RSS
Here are the only teams still playing meaningful baseball
With the playoffs one week away, half the league still has something at stake
The Red Sox and A's are both in the playoffs, but home field advantage is still up for grabs.
The Red Sox and A's are both in the playoffs, but home field advantage is still up for grabs. (Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
E

ntering the final week of the regular season, five teams have already punched their tickets to the postseason while another fifteen are, statistically, out of the hunt.

That leaves ten teams vying for the remaining five slots; some are already on the verge of clinching a playoff spot, while others are holding on to the slimmest of hopes.

As of Monday, here's where things stand in each league:

American League
The Red Sox and Athletics have clinched the AL East and West, respectively. The two are still competing with each other for the league's best record though, which would ensure home field advantage for the duration of the playoffs. (The AL won the All-Star Game and will have home field advantage in the World Series.)

Boston has a game and a half edge in the chase.

In the AL Central, the Tigers' magic number to clinch the division is down to two games. They would need to lose every remaining game and have Cleveland win all theirs to blow that lead.

As for the Wild Card picture, six teams remain in contention. Realistically, however, its a three-horse race.

If the season ended today, Tampa Bay and Cleveland would be in the playoffs. Texas, which seemed like a lock for postseason play a month ago, is a game and a half out of the second Wild Card slot after a brutal September.

On August 31, Texas had a 98 percent chance of making the playoffs, per Baseball Prospectus; that's dropped to 35 percent after the Rangers won only five of their last 20 games.

Lucky for Texas, they have three games remaining against the hapless Astros and four versus the lifeless Angels. Unfortunately for them, the Indians and Rays close with relatively easy schedules as well. Cleveland has six games against AL Central doormats Chicago and Minnesota — the second- and third-worst teams in the AL, respectively — while Tampa finishes the year with three in Toronto.

The Yankees, Orioles, and Royals have yet to be statistically eliminated, but they all have highly improbable paths to the postseason. New York and Baltimore are both three games away from being eliminated, meaning any combination of three losses or Cleveland wins boots them from contention. Kansas City is hardly better, sitting four games from elimination, with only a 1.5 percent chance of making the playoffs.

National League
In the Senior Circuit, the Cardinals, Braves, and Dodgers are all in, the latter two as division winners.

The only real action remaining here is in the NL Central, where three teams are fighting for the division crown; the two losers will still, barring a near-impossible scenario, move on to October as Wild Card entries.

The NL East's Washington Nationals are still technically in Wild Card contention, but are two games from elimination. That means they would need to win out and have either the Reds or Pirates lose every single remaining game to make the playoffs.

St. Louis has a two-game edge over both Cincinnati and Pittsburgh in the division chase, and they have a 78 percent chance of finishing in first, according to Baseball Prospectus. The Reds and Pirates, meanwhile, each have six games left — the final three of which will pit the two against each other.

If the division title is still up for grabs, the two will be fighting it out to see if one of them can leapfrog the Cardinals. And even if St. Louis has wrapped up the division by then, the games could still determine important postseason positioning.

Under the latter scenario, the Reds and Pirates would already be locked in as Wild Cards and destined for a first-round, one-game matchup. Yet they would still be competing for home field advantage.

It wouldn't be quite as dramatic as last season, when the Athletics swept the Rangers to win the AL West on the final day of the season — pushing Texas into a one-game playoff it would ultimately lose — but it would still make for a thrilling close.

Jon Terbush is a staff writer for TheWeek.com covering politics, sports, and other things he finds interesting. He has previously written for Talking Points Memo, Raw Story, and Business Insider.

EDITORS' PICKS

THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER

Subscribe to the Week