Tha Sports Junkies 101

AL Wild Card Race

AL Wild Card Darius Corpodean via


AL Wild Card Race

The 2016 MLB season is winding down and that means teams are pushing to make the playoffs. With less than a month left in the season, the AL Wild Card race is shaping up to be very exciting. The Baltimore Orioles and Toronto Blue Jays currently hold the two wild card spots but there are four team within 4.5 games of those spots. We will break down the race and see which teams have the advantage moving forward.

Baltimore Orioles and Toronto Blue Jays

The Orioles and Blue Jays are currently tied in the standings. They each have 68 losses and have scored 703 and 708 respectively but the Blue Jays’ runs differential is 52 runs better than the Orioles. This season has not been kind to the Orioles pitching staff as they rank 20th in ERA and 22nd in WHIP. Behind Aaron Sanchez and J.A. Happ, the Blue Jays have used fantastic pitching to carry them to where they are now. While the Jays rank 7th in ERA and 6th in WHIP, they rank 24th in batting average. With a lineup that includes Josh Donaldson and Edwin Encarnacion that stat would seem impossible.

Unlike the Blue Jays, the Orioles have needed power bats to propel them into the playoff race. Mark Trumbo has 43 bombs and Manny Machado is hitting over .300 on the season. Their offense ranks 3rd in the majors with a .449 slugging percentage which proves that they are hitting the cover off of the ball.

These two teams face each other three more times this season starting on September 27th. Baltimore and Toronto both trail the Boston Red Sox in the AL Central and could very well catch the Sox in the remaining games. The Orioles are 4 games back of Boston after a loss to the Sox on Monday while the Jays are also 4 games back of Boston. The Orioles face Boston three more times in the next three days while the Blue Jays finish the regular season in Boston against the Sox starting on September 30th.

While both these teams seem poised to make the playoffs, it will be interesting to see whether it is in the form of a wild card spot or a division title. This years AL East is shaping up very similar to the 2015 NL Central. In that case, the St. Louis Cardinals won the division while the Pittsburgh Pirates and Chicago Cubs claimed both of the NL wild card spots.

Expect to see a very interesting race between three AL East rivals in the closing weeks of the 2016 season.

My Prediction

I think that the Red Sox will finish off the Orioles within the division with the remaining head-to-heads games between them. The Orioles and Blue Jays have used different styles to get into this position but I feel like the team that pitches better will prevail. That being said, I expect the Blue Jays to overtake the Orioles for the first wild card spot which would mean the Orioles would have to travel to Canada to play a tough one game play-in game on the road.

On the Brink

Trailing the Blue Jays for the second wild card are the Detroit Tigers and Seattle Mariners. The Tigers are 2.5 games back while the Mariners are 3 games back. Seattle is 7-3 in their last ten games compared to the Tigers’ 4-6 record in the same stretch. Seattle has an offense led by Nelson Cruz, Robinson Cano and Kyle Seager. Cruz has 37 home runs while Cano is hitting a solid .292 which leads the team. This production from their superstars shows why they rank 10th in batting average and 9th in OBP.

The Tigers’ offense is on the same level as the Mariners as they rank 4th in batting average and 7th in OBP. Miguel Cabrera has 33 home runs and 91 RBI’s which leads the team.

Really the only difference between the Tigers and Mariners this season has been pitching. The Mariners have been slightly better led by Hisashi Iwakuma who has a 3.87 ERA to go along with his 16 wins and 132 strikeouts. The Tigers have been led by long-time ace Justin Verlander who has already racked up 223 strikeouts this season. Verlander has led the Tigers to a 4.26 ERA which ranks 19th in the majors. Justin leads the team with a 3.22 ERA and 14 wins.

These two teams have been almost identical this season but expect the Mariners to stay hot and put pressure on the Orioles and Blue Jays. The Mariners opened up a three-game series with the Blue Jays on Monday. This series is very important if the Mariners hope to unseat the Blue Jays.

The Tigers do not play anymore games against the Orioles or Blue Jays this season so they will need some help to get into the playoffs.

My Prediction

I think the Mariners have a better chance to make the playoffs over the Tigers. While these two teams have been almost equal up to this point, the Mariners are the hotter team at this point in the season. In the end, the Mariners will fall short of the playoffs but it should be an interesting battle in the closing weeks of the season.

Outside looking in

Behind the Tigers and Mariners are the Houston Astros and New York Yankees. The Astros are 3 games back of the second wild card while the Yankees are 4.5 games back. Both of these teams are firmly out of the race within their divisions, so the wild card race is their only hope of making the playoffs. The Astros offense is led by George Springer and Jose Altuve. Springer has hit 28 home runs to go along with his 77 RBI’s and .250 batting average. Altuve on the other hand has a .337, 24 home runs and 94 RBI’s.

The Yankees have been led on offense by a core of young talent that includes Didi Gregorius, Starlin Castro and Gary Sanchez. Didi has a .278 batting average while Sanchez has hit 16 home runs in 41 games. Gary Sanchez has provided a shot in the arm to a Yankees team that traded away Andrew Miller, Carlos Beltran and Aroldis Chapman at the trade deadline. The Yankees got a huge amount of young prospect talent in return for those players. They never expected to be four games out of a wild card spot after trading away their three best players. Even though they have made a great run, there is just to many teams in front of them for the Yankees to be able to grab a playoff spot.

The Astros have been disappointing this season as many expected to see them in the World Series this year. With time running out, it looks as if the Astros may not even make the playoffs.

My Prediction

I do not expect to see the Astros nor the Yankees in the postseason this year. With the Tigers in front of them and the Mariners also in the mix, it would be extremely difficult for either of them to jump those two teams. Neither Houston nor New York has been good enough on the mound for them to make a push in the last ten games or so.


The Orioles and Blue Jays have enough talent to hold off other teams in the closing weeks. The three game series between the Mariners and Blue Jays will be a big factor in the playoff picture. If they Blue Jays sweep or win two of three, they will cement themselves as a playoff team. If the Mariners sweep or take two of three, the race will tighten and the Blue Jays may be out of the playoffs. The Yankees and Astros just do not have enough games left to complete a run. The Yankees have hung tough but will come up short in their hunt for a playoff spot.

There are many different ways the AL wild card race could end up but expect to see three AL East teams in the playoffs.