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Playoff predictions at the quarter-pole

Posted by Andy on May 26, 2010

We're a little bit past the quarter point of the season. Here are my thoughts and predictions for each divisional race:

AL East

Favorite:  Rays
Division Contenders: none
Wildcard Contenders: Yankees, Blue Jays, Red Sox
Done: Orioles

Analysis: The Rays are clearly the best team in baseball by a wide margin and despite the presence of the Yankees and the Red Sox, this division is one of the easiest to pick. Second place is much harder. Despite their recent good run, the Red Sox are still a longshot for either the division crown or the wild card. The Yankees are still strong and the Blue Jays are hanging around just enough. This is clearly the most talented division in baseball and the second-place team will be the AL Wild Card.

AL Central

Favorite: Twins
Contender: Tigers
Done: White Sox, Royals, Indians

Analysis: Despite being only one game out, I think the Tigers need to be considered a long shot for the playoffs. Their run differential is very small at just +6 and they don't deserve a record of 6 games over .500. They should finish with at most 85 wins unless they improve dramatically. The Twins are the only team in this division to be taken seriously this year.

AL West

Favorite: Rangers
Contender: Athletics
Done: Angels, Mariners

Analysis: This is a similar story to the AL Central, as the Rangers are the only team with a positive run differential and are the only team in this division likely to finish above .500. Check out the Angels' run differential--an average-ish 200 runs scored but an AL-high 242 allowed. They and the Mariners have no shot.

NL East

Favorite: Phillies
Contenders: Braves, Marlins, Mets
Done: Nationals*

Analysis: This is the weirdest division in baseball. The Phillies are clearly the best of the group and should win fairly easily. The rest of the teams have essentially identical records. However the Nationals have been outscored by their opponents and should be a few games under .500. The Mets have outscored their opponents and should be over .500. These four teams are all so close that my guess is that they'll all beat each other too much to allow any of them to win the wild card. The asterisk for the Nationals is due to Stephen Strasburg. When he joins the big club in June, anything can happen. He might help the team to as much as an extra 4 or 5 wins the rest of the way and I can almost talk myself into 87 wins for the Nationals if his teammates are inspired by his performance. But that's a long, long, longshot.

NL Central

Favorite: Cardinals
Contender: Reds
Done: Cubs, Pirates, Brewers, Astros

Analysis: Although the Cardinals and Reds are tied atop the division at this writing, St. Louis has a much better run differential and is the clear favorite here. But after years of disappointment, the Reds have assembled quite a bit of talent and I think are a serious wildcard contender. The rest of the division is bad. I think the Cubs have basically no shot, but a longshot scenario for them winning the wildcard involves them brutalizing the Pirates, Brewers, and Astros once those 3 teams totally give up for good.

NL West

Favorite: Padres
Contenders: Dodgers, Giants, Rockies
Done: Diamondbacks

Analysis: Well would you look at that! The Padres are now the favorites in the NL West and are this year's surprise team. Their pitching is just so good I don't see anybody catching them. The other three contenders here are really playing for the wildcard. They are all outscoring their opponents and the NL Wildcard will likely be the team among this group that can scrape out 90 wins. My money's on the Giants.

So if I had to pick my playoff teams are: Rays, Twins, Rangers, Yankees (WC), Phillies, Cardinals, Padres, Giants (WC).

14 Responses to “Playoff predictions at the quarter-pole”

  1. Athletics For Life – An Oakland A’s Blog by Wisconsin’s #1 A’s Fan » Blog Archive » Doing the Splits Says:

    [...] Today Baseball Reference looked at who they think is still in the race in each division, and they have only the Rangers and the A’s as having a shot in the AL West. Can the same still be said after the next 25 games? [...]

  2. statboy Says:

    "AL East - Division Contenders: none"

    You give the Yankees no chance to win the division?

  3. Andy Says:

    I wouldn't say no chance but a slim chance. Arguments can be made to the contrary, I know, but that's my opinion.

  4. BCC Says:

    I'm biased, of course, but I have a hard time with the characterization of the Sox as being long-shots for even the wild card, especially with the suggestion that the AL wild card is likely to come from the East. The Sox are 0.5 games down on Toronto, and 1.5 down on the Yankees. With 115 games to play! If the season ended June 1, yes, they'd be long shots!

    While their current tear (7-1 over last 8) isn't sustainable, neither was their horrible, horrible starting pitching for the first ~35 games or so.

    Is there a statistic that indicates how a team is faring relative to its 'potential'? Say, take your cumulative impact statistic of choice for each player on a current roster from the prior year(s), weight by anticipated playing time, and compare? Sounds like a project.

  5. Austyn Says:

    I still think my Royals have a shot! Okay maybe a very very (very) slim shot lol

  6. Djibouti Says:

    The Nats are in a precarious situation. Ideally they'd like to bring Strasburg up in early June (next week?) and shut him down late August/early September. This would work great if this was your average Nats team that was 20 games out in August. But what do they do if they're still in the hunt in September and Strasburg is pitching lights out? Shut him down and say "sorry fans, we'll get 'em next year" or ride him all the way into October and risk blowing out his arm and still not making the playoffs?

  7. Johnny Twisto Says:

    Last season Strasburg threw 109 IP in college and another 19 in the AZ fall league, total of 128. Let's say DC might not want him to go over 160 this year (I don't know if they've publicized a limit).

    He's thrown 45 IP in the minors thus far, one more start puts him at ~51.

    If his first MLB start is 6/4, and he starts every 5 games, he gets about 21 starts. At 6 IP/start he's at 126 IP, or about 177 IP total, not including potential postseason.

    What do you do? I hate giving up on a potential playoff push because you're trying to preserve a future that may never come. And I think pitchers have been far too babied, with little evidence of any reduction in injuries. At the same time, there is compelling evidence that pitchers worked hard at a young age do burn out quick. Is 177 IP hard work? Maybe not, but it is a big jump over last year (and probably over any year of his life), and it makes sense that this could cause problems.

    Maybe you put him in the bullpen. Of course there's a lot of people who will say the "jarring" transition from starting to relieving will cause injury too.

  8. Evan Says:

    Regarding Strasburg's innings this year, I have seen it reported (I think by Jon Heyman) that there is an informal agreement between the team and Strasburg/Boras not to pitch him more than 100 innings in the majors this year.

  9. Rich Says:

    I think you overrate the Rays. They're due for a crash and burn in the second half. Maybe they'll have such a lead by then that it won't matter but consider this: They have a team ERA+ of 146! That's just not sustainable.

  10. Jacques Strappe Says:

    Bad timing--Tampa Bay is in the process of getting swept at home by Boston as you say there's no chance they'll be challenged for the division. Makes me wonder if the Angels and the Brewers have a shot after all!

  11. JohnnyChance Says:

    BCC: I think what you are looking for is PECOTA. And yes, it is a project. Luckily someone has done the work for us! There are 3 versions, with different adjustments for different things, calculated by people with more knowledge and time than me. You can see PECOTA's playoff predictions on (

    Here are the sox's chances of winning the division/wild card (as of the morning of May 26th, before tonights games).
    PECOTA: 13.14%/20.5%
    PECOTA-Adjusted: 6.61%/28.5%
    PECOTA-Elo Adjusted: 12.61%/23.03%

    A longshot, no, but the odds have the Yanks (and Rays) ahead of them. Sox do fare better in these predictions than the Bluejays though. Orioles? 0.0010 chance of winning the division.

  12. BCC Says:

    JC- Thanks. I knew a bit about PECOTA, but wasn't aware of its use in this form. Thanks.

  13. Baseball-Reference Blog » Blog Archive » The most important games all year? Says:

    [...] caught a lot of flak for my predictions in the AL [...]

  14. Sunday Links (30 May 10) – Ducksnorts Says:

    [...] Playoff predictions at the quarter-pole (Baseball-Reference). Andy has the Padres as the favorites to win the National League West. On another note, Sean has added photos to B-R, which is very cool. [...]