It is almost September, and that means teams are gearing up for the postseason. Whether it is calling up top prospects, optioning players down, or finalizing a potential playoff roster, baseball is heating up.
Nothing is guaranteed, but some teams make a stronger case for postseason play than others. Here are the teams for the American League. This will look at the division winners, and Wild Card spots.
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AL East: New York Yankees
The Yankees hold a modest lead in the East over the Tampa Bay Rays. But New York played horrible in August, which makes this call not as easy. At the beginning of August, the division crown looked more certain as the Yankees held a 12-game lead over the second-place team, Toronto at the time.
The team is still top in the league when it comes to team batting average (BA) and team earned run average (ERA), so this is a strong team that is in a slump.
In September, New York plays two series against Tampa Bay, a three-game series against Milwaukee, and three games with the Blue Jays. It is possible for the Yankees to lose the division, but it will win even if it is a small margin for a division crown.
The Yankees are no stranger to the postseason, and 2022 will see New York as a top-two seed in the playoffs.
AL Central: Minnesota Twins
While not the division leader yet, the Twins make a compelling case to win the crown. In September, the Twins play the Royals six times and Angels three times, which can help Minnesota climb in the standings. Meanwhile the Guardians face a stronger schedule in the last month.
Also, Minnesota plays Cleveland eight times in September, so this race is far from determined. Now, the Twins best bet is to win the division because it cannot qualify for a Wild Card.
This is not an easy call, but gut reaction is Twins win the division by a one or two game lead.
AL West: Houston Astros
This was the easiest call for the American League. The Astros own a substantial lead over the Seattle Mariners in the division.
Houston throws out three pitchers with sub 3.00 ERA, Cristian Javier, Justin Verlander and Framber Valdez. While the team BA is not an elite stat, Houston sits above average.
It is more so the dominant pitching Houston has in its’ starters and relief core, which puts the team ERA at number two in the league.
In the month of September plays four games against the Tampa Bay Rays, three game series and the start of a series that carries into October. With that exception, the Astros play teams all below .500, so it will be easy to clear a division crown, unless a cataclysmic collapse happens.
AL Wild Cards: Seattle Mariners, Tampa Bay Rays, Toronto Blue Jays
In that order.
The second Wild Card now, but there is a huge opportunity to claim the top spot in September.
Feels like Julio Rodriguez, who makes a strong case of AL Rookie of the Year, plays a pivotal piece in the offense. He provides a spark at the top of the lineup that Seattle lacked for a long time. But Seattle’s lineup lags behind Rodriguez and is lower in the league when it comes to team BA and on base percentage (OBP).
More importantly, heading into September the Mariners play the White Sox, Braves and Padres. These are the only teams that may own a record above .500 when the teams match up.
Seattle owns a team ERA that is in the top 10. If the pitching can hold up, there is a strong case for Seattle overtaking the top spot from the Rays.
Tampa Bay Rays
The Rays never blow anyone away. It is a small market teams that grinds the season out, it seems.
A small lead in the Wild Card, it’ll be tough to catch the Yankees, but not impossible. The team owns solid pitching that is in the top five for team ERA.
The offense is not spectacular for Tampa Bay however. The real reason Tampa Bay loses the top spot is due to schedule. Six games are against the New York Yankees, nine against the Toronto Blue Jays and a series that runs into October against the Astros.
It is simply running into tougher opponents than the Mariners that push the Rays down in the Wild Card.
Toronto Blue Jays
The last spot, and barely beating out the Baltimore Orioles: the Toronto Blue Jays.
This is a tough call because Toronto owns the third spot, and Baltimore is a game from being tied.
What it comes down to is the offense. The Blue Jays younger core of players, and the ability they possess can carry Toronto the rest of the season. Not to discredit the pitching, but the team ERA of Baltimore and Toronto is incredibly close. But the team BA and OBP show a huge favor to Toronto.
The Jays and O’s meet seven times in September, so there is a possibility a change occurs.
Toronto plays a tougher schedule in September, the team can hold its’ own and maybe move to the second spot. But do not think it is certain because the Orioles can easily knock the Blue Jays out. For this go with the gut because it will be a roller coaster of a ride for that third Wild Card.