American League Playoff Predictions – Who’s in, Who’s out?

With less than 50 games remaining in the 2010 MLB season, it’s time to start separating the playoff contenders from the pretenders – or just the downright horrid. In the American League, some of the playoff races are tight (AL East and AL Central) while some are turning into a runaway (AL West). We are going to take a look at each current division leader’s chances of hanging onto that spot, the chances of the second or even third place team moving into contention, and of course, who has the best chance of that final wildcard berth.

AL East

At 71-44, the Yankees hold the best record in the majors, but probably have the most work cut out for them. With the Rays (69-46) and possibly even the Red Sox (66-51) still within striking distance, the Bronx Bombers can’t take a day off if they want to take their division. Out of their 47 remaining games, 19 of them are against playoff contenders (White Sox 3, Rangers 3, Rays 7, Red Sox 6). They also play a handful of games against the Blue Jays who even though we aren’t putting them in the category of contender, are still a threat.

The second place Rays (69-46) are in a good position to take the East. Their remaining schedule is marginally easier than the league leading Yankees since only 16 of their remaining 47 games are against contending teams (Rangers 3, Sox 6, Yankees 7). The series’ to watch, of course, will be when they meet up with the Yankees which will undoubtedly decide this playoff race. They are young, but they have been in the playoffs before back in 2008. The Rays are fearless and have potent offensive weapons which give them a chance to win any playoff race.

While the Red Sox (66-51) are 6 games out of first place, they can never be counted out of any playoff discussions. While they have the most games against contending teams than any other team in the AL East, (Texas 2, White Sox 7, Rays 6, Yankees 6), this could also give them the opportunity to make up some ground on the leaders. Their 8 games against non-division contenders though, are an unwanted risk at this point in the season. I give them slim chances of making the playoffs, especially because of their key injuries.

Prediction: The Rays and Red Sox will make this interesting, but let’s be realistic; the Yankees have too much talent and too much experience to let this division slip through their fingers. The Rays will be in Wildcard contention and the Red Sox will see their injuries catch up with them at the wrong time and are sent packing.

AL Central

The White Sox led the division for most of the year, but those pesky Twins have taken over the division lead, halfway through August. The Twins boast a record of 66-50 and hold a one-game lead over the White Sox (65-51).

The Twins have a fairly easy schedule remaining, with just a handful of games remaining against contenders (Rangers 7, White Sox 6), but have to split or win their remaining 6 games with the White Sox to hang onto their slim division lead. The Twins’ run differential is almost twice that of the Sox, which gives them at least an on-paper advantage over their division rivals, but I feel that pitching will be the difference as this race comes down to the wire.

The White Sox have seen their once comfortable lead turn into a deficit as July faded into August, a bad omen for teams with playoff hopes. Furthermore, their remaining schedule showcases some tough series (Twins 6, Yankees 3, Red Sox 7). They have a chance to make up some ground on the Twins thanks to their remaining 6 head to head games, but 10 games against contenders from the AL East won’t help them in their quest for an AL Central title.

Prediction: The great pitching of the White Sox will keep this close into the last week of the season, but their difficult remaining schedule will be too much to handle. Wildcard is the best chance that the White Sox have as the Twins take the division yet again.

AL West

This division is a joke, not to discredit the Rangers, but to discredit the rest of the teams playing out West. The Rangers have as many wins as the Red Sox, White Sox and the Twins, so they are very deserving of their place atop the AL West, but when the next best team in their division is barely 1 game over .500, it is tough to put any stock in their playoff chances. But seeing as this isnt a preview of who will advance in the playoffs and only a prediction of who will make it, let’s pencil in the Rangers to come out of the AL West. I won’t even spend any time talking about the Angels chances because they have none.

Prediction: The Rangers will finish with a double digit lead over the second place team in their division.

AL Wildcard

This year’s Wildcard berth will be as hotly contested as any in recent memory. There are 3 teams within 5 games of the final playoff spot, and two of those teams are within two games of taking their division lead. This translates to 5 teams vying for 3 spots, and they all play each other a TON heading down the stretch.

Currently, the Rays lead the Wildcard race, and hold a comfortable 4 and 4.5 game lead over the Red Sox and White Sox respectively. The Rays play 16 games against playoff contending teams, the same as the White Sox. The Red Sox have the toughest road ahead of them with 21 games against quality ball clubs.

Prediction: With all things being equal, the Wildcard would come down to the Rays and White Sox, going into the final game of the season. The Rays 4.5 game lead over the Chicago South Siders, however is the biggest difference in this race. Rays take the final playoff spot via the wildcard.