Just one week remains until 20 of baseball’s 30 teams pack up for the winter and only three Divisional winners have been determined.
The Baltimore Orioles have clinched the AL East and the Los Angeles Angels have done the same in the AL West.
In the National League only the East has been decided with the Washington Nationals winning that Division for the second time in three seasons, and have done so in former UNLV star Matt Williams’ first season as manager – his first such position as a manager.
Although not yet clinching Division titles, Central leader St. Louis and West leader Los Angeles have clinched at least Wild Cards but could clinch Division titles by the latter part of this week. The Cardinals have a 2.5 game lead over Pittsburgh while the Dodgers are 3 games up on San Francisco.
The other contentious Divisional race is in the AL Central where Detroit starts the week with a 1.5 game lead over Kansas City.
The Wild Card race in the National League is all but determined with Pittsburgh and San Francisco tied with 84-71 records, 4.5 games ahead of Milwaukee (80-76). No other team remains in contention in the NL.
In the AL, Oakland (85-70) has a half game lead over Kansas City (84-70) as of Monday morning but later in the day the Royals will complete a suspended game against Cleveland in which the Royals were down by 2 runs in the bottom of the tenth evening.
So barring a highly improbable (though possible) rally, the Athletics essentially start the week with a one game lead for the first AL Wild Card. And unless the Royals are successful in that comeback their lead over Seattle for the second Wild Card will be just 1 game entering the regularly scheduled games for both teams on Monday night.
Assuming a Royals loss in the suspended game, entering Monday night’s regularly scheduled games Cleveland, New York and Toronto remain mathematically alive but would trail the Royals by 3, 4 and 6 games respectively.
Of those teams Cleveland has the best chance to catch the Royals as they host Kansas City for three games through Wednesday.
Some teams, despite being out of contention, have more modest goals over the final week such as to achieve a winning record (New York Mets), avoiding a losing season by winning their remaining games (Miami, San Diego and Tampa Bay) or avoiding a last place finish (Chicago Cubs). There may be some value in playing some of these teams at what could be large underdog situations.
In next week’s column we’ll look at the Playoffs. Right now the teams that are most likely to meet in their respective League Championship Series are Baltimore and the Angels in the AL, Washington and the Dodgers in the NL.
And the potential may well exist for a regional World Series with not just both the Dodgers/Angels and Orioles/Nationals combinations alive but also with the possibility that San Francisco and Oakland will each make the post season as could both St. Louis and Kansas City.
It should be a fun final week.
Here’s a look at four series that could impact which teams make the Playoffs over the final weekend of the season.
Pirates at Reds: Pittsburgh controls its own destiny while Cincinnati has been eliminated. Cincinnati has won 10 of 16 games against the Pirates, including 4 of 6 at home. Seven games have gone OVER the Total, 8 stayed UNDER and 1 resulted in “no action” due to its being suspended (although it would have produced an OVER). The teams have combined to average 8.4 runs per game.
Plays: Cincinnati +150 or more in any matchup; Cincinnati as underdogs of any price in a start by Johnny Cueto; UNDER 7.5 or higher in any matchup.
Padres at Giants: In the unlikely event the Giants miss the Playoffs they can blame that failure on San Diego. The Padres have won 9 of 15 meetings this season, including a 3 game road sweep this past weekend in San Francisco. The Giants have gotten solid pitching for most of the season, lefty Madison Bumgarner remains their most reliable starter and Jake Peavy, acquired in a deadline trade, has pitched very well over his 10 starts.
Tim Hudson has shown signs of wearing down and none of the other starters has truly risen up. The bullpen has been solid. The Padres have gotten better offense over the past month or so but they still rely on pitching, which has been a major strength. The Padres have played 91 UNDERS, 59 OVERS with 5 games ending in pushes.
Plays: San Diego +140 or more not facing Bumgarner or Peavy; Giants -160 or lower in starts by Bumgarner or Peavy; UNDER 7 or higher in any matchup.
A’s at Rangers: Oakland had the best record in all of baseball for much of the season, including 59-36 at the All Star break. Texas has had the worst record in the majors for much of the past month. Yet over their last 40 games the Rangers (17-23) have outperformed Oakland (14-26) and despite being out of contention for a long time can play spoiler this weekend.
Oakland’s decline can arguably be attributed to the trade of slugger Yoenis Cespedes at the trade deadline to bolster their starting rotation. The Texas bats have come alive over the past week, which enabled the Rangers to enjoy a modest 7 game win streak that included a 3 game sweep in Oakland in which Texas outscored the A’s 19 to 6. The Rangers actually lead the season series 8 games to 7.
Plays: Texas +150 or more in any matchup; Texas +125 or more in a start by lefty Derek Holland; Oakland -140 or less in starts by Jeff Samardzija, Jon Lester or Sonny Gray not facing Holland; UNDER 8 or higher in any matchup; UNDER 7 or higher in a matchup of Holland against Samardzija, Gray or Holland.
LA Angels at Mariners: It is possible the Angels will have clinched the best record in the AL by the time this series begins as they are up by 3 games over Baltimore heading into Monday’s action. If so, we may see several starters rested in at least one and possible more games in this series.
Seattle will likely need to win at least 2 of the 3 games to earn a Wild Card, depending on what happens earlier in the week with Oakland, Kansas City and Cleveland, all remaining tightly bunched with the Mariners. Seattle has won 9 of 16 meetings with the Halos but has split the 6 prior games played here. Seattle has a significant edge in pitching that may be even more of an edge if indeed the Angels decide to rest their starters.
Plays: Seattle -160 or more in any matchup; Angels +200 in any matchup; UNDER 7.5 or higher in any matchup.
Andy Iskoe, and his Logical Approach, provides his popular and unique handicapping statistics to Gaming Today readers and online visitors. He has been a long time GT columnist, contributing weekly in-season columns on baseball, pro basketball and pro football. Contact Andy at [email protected]