Tha Sports Junkies 101

American League Wild Card Report

Wild Card Landry Heaton - Via - Flickr


(all thoughts and opinions are my own)


The American League wild card race seems much more interesting to me than the National League race. Let’s start with the overall wild card rankings: Source

Note: The top two Wild Card teams from each league will make the postseason and play each other in a one-game playoff.
If two or more teams are tied for their division lead, they will be listed among the Wild Card teams below.

Baltimore Orioles (63 – 49) (.563) +1.5

Toronto Blue Jays (64 – 50) (.561) +1.5

Boston Red Sox (61 – 50) (.550) —

Detroit Tigers (61 – 52)  (.540) -1

Seattle Mariners (59 – 53) (.523) -2.5

 Houston Astros (58 – 55) (.513) -4

Taking a look at these rankings, there are three teams from the AL East and the top wild card spot could change as the Blue Jays are behind the Baltimore Orioles. With 3 teams fighting for the division spot all division games for the 3 teams will be extremely important. The Detroit Tigers are right there in the running as well and Seattle is just one hot streak away from moving into a wild card slot.

The Baltimore Orioles

Taking a look at the Orioles they do hold the division spot, but since they are tied with Toronto they are still considered a wild card team. Over the last ten games the Orioles have gone 5 – 5.

Baltimore had a less than stellar month of July (12-14). A similar performance in August could hurt Baltimore as they would likely not  remain at the top of the division. There start in month of August isn’t the best, 4-3, the birds will need to improve coming down the stretch.

The struggle seems to be most prominent in the Orioles starting rotation. Looking at the rotation the only pitcher having a good season would be the ace Chris Tillman (14-4) However, Tillman has struggled recently, over his last 3 starts Tillman has lost 2 games and a no decision giving up 11 earned runs over those three games.

Kevin Gausman has just had an awful season and it’s no difference right now. Over Gausman’s last 3 starts, he is 1-2  allowing 10 earned runs over 3 games. Although he had a good performance against the Texas Rangers going 7 innings, allowing 7 hits and 2 earned runs. It really doesn’t mean anything as Gausman is not consistent at all, his overall record stands at 3-9 and he has a .402 ERA.

Yovani Gallardo, Ubaldo Jimenez and Wade Miley have also not helped much. Although Miley has only played one game with Baltimore which only lasted 5 innings in a loss to the Rangers, Miley is 1-6 over his last 7 games.

So to sum it all up Baltimore really needs to get their rotation going again. The hitting is there .263 AVG / .324 OBP / .449 SLG and 169 home runs. If Baltimore fixes its rotation issues and the hitting stays as it has been all season they should be able to get at least the wild card slot for sure.

Toronto Blue Jays

The Blue Jays are tied with Baltimore for the division lead and have definitely been playing better baseball as of late. They have won 5 of their last 8 games and finally have a healthy starting lineup. With Josh Donaldson, Troy Tulowitzki, Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion all back in the lineup not many pitchers would be happy to face the Blue Jays.

The Blue Jays also boosted their outfield adding Melvin Upton Jr. to the center field spot. The Jays starting pitching has also been excellent this season. Marco Estrada, Aaron Sanchez, J.A. Happ and Marcus Stroman have all pitched great and in my opinion form one of the top rotations in the league.

Looking at R.A. Dickey, he hasn’t done terrible (8-12)  but the Blue Jays wanted to make the rotation as strong as they possibly could. They added Francisco Liriano to the roster to help. Although Liriano hasn’t done well this season he is a seasoned veteran and knows what he needs to do to turn his season around.

The Blue Jays need to keep playing baseball the way they have and if R.A. Dickey and Francisco Liriano turn the season around, the starters can turn things over to their great bullpen. The Jays pen is remarkable Jason Grilli, Brett Cecil and Joaquin Benoit have done a great job in relief only 2 runs allowed total over their last 7 games. Once things get to the 9th things are pretty much lights out as Roberto Osuna has a 1.93 ERA and a really good 25 saves out of 27 opportunities.

Looking at the Blue Jays I believe that once we get to October the Jays will be sitting at the top of the division. One big reason that I believe this is also due to the Blue Jays record at home and away. The Jays are 33-25 at home and 31-25 away. No other wild card team is having that kind of success on the road.

Boston Red Sox

The Red Sox had a great start to the season, but as of late, they have been pretty mediocre winning 5 of their last 10 games.

The Red Sox have been plagued by injuries this season as Craig Kimbrel was hurt earlier in the year and Koji Uehara is still on the DL with no timetable for return.  Carson Smith was also supposed to be a key relief pitcher for Boston this year, but he had to have Tommy John surgery and is out for the season. These injuries have hurt the team with many close games being lost. Without them the bullpen is pretty weak.

Looking at the starting rotation things have been pretty average overall. David Price has not lived up to the expectations the Red Sox had for him this season and things have not gotten much better as of late. Price is 1-3 over his last 7 starts with a 3.42 ERA.

A big story for the Red Sox this season is knuckleballer Steven Wright. Wright has pitched extremely well this season going 13-5 with a 3.01 ERA and over the last 7 games he is 5-0. Wright is coming off of a complete game shutout against the Los Angeles Dodgers and has pitched those kind of games often this year.

Don’t forget about Rick Porcello, Rick has also pitched very well this season, 14-3 with a 3.16 ERA and Porcello is 5-1 over his last 7 starts. Porcello has been consistent all year and that will definitely help as the Red Sox make a run in the wild card race.

Looking at the Red Sox batting this season they have produced a batting line of .283 AVG / .350 OBP / .465 SLG looking at that batting line it shows that the hitting has been good this season, but yet the Red Sox are still playing catch up because the pitching has been very shaky this season. The bullpen definitely needs to turn things around and the starting rotation needs to start being more consistent as a unit.

My take on the Red Sox is that they will not end up with the division spot or a wild card slot once the regular season comes to a close because the bullpen has not been great this year and doesn’t seem to be on the rise. That mixed with the average starting rotation makes it tough for Boston to beat out the Blue Jays and the Baltimore Orioles. That is why I don’t think we will see Boston in the playoffs this year.

Detroit Tigers

The Tigers have been on fire recently, although they have lost their last 3 games they are still 6-4 over their last 10 games. The Tigers have had one of the best offensive lineups since day one, but the offense was sluggish to start the season. Everyone was just waiting for Detroit to start hitting how they should and now it has happened.

At one point the Tigers were in 4th place, 8 games behind the Cleveland Indians and now they are only 3.5 games back in the AL central and are only 1 game away from a wild card slot.  Looking at the Tigers starting lineup it is a very scary lineup for any pitcher. Miguel Cabrera, J.D. Martinez and Victor Martinez at the heart of the order with Justin Upton, Jose Iglesias and Ian Kinsler in the mix the Tigers can and have produced a lot of runs.

The Tigers have a pretty good batting line and keep in mind that the team had a slow start to the season offensively. Even with the slow start they have a batting line of .268 AVG / .328 OBP / .437 SLG . The Tigers offense has definitely been there recently and just at the right time as they look for a playoff spot.

The Tigers also have a really strong group of platoon players which isn’t often seen in baseball. However, this should help Detroit, even though Nick Castellanos and Cameron Maybin are injured, the Tigers probably won’t miss a step as Mike Aviles and Andrew Romine are great players that can play almost anywhere.

The Tigers starting rotation has been phenomenal, despite Jordan Zimmerman and Mike Pelfrey being injured the Tigers still have a great rotation. Mike Pelfrey had not had the best start to the season, but before his injury he was 2-0 over his last 3 starts and Zimmerman has played really well this season 9-5 overall and the extra time on the DL should help make sure that he gets healthy and back to the Zimmerman that started the season.

Justin Verlander has been great as the ace this season going 12-6 with a 3.52 ERA and Verlander is 5-0 over his last 7 games. In the 2 slot, Michael Fulmer has been superb, 9-3 with a 2.43 ERA and honestly has pitched like an ace. Matt Boyd has been decent this season, although he is 3-2 with a 4.77 ERA, as of late Boyd has produced a 2-0 record over his last 3 games, however, he has only pitched a maximum of 5 innings a game in those last 3 starts.

The weakest link is clearly Anibal Sanchez, he is 6-11 with a dreadful 5.88 ERA, over the last 7 games he has turned things around as he posted a record of 2-3 but the ERA is still way up there at 5.70. Sanchez has worked out of the pen a little this season but even out of the pen he has been less than stellar for Detroit.

The Tigers bullpen has been very average this season however, some guys like Shane Greene and Alex Wilson have done a great job recently. Alex Wilson has not allowed any earned runs over his last 3 starts while others like Justin Wilson and Mark Lowe have really struggled this season.

Justin Wilson has a 5.40 ERA over his last 7 games and has a 0-1 record. Mark Lowe has struggled all season, he is 1-3 with a horrendous 8.20 ERA. Wilson and Lowe have not been dependable as of late and really need to turn things around soon.

The Detroit Tigers definitely have a good chance of making the playoffs this year, but I think they will not have a wild card slot this year. When we reach the end of the regular season, I think Detroit will be in 1st place of the American League Central.

Once Zimmerman gets back the starting rotation should be solid, the hitting has really heated up and shouldn’t go away and with guys like Kyle Ryan and Alex Wilson playing a bigger role in the bullpen the Tigers should be able to win more close games going down the stretch.

The Indians may be in first right now, but the Indians usually get hot and then tumble as the season goes along. The Indians were hot and now they have cooled off and I do not believe that they will get hot again.

Seattle Mariners 

The Seattle Mariners are 2.5 games out of the wild card slot and for them the wild card slot is probably do or die for their postseason chances. The Mariners are 7.5 games back from the Texas Rangers in the American League West. The Rangers are 20 games above .500 so the likelihood of Seattle catching up to them is not very high.

Seattle’s record currently sits at 59-53 and they have been playing really well as of late. They are 7-3 over their last 10 games and need to stay hot in order to get  a wild card spot. Seattle’s biggest blunder this year has been their disappointing starting rotation that has suffered with injuries.

Seattle’s ace Felix Hernandez has spent a bit of his time this season on the DL and when he has been playing it hasn’t produced what the Mariners expected. Felix is 6-4 this season with a 3.55 ERA, but Seattle was definitely hoping for more out of the former CY Young winner. Starting pitcher James Paxton has also struggled this season, the 27 year old lefty has a 4-5 record with a 3.53 ERA.

Although Wade LeBlanc’s record looks good (1-0) he is still very young and his ERA is up there at 4.31 and hasn’t quite earned the badge of dependable yet. Hisashi Iwakuma has been pretty good this year, though, holding a record of 13-7 with a 3.79 ERA and has been pitching very well as of late getting 2 wins out of his last 3 starts. Overall Seattle’s starting rotation has not been very good this year.

Looking at the bullpen, things just get worse relievers Nick Vincent, Drew Storen and Tom Wilhelmsen have not been very good this year. Tom Wilhelmsen has produced a 2-3 record with a pitiful 7.34 ERA this year and reliever Drew Storen hasn’t been much better, He also holds a 2-3 record with a ghastly 6.45 ERA. Storen’s recent performances haven’t helped one bit, over his last 7 games he has an 11.12 ERA yikes!

The Mariners are using rookie Edwin Diaz as the closer right now and his numbers are pretty good, but his stats as a closer are in such a small sample size that it’s hard to determine how good of a closer he will be coming down the stretch. However, over his 30 games as a relief pitcher Diaz has a very good 1.80 ERA and 50 strikeouts.

So the Mariners have a not so good starting rotation and a pretty feeble bullpen so how are they winning games? The offense must be there, well looking at the Seattle Mariners’ batting line nothing really pops out. .257 AVG / .326 OBP / .432 SLG. Those numbers are barely over the league average (.255 AVG / .321 OBP / .416 SLG).

If the Mariners want to make the postseason this year they need to start improving their weak starting rotation and shaky bullpen as the first priority because clearly they are winning games with the offense that they do have. However, a spike in offensive performance would definitely help the team going forward.

Looking at the Mariners I honestly think that they are lucky to be above .500 right now. There pitching is not good and the hitting is nothing spectacular. Another thing is that the Mariners have so many players on the DL right now it’s pretty crazy. Steve Clevenger, Charlie Furbush, Nathan Karns, Steve Cishek, Tony Zych and Evan Scribner are all on the DL right now and Clevenger, Furbush and Scribner are on the 60 day DL.

I don’t see any way that the Mariners can catch up with the Texas Rangers and even though they are only 3 games out of the wild card I don’t see them being in the postseason this year.

End Of The Year Prediction

At the end of the year this is who I predict will be the division leaders and wild card winners.

Division Leaders

East: Toronto Blue Jays

Central: Detroit Tigers

West: Texas Rangers

Wild Card Winners

  1. Baltimore Orioles
  2. Cleveland Indians