The first four teams, the Washington Nationals and Atlanta Braves, the San Francisco and the Cincinnati Reds, have booked their tickets after clinching their respective divisions, but under the new rules that will see 10, rather than 8, teams make the playoffs there are a number of slots left to fill.
American League East
In a division usually dominated by the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox, the Baltimore Orioles have come to play this year and sit just one and a half games back of the Bronx Bombers.
However, with that lead and New York having a favourable schedule compared to the Orioles, it appears that the Yankees will clinch their 12th AL East title in 15 years. Baltimore remain eligible for a wild card slot due to their strong record, while Tampa Bay can also mathematically gain a spot.
American League Central
This has been a closely fought division race and as of today, the Detroit Tigers and Chicago White Sox are tied at the top with identical 82-76 records. With just eight games remaining, the Tigers winning head-to-head record against Chicago, combined with a relatively easy remaining eight games looks set to give them the AL Central crown. By virtue of their poor records compared to the rest of the American League, the side that doesn’t qualify for the playoffs by winning their division will need a minor miracle to gain a wildcard berth.
American League West
The West has been home to the class of the AL, the Texas Rangers, with their 91-63 record. Although the Oakland Athletics have put up a valiant chase, their hopes have never really been for the division crown but for one of the two wild card slots, having rarely been closer than 4 games behind the Rangers. The Los Angeles Angels, in their first season since their big splash for perennial MVP candidate Albert Pujols, have failed to live up to expectations, sitting a further two games behind Oakland and harbour small hopes of playing deep into October.
As it stands, the two wildcard spots will go to Baltimore (88-67) and Oakland (87-67). With some teams playing up to eight games before the end of the regular season there are chances for them to get in, however. The Angels have the best chance, just two games behind the leading duo, while the Rays are a further game back. Five games behind with eight to play it seems almost implausible that the AL Central runner-up, whether it is the Tigers or White Sox, could qualify for a wildcard place.
The two wildcards will play each other in a one-off game to determine who makes the final four in the American League Divisional Series.
National League East
Thanks to dominant pitching, the Washington Nationals will make the postseason for just the second time since the franchise was founded in 1969, and the first time since 1981, having clinched at least a wildcard slot. They are four games ahead of Atlanta, who will also be playing in October, in the divisional race.
National League Central
The Cincinnati Reds have the major league’s best record at 93-61 and were the first team to seal their division.
National League West
The San Francisco Giants managed to wrap up a weak division this week and look to recapture the World Series they won two years ago.
National League Wildcards
This looks relatively uninteresting compared to the American League, with NL East runner-up guaranteed one wildcard berth, while the other is all but securely in the hands of the NL Central’s St Louis Cardinals. The Cardinals (84-71), own a 4.5 game lead over the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Milwaukee Brewers. The Arizona Cardinals also have a minor shot, sitting a further game behind.
image: © Keith Allison