The American League’s ‘Wild’ Wild Card Race

Let’s face it: the National League is boring this year.

In seeing the Chicago Cubs’ meteoric rise to being arguably the best team in baseball, National League Executives have (rightly) decided to follow their strategy closely: strip the team of all of its stars in return for prospects and rebuild the team from the ground up. Teams like the Atlanta Braves, San Diego Padres, Philadelphia Phillies, Milwaukee Brewers, and the Cincinnati Reds, while they would never admit it, knew that they had no chance in competing for a World Series title this year.


Unfortunately for baseball fans, this leaves the National League with only ten competitive teams for five playoff spots. Take into account the disaster that is the Arizona Diamondbacks’ 2016 season, along with the underperforming Colorado Rockies, Miami Marlins, and Pittsburgh Pirates, there are really only six teams in the hunt for the five playoff spots. Yes, the Wild Card Race between the San Francisco Giants, New York Mets, and St. Louis Cardinals could come down to the wire, but this race is nothing compared to what’s happening in the American League.

Going into the season, you could make an argument that all fifteen American League teams had a very legitimate chance to make it to the playoffs, paving the way for what has become a ten team race for the playoffs. That’s right: ten. There are ten American League teams within five games back of a playoff spot.


Standings Courtesy
With 18-19 games left in the season, don’t be surprised if these standings are changed drastically by the time the playoffs come around.

How did the American League get here? The lack of any clearly rebuilding teams for the majority of the season allowed for the best teams to keep beating up on each other, ensuring that no one team’s record would rise too high. But there is also a defining point that changed the season for a few American League teams: the Trade Deadline.

Here are the standings the day of the Trade Deadline:


Standings Courtesy
As you can see, the New York Yankees, Seattle Mariners, and Kansas City Royals were all considered pretty much out of the playoff race on August 1st. The Yankees even traded away arguably their three best players for prospects, seemingly starting the rebuilding process. Since that day, the Yankees have gone 24-15, the Mariners have gone 25-16, and the Royals have gone 24-14. Remarkably, after everyone had counted them out, all three teams are right back in the thick of the race.

Every American League game from now on is incredibly important, especially within the American League East. Take this into consideration: as of September 14th, the American League East alone has four teams with 77 wins or more. The entire National League only has five.

To make matters even more interesting, the final few weeks of the season feature mostly division matchups, so the powerhouse teams of the American League East will mostly be playing each other. This will most likely result in mostly .500 ball for the teams, opening the door even further for the other teams in contention like the Tigers and Astros to slip into the two Wild Card spots.

The American League Wild Card Race will certainly be one of the most exciting playoff races in all of sports this year. With so many teams within striking distance, it’s impossible to gauge what will happen down the stretch. One thing is certain: September baseball is going to have more of a playoff feel than ever before.


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