Good morning, your Seattle Mariners have, per FanGraphs, a 100% chance of making the playoffs.
Well, it’s certainly been a week, hasn’t it? The Mariners have played quite possibly their worst baseball of the season, even in comparison to their awful May when many of us thought the season was over. The Mariners have lost 6 of their last 10, including dropping a series to the (To be determined) A’s, and the Kansas City Royals. Despite that, the magic number is now down to one after a thrilling walk-off victory last night. Not only are the Mariners closer to the playoffs than they have been since 2016 when they lost the final game of the season, or last year when they lost crucial games down the stretch to the Disneyland Angels of Anaheim, but as of today (September 28th) it’s looking like the long wait will probably be over, and this series will shift from potential playoff odds to talking about...the actual playoffs. Wow.
The New York Yankees (96 - 59)
Chance of making the playoffs: Clinched AL East on September 28th
Chance of winning the World Series: 9.9% (FG), 15% (538)
The Yankees clinched the AL East on September 28th with a 5-2 win over their current AL East little brother, the Toronto Blue Jays. The Yankees have won 5 of their last 6 in dominant fashion and seem to be ready for October already. In addition, Aaron Judge has hit his 61st home run and tied Roger Maris’s AL single-season home run record, so congratulations to him; that's a massive achievement. But yeah, not much to say here; the Yankees have wrapped up the division and are probably gonna rest their guys for the remainder of the season.
The Cleveland Guardians (88- 68)
Chance of making the playoffs: Clinched AL Central on September 25th
Chance of winning the World Series: 2.1% (FG), 2% (538)
This past Sunday, the Guardians clinched the forever average AL Central with a 4-2 win over the Rangers. While the Guardians' record looks impressive, we have to remember a quarter of their games are coming against the Tigers (62-92) and the Royals (63-92), and they're not exactly world beaters. There's a reason a division-winning team has as good a chance of winning the world series as Wild Card teams; I know it, you know it, the stats know it, the league knows it: the Guardians don’t yet have what it takes to make a World Series, let alone win one. Yes, they have had some good individual performances this year from the likes of José Ramirez (of course), Andrés Giménez, and most notably, early season Rookie of the Year front runner Steven Kwan (still the true ROY in the hearts and minds of Guardians fans, and exactly nowhere else). Cleveland’s bullpen is formidable, headlined by Emmanuel Clase, Eli Morgan, and occasionally James Karin-strickystuff-check (only when he can ruffle his hair enough), and their rotation has the 1-2 punch of Shane Bieber and Triston McKenzie, but outside of that their rotation is more middle-of-the-pack now that they’re down Zach Plesac for the season. Meanwhile, their lineup of slap-hitters and on-base specialists has posted a solid average/OBP mark, but produced a slugging percentage of .381, in the bottom third of baseball and tied with the Padres and Royals. While this singles-and-defense approach has worked for them in the regular season, in a shorter playoff series, these kinds of slightly above-average performances will be exposed by better teams.
Wild Card Teams
Toronto Blue Jays (87 - 69)
Chance of making the playoffs: 100% (FG), >99% (538)
Chance of winning the World Series: 6.5% (FG), 4% (538)
The Blue Jays have had a rough week; first, they dropped two out of four to the Rays, once again failing to take advantage of the situation, then they dropped two of three to the Yankees, who also clinched the division on their field, and followed that up with Aaron Judge hitting his 61st home run of the year the next night. All this has still left the Blue Jays at the top of the Wild Card with a two-and-a-half-game lead. Lucky for them, other teams that are even remotely close to making the Wild Card have suddenly decided to play the worst baseball possible. However, with series against Boston and Baltimore remaining, the Blue Jays do have the opportunity to wrap up the first Wild Card spot, but a slip up of major proportions could see them fall out of that crucial home-field advantage; two and a half games is a big lead until it isn’t. Still, the Blue Jays have clinched a playoff spot as of this Thursday, September 29th, with an Orioles loss and remain in the driver’s seat for a home playoff series.
Seattle Mariners (85 - 70)
Chance of making the playoffs: 100% (FG), >99%(538)
Chance of winning the World Series: 3.9%(FG), 2%(538)
The Mariners have played possibly their worst baseball of the season, losing six of their last ten and having to do it mostly without future Rookie of the Year Julio Rodríguez or a the heart and vibes of the team in Eugenio Suárez. The Mariners started this supposedly easy part of their schedule by dropping two out of three to the (to be determined) A’s and two out of three to the Royals. Despite this, the Mariners have somehow been blessed with every other Wild Card team sliding simultaneously, most notably the Orioles, who have also lost six of their last ten and, in the process, allowed the Mariners to climb away from them. The bullpen, in particular, has been a point of concern for our beloved sailors: the usually solid Paul Sewald has struggled in particular with four earned runs in seven innings over the last seven games, good for a 5.14 ERA. Diego Castillo has similarly struggled, with four earned runs in six innings, good enough for an ERA that starts with a 6. While the Mariners’ bats have been flat recently—last night’s outpouring of runs aside—it's obvious that the solid 1-2-3 bullpen of Muñoz, Sewald, and Castillo had allowed them to seal a lot of wins this year; with two of these guys clearly out of rhythm, it’s no wonder why the Mariners have struggled to hold on to leads, let alone create them. Despite all this, the Mariners’ magic number has dropped to 1 during the writing of this article. The timely losses of the Orioles have allowed the Mariners to kinda collapse and still remain in the chase, and with two wins over the Rangers this week, the Mariners may be able to close out the series as soon as Friday. I can’t believe I’ve lived to see this day, but not only has the Mariners magic number has dropped to 1, they just jumped the Rays for the second wild-card spot. Remember that the Rays own the tiebreaker over the Mariners, though, and the Rays have six games remaining to Seattle’s seven, which could potentially complicate things as far as the second-or-third Wild Card goes.
Tampa Bay Rays (85 - 71)
Chance of making the playoffs: 100% (FG), >99% (538)
Chance of winning the World Series: 4.2% (FG), 3% (538)
The Rays are in danger following getting swept by the A*tros last week; they dropped two games to the Blue Jays and another game to the Guardians, and today start another series against Houston. It feels very much like things may be coming apart for the injury-riddled Rays: the duct tape is finally starting to fall away, and the ugly holes are beginning to show. Typically the Rays have ridden young, inexpensive talent to consistent playoff success, but this year, outside of Shane McClanahan, the young guns have been shooting blanks. Randy Arozarena has been mostly offensively the player he was last year, slashing .269/.330/.454, but has lost a full win on FanGraphs after posting negative defensive WAR in every outfield position. Wander Franco missed most of the second half of the season with an injury, Mike Zunino has been out basically all year, and Tyler Glasnow also missed most of the season, and in his recent return, took the loss. The Rays have a talented team but don’t have the plug-and-play depth like a team built as this should. They have found a lot of success in developing and redeveloping talent into everyday players but have failed to build sufficient depth, and this late in the year, those kinds of holes will lead to getting burned. The Rays are almost certainly in the playoffs, but the second Wild Card is still very much up for grabs—if the Mariners want it.
Baltimore Orioles (80 - 76)
Chance of making the playoffs: none
Chance of Winning the World Series: Bro, they are not even making the playoffs
The Baltimore Orioles have, as the kids like to say, “fumbled the bag.” Or as Kelly Clarkson might say, they had their chance and blew it, out of sight, out of mind. Despite taking two out of four from the A*tros the Orioles have still managed to lose six of their last ten and, in the process, play themselves out of the playoffs. Dropping three out of four to the Red Sox, the Orioles are now one game away from elimination. While they had a good year, put up a good fight, and gave the Mariners a good scare, there was never much hope in them passing Seattle, especially with the Mariners holding the tiebreaker. This offseason, however, will be interesting. There are many teams like the Mariners and the Orioles looking to take the next step and splash some cash this offseason; come this time next year, the Orioles may be the ones on the inside looking out.
Chicago White Sox (77 - 79)
The White Sox have been eliminated from postseason contention. Tony LaRussa, human equivalent of a piece of crust that fell off a sandwich and behind the couch, will not be back to manage the team next year, though, so maybe next year is the year the South Siders put all that talent together.