Wednesday, August 9, 2017

The American League Wild Card Race is Getting Insane

Check the standings here.

This is insane.

There are roughly 50 games left in the Major League Baseball season. Some teams have more, some teams have fewer, but it's pretty much around that number -- and it will go by like that. All you can reasonably hope for, if you are a team that is on the fringes of contention -- particularly with first-place teams owning massive leads like Los Angeles, Houston and Washington -- is to at least have a shot.

This year, plenty of teams still have skin in the game thanks to the American League Wild Card chase, which looks like it's going to be lunacy. From the Wild Card leader (the Yankees) entering Monday's action to the team that's five spots out of the second slot (Minnesota), you have only 5 1/2 games of separation. Texas, a team that just traded away its ace, is closer to a Wild Card spot than the closest Wild Card team in the National League. It is jammed, essentially top to bottom. Keep your eye on these standings!

So let's take a look at every contender, what their chances are and what the stakes are moving forward. We have to cut off the definition of a "contender" at some point, so for the sake of discussion, we'll omit Texas, Toronto and Detroit, all of whom were sellers at the Deadline. We do this even though Texas is only one game behind Minnesota (also sort of a seller, but no matter). It's crazy this year, and we may have to revisit this in a few more weeks if any other teams go on a run. Also, right now, the Red Sox, thanks to a six-game win streak, have opened up a three-game lead over the Yankees in the AL East. That division is far from settled, but for the sake of discussion, we'll include the Yankees but not the Sox. That, like everything else, could change quickly.
Here's the analysis for the Angels, who just can't seem to earn winning consistency. It's maddening!
Los Angeles Angels Record: 55-58, fourth Wild Card runnerup, three games out of second Wild Card spot.

Playoff projections on 9.8 percent.

What's at stake: The last few years of the best player in baseball. The Angels have been trying to cobble together a mediocre team around Mike Trout for a few years now, with no luck. This year has been different in that Trout missed two months and the Angels somehow treaded water. (Andrelton Simmons is quietly having a superstar season -- he's third in the AL in FanGraphs WAR -- which helps.) But the odds are still stacked against them. It would help to get something, anything, out of Albert Pujols. There are 514 American League position players who have enough at-bats to register a WAR rating this season. Pujols is ranked 513th in WAR.

Fans' reasonable optimism level: Realistic. Three more years of Trout left. They are a little closer to the playoffs than they were last year. But that feels like the fighting of gravity.
 Angels play the Orioles tonight, and could move past them with a win. So, root for the rally monkey, heh.