With the unofficial second half of the season set to kick off tomorrow night, it’s worth taking a moment to look at the current standings. If the season were to end today, the American League postseason field would consist of the White Sox, Astros, Red Sox, Rays and A’s. The National League entrants would be the Giants, Brewers, Mets, Dodgers and Padres.
In all likelihood, though, that field will change a bit over the coming months. According to FanGraphs’ playoff odds, the probability of all ten current would-be playoff teams reaching the postseason is just 14.9%. With that in mind, we’ll turn it over to the MLBTR readership to opine on which teams stand the best chance of making a run and unseating a member of the postseason picture.
For simplicity’s sake, we’ll exclude any team with postseason odds below 3%. That rules out the Nationals, Cardinals, Twins, Marlins, Orioles, Tigers, Royals, Rangers, Pirates, Rockies and Diamondbacks.
Yankees (46-43, playoff chances: 40.4%)
It has been a disappointing season to date for a Yankees team that entered the year with World Series aspirations. The lineup, one of the league’s best on paper, has been thoroughly average to this point. The rotation has been similarly middle-of-the-pack, although that was a bit more foreseeable. The bullpen was one of the league’s best early but has hit a skid recently. With all the talent on the roster, the Yankees feel like they should be better, but their +1 run differential reinforces that they’ve played at a merely OK level so far.
Blue Jays (45-42, playoff chances: 34.5%)
The Jays have had an elite offense all year. They had four All-Star position players, three of whom started for the American League. They’re among the top 5 teams in runs scored and wRC+. The pitching has been less impressive, although the rotation and bullpen are both among the top 15 units in ERA. The Jays have had some ill-timed relief issues, though. A 6-10 record in one-run games (including a 2-5 mark in extra innings) has them just three games over .500 despite the AL’s fourth-best run differential.
Angels (45-44, playoff chances: 15.1%)
There’s no doubting the Angels’ high-end position player talent. Getting Mike Trout back to join Shohei Ohtani, Jared Walsh and Anthony Rendon will make them one of the more fearsome middle-of-the-order groupings. The ever-persistent question is on the pitching staff. Angels starters rank just 25th leaguewide with a 5.04 ERA, and the relief corps hasn’t been much better. The defense hasn’t done the pitchers many favors. Despite the quality lineup, the Angels have been outscored by 26 runs.
Indians (45-42, playoff chances: 6.6%)
The Indians hung around the AL Central for quite a while despite an underwhelming offense. A strong bullpen and a trio of quality starting pitchers kept the team in games, but Cleveland lost each of Shane Bieber, Aaron Civale and Zach Plesac to the injured list. Plesac’s back, but the team has predictably sputtered without their top pitchers. They’re still only 4.5 games back in the Wild Card race, but they’ll have to turn things around against a tough schedule coming out of the Break.
Mariners (48-43, playoff chances: 3%)
Seattle’s offense has been a weak point this season. Only the Rockies have a lower team wRC+, although the M’s have hit well enough with runners in scoring position to plate runs at a near-average rate. Both the rotation and bullpen have higher-than-average ERA’s, and the Mariners -50 run differential is the worst among plausible contenders. The projections are highly skeptical they can keep up that kind of high wire act (hence the low odds), but those wins can’t be taken away and the Mariners enter the second half closer to the playoffs than anyone else in the AL discussion.
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Reds (48-42, playoff chances: 22.2%)
The Reds have been the National League’s analogue of the Blue Jays. The lineup has been good, ranking sixth in wRC+ and eleventh in runs. The rotation has been solid. Bullpen issues have been Cincinnati’s undoing, as Reds relievers have MLB’s fourth-worst ERA. The Reds are 3.5 games back in the Wild Card race and four back in the NL Central and were playing well leading up to the Break.
Phillies (44-44, playoff chances: 17.8%)
The Phillies lineup has a few stars, but it’s been rather top-heavy and a middle-of-the-pack unit overall. It’s the same story in the rotation, where the back end has continued to be problematic. And the bullpen has blown a league-worst 22 saves. It has been a good core surrounding by a weak enough complimentary cast to keep the team hovering around average. That’s been a common refrain in Philadelphia over the past couple seasons, but few teams can match the Phils’ top-end talent.
Braves (44-45, playoff chances: 7.5%)
One of the more disappointing teams of the first half, Atlanta entered the year as a World Series hopeful but hasn’t gotten into a groove. The lineup has been good, although the loss of Ronald Acuña Jr. is certainly going to be tough to overcome. Starting pitching has been fine but unspectacular, but the bullpen — as with the Reds and Phillies — has been an issue in Atlanta. At +19, the Braves have the best run differential in the NL East, but a 2-6 record in extra-inning games has contributed to them underperforming in the standings.
Cubs (44-46, playoff chances: 4.1%)
The Cubs were in the thick of the NL Central race a few weeks ago. An 11-game losing streak knocked them well back in the standings, though. The current lineup still has some high-end talent, and the bullpen has been great this year. But the rotation has predictably proven an issue, and it seems likely the front office will move some players off the big league roster in the coming weeks.
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