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.
|St. Louis Cardinals||STL||84||72||.538||9.5|
|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|
|St. Louis Cardinals||84||72||—||6|
|Los Angeles Dodgers||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.
|New York Yankees||NYY||90||65||.581||—|
|Tampa Bay Rays||TBR||85||70||.548||5.0|
|Chicago White Sox||CHW||82||73||.529||1.0|
|Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim||LAA||86||69||.555||5.0|
|American League Wild Card|
|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.