2017 MLB Playoff Update

By Mark Dankenbring @MarkDank
2017 MLB Playoff Update – AL/NL Wild Card and AL East/NL Central Races

We find ourselves just two weeks away from the start of the MLB Postseason with a lot still to be determined. Only four of ten playoff teams have been confirmed (Indians, Astros, Nationals, Dodgers), and the race for the second wild card spot in both leagues could come down to the wire. While the Dodgers haven't officially clinched the NL West, their 9.5-game lead over the Diamondbacks essentially locks Arizona in as a wild card. The Cubs weekend sweep over the Cardinals leaves St. Louis with little remaining hope, but Chicago still has some work to do with two four-game series left against the Brewers and Cardinals. The Yankees have made it close in the AL East with a 12-5 September, sitting just three games back of the Red Sox for the division lead. But before we get into the remaining division races in-depth, let's take a look at both wild card races and who is most likely to play baseball past October 1st.

Just over a month ago we saw five American League teams with a greater than 19% chance to finish with a wild card berth (Yankees, Royals, Twins, Mariners, Angels). With just two weeks remaining, we now find two teams (Yankees, Twins) with a greater than 75% chance to make a wild card spot, while the Angels are the only other team with a greater than 2.5% chance at 17%. Outside of the Angels who are 1.5-games back, no AL team is within four games of the Twins for the second wild card spot.

Not only is Minnesota up a game and a half on the Angels, but they have a much easier remaining schedule. Seven of their 10 remaining games come against the Tigers, who are 11-31 since August 5th. Their other three games are against the Cleveland Indians, who the Angels will begin a series against tonight. After their three-game series against Cleveland, L.A. will head to Houston for a three-game set and Chicago for a four-game set against the Sox. Their season will end with a three-game set against the Mariners, who could potentially be in the Wild Card race if they have a strong next three series. With the Twins sitting at 76.9% and Angels at 17.0% to make the Wild Card, it's no doubt who the favorite is. But, the Angels do have the best player on the planet in Mike Trout, so those percentages could level out by this time next week.

It's a very similar story over in the National league, where Arizona is essentially a lock with a 6.5-game lead over the field, while Colorado has a firm hold on the second spot with a two-game lead over the Brewers. St. Louis is left with just a 2.9% chance at a wild card berth following their sweep from the Cubs in Wrigley, dropping them to 4.5-games back of the Rockies.

It's essentially a two-team race, and similar to the AL, the team holding the second spot at the moment has a favorable remaining schedule. The Rockies will face the Giants, Padres, and Marlins in the next three series before ending the year against the Dodgers. Meanwhile, the two NL Central teams left in the race will beat up on one another, as the Cardinals and Brewers play three games against each other and both have a four-game series remaining with the Cubs. It's a much easier path for Colorado, especially when you factor in their two-game buffer on the Brewers. That's why we give the Rockies a 73% chance at a wild card spot against just 21.8% for the Brew Crew and 2.9% chance for St. Louis.

The Yankees and Red Sox find themselves just three games apart in the division standings with 12 games remaining on their schedules. Both have had solid Septembers, with the Yankees entering Tuesday with a 12-5 record and Boston holding a 10-6 record on the month. Both teams have posted solid numbers on offense and the mound, sitting in the top eight for runs scored and ERA in September. Neither team has a soft or difficult schedule down the stretch, so Boston enters Tuesday with an 84.3% chance to take home the division. Their 3-game lead is really the determining factor in the division, but we give both teams a 100% chance to make the postseason.

The race for the division title was much tighter before the Chicago Cubs swept the St. Louis Cardinals in Wrigley this past weekend. Now with a 3.5-game lead over Milwaukee and a six-game lead over St. Louis, Chicago is in the driver's seat to bring home their second consecutive division title. We currently give the Cubs a 95.2% chance to win the Central. However, a collapse is still a possibility for Chicago, as they have eight remaining games against the Brewers and Cardinals, leaving them with a 2.4% chance of missing the playoffs entirely.

If Milwaukee or St. Louis has any hopes of a division title or wild card berth, they'll have to win at least three of four against the reigning champions. It's obviously a difficult feat, so Milwaukee enters Tuesday with just a 4.4% chance to win the Central, while St. Louis needs multiple prayers to be answered at just 0.4% to finish atop the Cubs and Brewers. Therefore, both teams will be rooting for the Rockies to scuffle over the next few weeks, with their best postseason chances lying in a wild card spot.