With less than one week left of the regular season, the race for postseason spots in the National League could go down to the wire. The only thing for sure is that one team will be devastated, going home with nothing to show for their season.
The playoff picture is changing so quickly; it is tough to keep a grip on it. Now that the dust has settled after Monday night’s games, there are still five NL teams vying for four postseason spots.
With only home games remaining and the best winning percentage in the NL, the Cubs have surely secured one of the four spots. In fact, MLB.com puts the Cubs’ probability of reaching the playoffs as 100%.
Whether they reach it as division champions remains to be seen. They are dragging their heels and currently rank 28th out of 30 teams in slugging percentage in September.
Despite continuing to ratchet up the pressure, the odds are against the 90-win Brewers catching the Cubs. Their three-game lead in the Wild Card race means they can almost start preparing for next week’s playoff game.
The Dodgers appear to have timed their charge to the postseason perfectly. They trailed the now eliminated Diamondbacks by 4½ games as recently as August 22. Although not guaranteed to win the division, the NL’s best offensive team has a 99% probability of reaching the postseason. It looks like the Manny Machado gamble paid off.
Which leaves just two teams fighting over the final spot. Currently, the Cardinals hold a slim half-game advantage over the Rockies. Despite this, MLB.com gives the Cardinals an 80% probability of reaching the postseason compared to the Rockies 27%.
And if we know anything about baseball, it is that nothing ever goes exactly to plan.
The run-in is more favourable for Colorado with six home games (three against the Phillies followed by three against the Nationals). Neither NL East opponent has much to play for.
The Cardinals’ schedule is far tougher, with only five games, and all against playoff contenders. You have to imagine both the Cubs and Brewers will be fired up to eliminate their NL Central rival.
The postseason picture changes daily, and there are too many permutations to explore. The clever money suggests the Rockies are the most likely to miss out, but it only needs a D-Backs win over the Dodgers on Tuesday to put Colorado level in the loss column for the NL West title. A Cardinals loss could see them slip out of the second Wild Card spot.
There is still so much baseball to be played.
With no vested interest in the NL, my perfect scenario is for the Dodgers to lose three of their five remaining games, the Rockies to go 4-2 and the Cardinals 3-2.
This will give us a three-way tie, which would be something like …
Monday tiebreaker: Dodgers play the Rockies to determine the NL West champion.
Tuesday tiebreaker: Cardinals take on the loser of Monday’s game to determine the second Wild Card spot.
Wednesday Wild Card playoff: Brewers take on the winner of Tuesday’s tiebreaker in the NL Wild Card game.
Hold on tight; it could be an exhilarating ride.