Three di­vi­sions are up for grabs

The Washington Post Sunday - - BASEBALL - BY NEIL GREEN­BERG­berg@wash­

Ma­jor League Base­ball still has al­most two months of reg­u­lar sea­son games re­main­ing, but let’s face it, there isn’t much drama left to un­fold with half the di­vi­sion races vir­tu­ally over.

The Los An­ge­les Dodgers en­tered Sat­ur­day with a 16-game lead over the Colorado Rockies in the NL West and the Wash­ing­ton Na­tion­als en­joyed a 141/2-game ad­van­tage over the Mi­ami Mar­lins in the NL East. In the Amer­i­can League, the Hous­ton Astros were 13 games ahead of the Seat­tle Mariners, their near­est com­peti­tor in the West. Since 1994, the first year MLB adopted the wild-card for­mat, ev­ery team that has had at least a 14-game lead at this point in the sea­son has gone on to win the di­vi­sion.

The other three di­vi­sions — the AL Cen­tral, NL Cen­tral and AL East — ap­pear to be up for grabs, but a closer look will re­veal th­ese, too, are most likely for­gone con­clu­sions. Here’s a deeper dive into the statis­tics that show why.

AL Cen­tral

The de­fend­ing AL cham­pion Cleve­land In­di­ans had a 31/2-game lead over the Min­nesota Twins and a five-game lead over the Kansas City Roy­als, but the In­di­ans should be able to pull away down the stretch.

Ac­cord­ing to Fan­Graphs, the In­di­ans’ po­si­tion play­ers are ex­pected to add 8.6 wins above re­place­ment over the rest of the sea­son, with an­other 7.8 fWAR com­ing from their pitch­ers — only the Dodgers are ex­pected to con­trib­ute more down the stretch.

Not only do the In­di­ans have the best team of the three, they have an easy sched­ule. Cleve­land’s re­main­ing op­po­nents have a com­bined .479 win per­cent­age this sea­son ac­cord­ing to BaseRuns, which es­ti­mates how many runs a team would be ex­pected to score (or al­low) given their un­der­ly­ing of­fen­sive (or de­fen­sive) per­for­mance.

As a re­sult, the In­di­ans have a 92.3 per­cent chance of win­ning the di­vi­sion.

NL Cen­tral

The Chicago Cubs, win­ners of their first World Se­ries in 108 years last sea­son, had a one-game lead over the St. Louis Car­di­nals. The Mil­wau­kee Brew­ers (three games back) and Pitts­burgh Pi­rates (31/2 games back) are not far be­hind.

Since the Cubs ac­quired start­ing pitcher Jose Quin­tana from the Chicago White Sox for four prospects, they were 17-9 with a plus-38 run dif­fer­en­tial, much more in line with the ti­tle-win­ning team from last sea­son.

Chicago’s ros­ter play­ers are ex­pected to add 15.2 fWAR for the re­main­der of the sea­son, sec­ond to the Dodgers and In­di­ans, against the sec­ond-eas­i­est sched­ule us­ing the BaseRuns win per­cent­age of re­main­ing op­po­nents (.473).

The Car­di­nals have the eas­i­est sched­ule re­main­ing (.469), but with 11.6 pro­jected fWAR from now un­til the end of the sea­son, the Cubs are once again in com­plete con­trol of the di­vi­sion and project to have a six- to seven-game lead by the end of the reg­u­lar sea­son.

AL East

This di­vi­sion could truly be up for grabs. The Bos­ton Red Sox en­tered Sat­ur­day with a 31/2 -game lead over the New York Yan­kees, but it is the lat­ter with the edge in sched­ul­ing — the Bronx Bombers face op­po­nents with an av­er­age BaseRuns win per­cent­age of .488, the low­est in the di­vi­sion. The Red Sox, mean­while, face the tough­est (.528).

That could help tilt the di­vi­sion back in New York’s fa­vor de­spite the Red Sox hav­ing a 76.1 per­cent chance at win­ning the di­vi­sion, per Fan­Graphs. But no mat­ter who wins the AL East, the con­so­la­tion prize for the run­ner-up will likely be a wild-card spot.

The Yan­kees have a league-high 56.1 per­cent chance at reach­ing the play­offs as a wild-card team, al­most dou­ble the chances of the Rays (31.3 per­cent) and Roy­als (29.9 per­cent), the teams with the sec­ond- and third-high­est like­li­hood in the AL. The Mariners could sneak in, too, es­pe­cially if they out­per­form their 81 ex­pected wins this sea­son. The Bal­ti­more Ori­oles also have hope, but they are a long shot, at best.

The NL wild-card race has more clar­ity. The Rockies and Ari­zona Di­a­mond­backs en­tered Sat­ur­day 51/2 and 41/2 games ahead of the Car­di­nals in the wild-card race, giv­ing them each a near-lock on the two wild-card spots. There is a small chance the Car­di­nals squeak away with the di­vi­sion ti­tle (7.7 per­cent) but their play­off hopes, in­clud­ing the wild-card slot, sit at 18.6 per­cent, a mere frac­tion of what the Rockies and Di­a­mond­backs en­joy at this point of the sea­son.

AL East

*Di­vi­sion leads en­ter­ing Sat­ur­day

Red Sox lead Yan­kees by 31/2 games

NL Cen­tral

Cubs lead Car­di­nals by one game

AL West


Astros lead An­gels by 13 games

NL East


Na­tion­als lead Mar­lins by 141/2 games

NL West


Dodgers lead Rockies by 16 games

AL Cen­tral

In­di­ans lead Twins by 31/2 games

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