This last week has been tough, yes, but everyone takes a breath and look at that teal dot hanging tough at the top of this graph.
To be fair, if there were ever a more Mariners-y moment to begin to play their worst baseball of the season, this would be it. A mere eight games away from clinching their first playoff appearance in two decades (thanks to some timely losing from the White Sox and Orioles), and the Mariners aren’t gliding to the finish line so much as they are tripping towards it.
Logic brain: The Mariners will still most likely make the playoffs. This is fine.
Fanbrain: I am losing it right now!
Please, can the hitting and pitching be good at the same time? We won 14 games in a row doing that, we should try that again.
New York Yankees (91 – 58)
Chance of making the postseason: 100% (FG), 100% (538)
Chance of winning the World Series: 9.7% (FG), 14% (538)
As of today (September 22nd) the Yankees have clinched a playoff spot. While technically, they could still end up in the Wild Card, it’s very unlikely they don’t end up with the division title. Just like last week, not much to say here. They now seem to be running on all cylinders after a scare against the Pirates and dropping two to the Brewers over the weekend. They still took two wins off of them over the weekend, including a walk-off grand slam from Giancarlo Stanton. Aaron Judge hits 60 home runs, so congratulations to him. Josh Donaldson is also finally starting to heat up after a miserable regular season. Over his last seven games, he’s slashed an eye-popping .333/.364/.567. A hot streak like this could be very good once they get to the playoffs. Still, despite how good they look, I’m reluctant to say they even have a chance at the American League Championship, let alone the World Series. This team can look very good when everything is going well, but it rarely ever does. So far, a high-powered offense has managed to keep them going, but how long can a subpar bullpen and a shaky back end of the rotation hold up?
Cleveland Guardians (83 – 67)
Chance of making the postseason: 99.9% (FG), >99% (538)
Chance of winning the World Series: 1.8% (FG), 2% (538)
Last we checked in on the Cleveland Guardians, they seemed on the precipice of letting the season go to the White Sox, and now the inverse looks to be true. Despite suffering what looked like a back-breaking loss to the White Sox on September 16th, the Guardians seem to be back in it even more so than before. Instead of shrivelling away, the Guardians surged to take 4 out of 5 from the Twins, capped with a massive 11-4 victory. They would then ride this wave straight into a three-game sweep of the White Sox, including an 8-2 shellacking, the exact same score that the White Sox had beat them by a week prior. Now, all that being said, they are playing the AL Central, so it’s not like they’re running out there against juggernauts, but the Guardians are linking wins together with ease at the moment, and while the White Sox are not entirely out of the division right now, they’ve been pretty significantly buried. With a 99.9% chance of winning the division, the Guardians will probably have this wrapped up within the next few days.
Wild Card Race
Toronto Blue Jays (84 – 66)
Chances of making the postseason: 99.8% (FG), >99% (538)
Chance of winning the World Series: 6.6% (FG), 3% (538)
The Blue Jays are in a much better position than they were just a week ago, sitting high and mighty atop the Wild Card standings with a 1.5 game lead. Despite starting the week with a loss to the Rays, the Blue Jays still went on to take two out of three from the Orioles and split two games with the Phillies, including a frankly very odd 18-11 victory over the Phillies. The game included a Raimel Tapia triple (his second of the year) and a Jackie Bradley Jr. pinch-hit homerun off of former Blue Jay, Brad Hand, who was famously awful for them last year, so yeah, really weird game. While the Blue Jays haven’t been playing perfect baseball, they are playing good enough baseball at a time when both the Mariners and Rays are sliding, the Rays having just been swept by the Astros and the Mariners losing 6 of their last 10. Blue Jays look poised to make a real run this postseason. Matt Chapman finally seems to be coming to life, slashing .304/.403/.739 in his last 7 games; combined with the hot bat of Bo Bichette they could make for a formidable duo down the line. Bolstered by a strong duo at the front of the rotation in the breakout year from Alex Manoah and another strong year from Kevin Gausman, the Blue Jays could be dangerous in the postseason. Still, they have three more games against the Yankees and Rays each this year, so things could shift around a bit yet.
Tampa Bay Rays
Chances of making the postseason: 99.1% (FG), 98% (538)
Chance of winning the World Series: 4.2%(FG), 3% (538)
The Rays followed up a tough series with the Blue Jays by taking two out of three from the Rangers, improving their Wild Card chances at the same time the Mariners have stumbled. But the wind has fallen from their sails somewhat after getting swept in three games by the A*tros. Now it’s true the Astros are a good team, but to get swept right before going into the last week of the season, all against in-division rivals, several of whom you are directly racing for a playoff spot, it puts a little bit more pressure on the situation. The Rays have a big series against the Blue Jays again this weekend, and this may very well decide the top two Wild Card spots. Now is not the time to be stumbling, even if it is to one of the best teams in the league. On top of that ace, Shane McClanahan exited his last start with neck tightness. While he expects to make his next start and is only day-to-day for the moment, coming off of a long-term injury, this is a sign of concern. In the past, the Rays have put together championship teams with rookies and cast-offs, but looking at the state of this team right now, and the competition faced in the schedule ahead, this might be the year the wheels finally fall off.
Seattle Mariners (82 – 67)
Chance of making the postseason: 99.7% (FG), >99% (538)
Odds of winning the World Series: 4.1% (FG), 2% (538)
First, the good news: the Rays got swept, and they are about to go into a big series with the Blue Jays; and the White Sox might get knocked out entirely by the Guardians. Now the bad news: the Mariners have been losing a fair bit, as I’m sure many of you noticed. They have lost 6 of their last 10, including losing a series to the Angels and the A’s, both of whom have been eliminated from playoff contention. On top of that, Julio Rodríguez left yesterday’s game with back tightness (September 22nd), and is currently getting an MRI in Kansas City before the start of that weekend series with the expectation he’ll be placed on the IL. Despite all of this, since we last checked in, the Mariners’ magic number has dropped to 8, both the Orioles and the White Sox have begun to fade, and the math remains strongly in their favor. Barring a truly historic collapse—and I mean a collapse that transcends baseball as the worst collapse of all time in any sport in any country, a collapse that makes the implosion of the Kingdome look like scrunching up a piece of paper—they almost certainly make the playoffs. Now is not the time to panic. Yes, there have been injuries and lackluster offense, but the pitching rotation, outside of a couple hiccups, has been great, the bullpen has remained solid, despite some interesting outings from Diego Castillo, and Jarred Kelenic looked fantastic in his first game back with the big club. This recent stretch doesn’t feel so much like a setback and more like an arrow being drawn, ready to fly forward.
Chances of making the playoffs: .9% (FG), 2% (538)
Chances of winning the World Series: Come on, let’s be real
The Orioles are still in the playoff race but are all but eliminated. They have dropped two series in a row, one to the Blue Jays, putting them further back in the Wild Card, and the other to the Tigers, arguably one of the worst teams in the league. On top of that they are looking down the barrel of a real murderer’s row, with a series against Boston (ok that one is more of a light maiming), the Yankees, Blue Jays, and Astros left on their schedule. Despite putting on a valiant effort, coming close in both the Wild Card and the Rookie of the Year, this just isn’t going to be the year for the O’s. Starting next year, though, this team has some real talent. Ryan Mountcastle, Grayson Rodriguez, Adley Rustchman, Cedric Mullens: there’s a playoff team in here, and depending on what they do in the offseason, they could really be a threat next year.
Chicago White Sox
Chances of making the postseason: .8% (FG), <1% (538)
Odds of winning the World Series: No.
The White Sox did have a chance last week, sitting pretty at a 15% chance of making the postseason. Their destiny was truly in their hands, and man, did they screw it up. They started out strong, winning the one-game series against the Guardians, then took two out of three from the Tigers, but it’s been pretty much all downhill from there. Following the Tigers’ victory, the White Sox were promptly swept by the Guardians, almost certainly ending any hope they had of sneaking a division title. Yes, the wild card is still possible but very unlikely. The math just isn’t in their favor. The White Sox are all but eliminated, capping a disappointing year on the South Side. This was supposed to be a year they took a big step forward, and instead they took a big step back. Maybe if they all napped in the dugout like LaRussa, they would win more games?