Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Wild Card Races Tighten Up

2012 is the first season of the new wild card format. This year there will be two wild cards from each league who will meet in a one game playoff before the Division Series. It will be a similar setup to the wild card(or division) tiebreaker that has happened several times in the last 15 years. Think back to the Rockies/Padres tiebreaker a few years ago where Matt Holliday scored the game winning run. But, instead of being counted as a regular season game, it will be a postseason game.

Right now, the biggest division lead in baseball is 5.5 games by the Rangers. In the AL Central, the White Sox have a half game lead over the Tigers, in what should be a good race. The Yankees have the second biggest lead of a division leader, with a 4.5 game edge over Baltimore. In the National League, the Nationals have the biggest lead with 4 games. The Reds are 3.5 over the Pirates, and the Giants and Dodgers are in a dogfithgt in the NL West.

The wild card races are even closer. Like last year, the Braves are a wild card leader. They do not have a 10 game lead like last year, though. The Pirates have the second wild card, and are only a half game worse than the Braves. Also like last year, the Cardinals are behind the wild card leaders. However, they are in much better shape than last season. St. Louis is only 2.5 games back from Pittsburgh, and has a much easier path to the postseason than they did last year. The Dodgers are 4 games back from the second wild card, and probably have an easier path winning the NL West. The Diamondbacks have also re-entered the race.

In the American League, there are five teams within 2 games of the two wild card spots. The Tigers lead the pack, with the Orioles and Athletics tied for the second spot. It will be interesting to see what baseball would do if two teams tied for the last spot. Right behind them are the Angels and Rays. The Red Sox and Blue Jays are within 5 games of the second spot, and would be a hot streak away from challenging for it. It should be an interesting finish, and could have an unexpected team or two in the postseason.

I feel much more confident on the Cardinals chances to make the playoffs this year than at this point last year. Obviously, the Cardinals ended up winning the World Series last year after making a miracilous comeback. They were 10.5 games back of the Braves in late August last year. Being 2.5 games back with 52 games to go doesn't seem nearly as bad. Considering the Cardinals lead the National League in runs scored, and their bullpen has been pitching better, they should make a run. With an extra playoff spot available this year, I think the Cardinals will return to the postseason.

Current Wild Card Leaders

National League
Team          W-L    GB
Braves       63-47     -
Pirates       62-47     -
Cardinals   60-50    2.5
Dodgers    59-52    4
DBacks     56-54    6.5
Mets         53-57     9.5

American League
Team          W-L    GB
Tigers        60-50     -
Orioles      59-51     -(Tied)
Athletics    59-51     -(Tied)
Angels       59-52    0.5
Rays          57-52    1.5
Red Sox    55-56    4
Blue Jays   53-56    5

              Orioles and Athletics, Two Surprising Wild Card Contenders

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