paps and it's lights out. We've got a 7 1/2 game lead in the division going into a 3 game series with the Yanks in which we can burry them for good. I don't know about you guys, but from where I'm standing, the Sox are sitting pretty.
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