American League Playoff Races

Title: American League Playoff Races
Date: September 4, 2009
Original Source: The On Deck Circle
Synopsis: With no American League playoff races tight in early September, I pointed out that some schedule quirks down the stretch could still make for some interesting battles.

There’s a reason baseball fans crave September. It’s certainly not the declining temperatures, shortened hours of sunlight, or hockey buzz that comes with the month. Instead, it’s September call-ups, it’s statistic tracking, and it’s playoff races.

And as I write this on September 3rd (it will be updated after the games tonight to be posted September 4th for your enjoyment), I’m starting to feel the excitement. The first few weeks of September, they say, is just a gateway to the winter in the sports world. Football training camps and fantasy drafts prepare us for the mid-September start of the NFL season, NHL and Olympic hockey training camps get most Canadians excited, basketball season is just an earshot away, and October…baseball playoffs…are just around the corner.

But the excitement to come is no reason to ignore the excitement happening around you at present. The MLB playoff races have already gotten hot; they are beyond the heating up stages. Races in nearly every division and complicated Wild Card scenarios are abound, making us all pay closer attention just a little earlier than it seems we usually do.

So here, heading into the first weekend of September, with a full month to go before playoff baseball, is a look at all of the teams still contending and their schedules down the stretch (American League only today…National League early next week!).
 More after the jump!
American League
New York Yankees (85-48)
Lead AL East by 7.5 Games, 28 games remaining
The Yankees hold a commanding lead at this point. They’ve remained fairly healthy, haven’t had a rough patch of games in some time, and look to be…brace yourself…having fun. The Yankees…and fun. Gotta be the Swisher Effect. What follows is a tough closing schedule, but not enough so that you should expect the Bronx Bombers to fall off; they’ll be there in October.
Remaining Games: @ Toronto (3), v. Tampa Bay (4), v. Baltimore (3), v. Los Angeles (1), v. Toronto (2), @ Seattle (3), @ Los Angeles (3), v. Boston (3), v. Kansas City (3), @ Tampa Bay (3)

Detroit Tigers (71-61)
Lead AL Central by 5 Games, 29 games remaining
The Tigers lead the AL’s weakest division, but the lead isn’t a comfortable one. 4.5 games is nice at this time of year, but with two teams trailing you and a slew of games left against those teams (13), a lot more can happen. If Detroit isn’t up to playing their best ball they could be in a lot of trouble.
Remaining Games: @ Tampa Bay (3), @ Kansas City (3), v. Toronto (4), v. Kansas City (3), @ Minnesota (3), @ Cleveland (3), @ Chicago (3), v. Minnesota (4), v. Chicago (3)

Los Angeles Angels (78-54)
Lead AL West by 3.5 Games, 30 games remaining
For most of the season people assumed the Angels would come out of the West. It was a fair assumption, but the Rangers just won’t go away. While the Angels have a decent schedule down the stretch, they do see Texas seven times and will run into AL East teams that still have something to play for. They’ll need the Kazmir addition to pay off and the outfield to stay healthy for a few weeks.
Remaining Games: @ Kansas City (4), v. Seattle (3), v. Chicago (3), @ New York (1), @ Boston (3), @ Texas (3), v. New York (3), v. Oakland (3), v. Texas (4), @ Oakland (3)

Boston Red Sox (77-55)
Lead AL Wildcard by 3 Games, trail AL East by 7.5 games, 29 games remaining
The Red Sox probably have the easiest remaining schedule of the teams in the hunt. Only Chicago, Tampa, LA, and New York look like problems, and it’s possible that the Yankees will have locked up the division and will be resting a bit by late September. 16 games combined against teams that are now into 2010 audition mode is a big help as well and should let the Sox rest some key components if they pull ahead in the Wildcard race.
Remaining Games: @ Chicago (4), v. Baltimore (2), v. Tampa Bay (3), v. Los Anegeles (3), @ Baltimore (3), @ Kansas City (4), @ New York (3), v. Toronto (3), v. Cleveland (4)

Texas Rangers (75-58)
Trail AL Wildcard by 2.5 games, trail AL West by 3.5 games, 29 games remaining
The Rangers are probably going to need an easy schedule and some help from the teams they’re trailing to make it in. The Rangers are good, but their starting rotation isn’t one you can safely rest a playoff race on (yet). Instead, they’ll have to take advantage of the easiest remaining schedule of the contenders and hit their way to a playoff spot. Unlike most other teams in the chase, too, the Rangers have two teams they can catch instead of just one, improving their odds.
Remaining Games: @ Baltimore (3), @ Cleveland (3), v. Seattle (3), v. Oakland (3), v. Los Angeles (3), @ Oakland (4), v. Tampa Bay (3), @ Los Angeles (4), @ Seattle (3)

Tampa Bay Rays (72-60)
Trail AL Wildcard by 6 games, 29 games remaining
Some thought the Kazmir trade was a sign the Rays had given up on the year. I strongly disagree (it was financial), and the Rays aren’t far enough out of a spot to discount them. It will be difficult, with 16 games left against teams mentioned in this article, but that also means the Rays have a few chances to make up ground.
Remaining Games: v. Detroit (3), @ New York (4), @ Boston (3), @ Baltimore (4), v. Toronto (3), v. Seattle (2), @ Texas (3), v. Baltimore (4), v. New York (3)

Minnesota Twins (67-66)
Trail AL Central by 5 games, 29 games remaining
The Twins have only recently become a thought in the playoff picture, but the Tigers’ lead is now slim enough to see a playoff scenario with the Twiggies involved. The schedule is extremely favorable, highlighted by seven games against the Tigers. They don’t look like a playoff team on paper to me, but stranger things have happened.
Remaining Games: @ Cleveland (3), @ Toronto (4), v. Oakland (3), v. Cleveland (3), v. Detroit (3), @ Chicago (3), @ Kansas City (3), @ Detroit (4), v. Kansas City (3)

Chicago White Sox (65-69)
Trail AL Central by 7 games, 27 games remaining
It looks like the White Sox have essentially given up – they traded Thome, are allegedly close to shutting down Peavy, and they’re playing Alex Rios regularly. Still, they are seven games out with a full month to go and a handful of games against the Tigers (6).
Remaining Games: v. Boston (4), v. Oakland (2), @ Los Angeles (3), @ Seattle (3), v. Kansas City (3), v. Minnesota (3), v. Detroit (3), @ Cleveland (3), @ Detroit (3)

So that’s your playoff race with a month to go. The leads may be big, but the schedules create some very interesting series and scenarios. I guess it’s also worth noting that if the Royals were in the playoff race, their entire remaining schedule would be against teams in the hunt except for three against Cleveland. Ouch. Luckily…that’s not (even close to being) the case.

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