Fight for the Finish

After the compelling and emotional ending to Major League Baseball’s 2011 regular season, many scoffed at Bud Selig when he said he was going to change things. A fifth playoff team, one from each league, would be added to the postseason. Now, the two wild card teams will play a one-game “play-in” game to determine who advances to the divisional round. This was done, according to the commissioner, in order to give extra weight and emphasis towards winning one’s division. Indeed, in previous years, when two teams from the same division had both clinched playoff berths, managers would rest starters in preparation for the postseason. Now, with the added perks that come with winning the division, that is no longer the case.

That being said, four of the five playoff spots in the National League have been decided. The Washington Nationals, Atlanta Braves, Cincinnati Reds, and San Francisco Giants will all be playing October baseball. The Reds and Giants each have 9+ game leads on the next team in their respective divisions, and although the Braves could technically catch the Nationals and claim the division crown, it looks increasingly likely that the Nationals will win the East.

East Division

Team W L W-L% GB
Washington Nationals WSN 94 61 .606
Atlanta Braves ATL 90 65 .581 4.0
Philadelphia Phillies PHI 78 77 .503 16.0

Central Division

Team W L W-L% GB
Cincinnati Reds CIN 93 62 .600
St. Louis Cardinals STL 84 72 .538 9.5

West Division

Team W L W-L% GB
San Francisco Giants SFG 90 65 .581
Los Angeles Dodgers LAD 80 75 .516 10.0

As stated above, the only playoff spot yet to be claimed in the National League is the second playoff spot, and with seven games to go, the St. Louis Cardinals are 3.5 games up on both the Los Angeles Dodges and the Milwaukee Brewers. Both of those teams will need a miracle if they want to make it in.

National League Wild Card
 Team W L GB Left
 Atlanta Braves 90 65 +6.5 7
 St. Louis Cardinals 84 72 6
 Los Angeles Dodgers 80 75 3.5 7
 Milwaukee Brewers 80 75 3.5 7

What about the American League? Here’s where it gets really interesting.

The AL is in the exact opposite position when it comes to playoffs. While the National League has four teams that have claimed spots (with the fifth spot all but assured), in the American League, no teams have clinched a postseason berth. Furthermore, any one of four teams has the potential of getting one of the two wild card spots.

East Division

Team W L W-L% GB
New York Yankees NYY 90 65 .581
Baltimore Orioles BAL 89 67 .571 1.5
Tampa Bay Rays TBR 85 70 .548 5.0

Central Division

Tm W L W-L% GB
Detroit Tigers DET 83 72 .535
Chicago White Sox CHW 82 73 .529 1.0

West Division

Team W L W-L% GB
Texas Rangers TEX 91 64 .587
Oakland Athletics OAK 88 67 .568 3.0
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim LAA 86 69 .555 5.0
American League Wild Card
 Team W L GB Left
 Baltimore Orioles 89 67 +0.5 6
 Oakland Athletics 88 67 7
 Los Angeles Angels 86 69 2.0 7
 Tampa Bay Rays 85 70 3.0 7
 Chicago White Sox 82 73 6.0 7

The Yankees and the Tigers have very tenuous holds on their respective divisions, and the wild card race is wide open. The Rays play Baltimore for their last three games of the season, while Texas has a three game series against Oakland. Detroit probably has the easiest route, as they play Kansas City and Minnesota to close the year.

There are eight teams competing for five spots. Unfortunately, some good teams are going to be left out, but hey, they all have a shot.

At this point, we can safely say that the addition of a second wild card sport has, contrary to what many people thought, made this season better, not worse.

Here’s to October.

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