Hi, hello & welcome to THE USB Baseball Report! I’m Steve Cook, and we’re finally approaching the last month of the season! 162 games take a long time to play, especially when your team was hopelessly out of it after 50. In today’s special edition of the Report, we’re going to look at the teams that have a chance to make waves in October & guess whether they will or not. No time to waste, let’s get right to it!
Boston Red Sox
Why they’ll make the playoffs: They’ve scored the most runs in baseball so far this season. Do you really think the Big Papi story is ending without a playoff run? After the KC series this weekend they have 9 games coming up against Tampa Bay, Oakland & San Diego. They should be able to get a good amount of wins against some of the worst teams in MLB.
Why they won’t: The main problem facing all the AL East teams here is they play each other a lot. If the Sawx lose a bunch against their division-mates, they’ll fall behind in the standings & miss the playoffs.
Key Series: vs Kansas City (Aug 26-28), at Toronto (Sep 9-11), vs Baltimore (Sep 12-14), at Baltimore (Sep 19-22), vs Toronto (Sep 30-Oct 2)
Toronto Blue Jays
Why they’ll make the playoffs: They got one of the best offenses in baseball & can outscore just about anybody, but this season’s hidden story is the fact that the Jays have allowed the least runs in the AL. Best ERA in the AL, most quality starts in the AL. 17-3 for J.A. Happ, 12-2 for Aaron Sanchez. They didn’t have the pitching to make it to the World Series last season…they got it now.
Why they won’t: There aren’t a lot of weaknesses here, but I’d feel a lot better about the Jays if Jose Bautista can come back & flip some bats. On that Aaron Sanchez note…will he be available for the postseason, and how would the rookie fare in that environment? Can J.A. Happ keep up his marvelous season?
Key Series: at Baltimore (Aug 29-31), vs Boston (Sep 9-11), at Seattle (Sep 19-21), vs Baltimore (Sep 27-29), at Boston (Sep 30-Oct 2)
Why they’ll make the playoffs: Mark Trumbo looks ready to hit 50 home runs, and overall the Orioles have five guys at 20 home runs or more & the most home runs in baseball by a wide margin. If you hit enough home runs you’ll win enough games.
Why they won’t: They have the weakest pitching staff of all the AL East contenders, and get plenty of games against the prolific offenses of Boston & Toronto. Losing ace Chris Tillman makes the prospect even more daunting, as the O’s are right around .500 in games he doesn’t pitch.
Key Series: vs Toronto (Aug 29-31), at Detroit (Sep 9-11), at Boston (Sep 12-14), vs Boston (Sep 19-22), at Toronto (Sep 30-Oct 2)
New York Yankees
Why they’ll make the playoffs: Yankee management punted this season at the trade deadline, but nobody told the Yankee players because they kept playing. They’re only seven out in the division, this franchise has made up bigger deficits than that before. Aura! Mystique!
Why they won’t: Look down below at the Key Series section. The only losing team they play from here on out is the Tampa Bay Rays. If the young Yanks can navigate this schedule into a playoff berth, it might be Joe Giradi’s best managing job yet.
Key Series: vs Baltimore (Aug 26-28), at Kansas City (Aug 29-31), at Baltimore (Sep 2-4), vs Toronto (Sep 5-7), vs LA Dodgers (Sep 12-14), at Boston (Sep 15-18), at Toronto (Sep 23-26), vs Boston (Sep 27-29), at Baltimore (Sep 30-Oct 2)
Why they’ll make the playoffs: The deals Cleveland made at the deadline are working. Andrew Miller works in whatever role they decide to put him in on a given day. Guys like Jose Ramirez & rookie Tyler Naquin are boosting the offense. Corey Kluber is looking more like a Cy Young winner than a bum.
Why they won’t: If the Indians go into a swoon, it’ll be during a stretch of games against teams trying to take the division title from them. It’d be one thing if those other teams were losing too & not gaining any ground on the Tribe, but that wouldn’t be the case in this scenario. With Trevor Bauer & Danny Salazar taking a downward turn lately, the pitching isn’t as consistent as it was.
Key Series: at Texas (Aug 25-28), vs Detroit (Sep 16-18), v Kansas City (Sep 20-22), at Detroit (Sep 26-29), at Kansas City (Sep 30-Oct 2)
Why they’ll make the playoffs: Seven games against the Twins, three against the Braves. That’s at least nine wins right there. Also got six against the White Sox & three against the Angels, so we’re looking at one of the easiest season-closing schedules right here.
Why they won’t: The pitching staff is the weakest among AL Central contenders, even if ESPN tries to tell me that Justin Verlander might be a Hall of Famer. The only thing qualifying him for the HOF in my book is Kate Upton.
Granted, that might be enough.
Key Series: at Kansas City (Sep 2-4), vs Baltimore (Sep 9-11), at Cleveland (Sep 16-18), vs Kansas City (Sep 23-25), vs Cleveland (Sep 26-29)
Kansas City Royals
Why they’ll make the playoffs: Like Detroit, the schedule benefits the Royals here. After finishing a series with the Tigers on September 4, their next fifteen games are against the Twins, White Sox & the As. The defending champs have been on a tear of late to get back into playoff contention, and they look determined to take that title defense into the postseason.
Why they won’t: At 25-40 they’re one of the worst road teams in baseball. They face each of their top division rivals on the road and will have to win more than 50% of those games to pass them in the standings or get a wild card slot.
Key Series: at Boston (Aug 26-28), vs Detroit (Sep 2-4), at Cleveland (Sep 20-22), at Detroit (Sep 23-25), vs Cleveland (Sep 30-Oct 2)
Why they’ll make the playoffs: Their last game against a winning team is on September 14. After leaving Houston, the Rangers play the A’s, Angels, Brewers & Rays. With their record where it already is, they should be able to coast into the postseason & get some time to rest their players.
Why they won’t: Before they get there, late August & early September are pretty fierce. Carlos Beltran & Adrian Beltre are really old and have to break down eventually.
Key Series: vs Cleveland (Aug 25-28), vs Seattle (Aug 29-31), vs Houston (Sep 2-4), at Seattle (Sep 5-8), at Houston (Sep 12-14)
Why they’ll make the playoffs: Robinson Cano Don’tcha Know is having one heck of a season & the young Mariners are producing ahead of schedule. With King Felix on top of the rotation, the M’s are a threat to at least not get swept in any postseason series. The power of Ken Griffey Jr. runs through them.
Why they won’t: Not a big enough market for MLB to have the umpires give them some help.
Key Series: at Texas (Aug 29-31), vs Texas (Sep 5-8), vs Houston (Sep 16-18), vs Toronto (Sep 19-21), at Houston (Sep 26-28)
Why they’ll make the playoffs: They got a lot of young talent and every time you turn around there’s a new player being called up that turns some heads. Alex Bregman. Yulieski Gurriel. I wonder who will be next.
Why they won’t: They don’t play well against the Texas Rangers and still have six games against them. Games with Cleveland & the Cubs coming up don’t help either. The Astros have had chances all season to go on a run and haven’t, why would they now?
Key Series: at Texas (Sep 2-4), at Cleveland (Sep 5-8), vs C. Cubs (Sep 9-11), vs Texas (Sep 12-14), at Seattle (Sep 16-18), vs Seattle (Sep 26-28)
Why they’ll make the postseason: They got a seven-game cushion on Miami right now & the Mets have fallen off the map. They have better hitting & give up less runs than both teams. This division, by all rights, should be in the bag.
Why they won’t: They were six & a half games ahead of the Mets at the beginning of September last season. Didn’t go well for them then. Have they learned from last September’s failings? They’re on a four-game losing streak as I write this…I’m not saying Nats fans need to push the panic button just yet, but I know they have to be feeling a bit uneasy.
Key Series: at NY Mets (Sep 2-4), vs NY Mets (Sep 12-14), at Miami (Sep 19-21), at Pittsburgh (Sep 23-25), vs Miami (Sep 30-Oct 2)
Why they’ll make the postseason: The Nationals are bound to screw this all up and somebody will have to pick up the pieces. Might as well be Miami, Josh Fernandez has been solid & the pitching staff as a whole has been able to keep the Marlins above water with the loss of Giancarlo Stanton.
Why they won’t: The offense stinks without Stanton. It wasn’t great with him, but without him they’re one of the best teams for fantasy starting pitchers to go up against. I’ve been making a living off of it for two weeks now.
Key Series: at NY Mets (Aug 29-Sep 1), at Cleveland (Sep 2-4), vs LA Dodgers (Sep 9-11), vs Washington (Sep 19-21), vs NY Mets (Sep 26-28), at Washington (Sep 30-Oct 2)
New York Mets
Why they’ll make the postseason: The schedule looks good. Games with teams like the Reds, Braves, Twins & Phillies should give the Mets a chance to get back on track. If they can’t win series against those teams, they don’t deserve to be in the playoffs anyway.
Why they won’t: Reds fans aren’t surprised that Jay Bruce has gone into the tank since arriving in New York. He has stretches where he’s one of the best in baseball, and stretches where he’s one of the worst. He had a really long good stretch this season, so it was a matter of time before he had a bad one. Sorry, Mets fans! Your big trade deadline acquisition won’t pan out for a little while.
Key Series: vs Miami (Aug 29-Sep 1), vs Washington (Sep 2-4), at Washington (Sep 12-14), at Miami (Sep 26-28)
Why they’ll make the postseason: Have you seen the Cubs? Just when we thought they were wearing down around the All Star Break, they went on another run and left everybody in their dust. Adding Aroldis Chapman set to rest any bullpen worries. They’re the prohibitive favorites to win the World Series, forget about this “making the postseason” business.
Why they won’t: An asteroid hits Wrigley Field. I know we shouldn’t joke about mass fatalities in 2016, but that’s literally the only way the Cubs won’t make the postseason. Hell, even if something like that happens, their minor league guys are probably good enough to make the postseason with the lead they’d be spotted.
Key Series: at LA Dodgers (Aug 26-28), vs San Francisco (Sep 1-Sep 4), at St. Louis (Sep 12-14), vs St. Louis (Sep 23-25)
St. Louis Cardinals
Why they’ll make the postseason: They’re the St. Louis Cardinals. Even when they have down years and have nights where they look like the worst team in baseball, they make the postseason. All their players do is hit the ball.
Why they won’t: This is the worst St. Louis baseball team I’ve seen since Tony LaRussa was hired. They can’t win games consistently at home. They look listless most nights at the ballpark. Even their fans aren’t as cocky as usual, and it doesn’t even seem like they’d mind if the Cards missed the postseason and some changes had to be made that might get them more competitive with the Cubs.
Key Series: at Pittsburgh (Sep 5-7), vs Ch. Cubs (Sep 12-14), at San Francisco (Sep 15-17), at Ch. Cubs (Sep 23-25), vs Pittsburgh (Sep 30-Oct 2)
Why they’ll make the postseason: Apparently they traded away all the right people at the deadline. Ivan Nova has been on fire.
Why they won’t: Gerrit Cole has been so bad lately I can’t start him on my fantasy team any more. Things in general aren’t looking too good for the Pirates now, they’ve lost five of six. Their best hope is that their season-ending series at St. Louis is a wild card-deciding series…St. Louis stinks at home.
Key Series: at Ch. Cubs (Aug 29-31), vs St. Louis (Sep 5-7), vs Washington (Sep 23-25), vs Ch. Cubs (Sep 26-29), at St. Louis (Sep 30-Oct 2)
Los Angeles Dodgers
Why they’ll make the postseason: Clayton Kershaw is on the DL & who knows when he’ll be back, but that hasn’t mattered a bit to the Dodgers. They went 29-19 after he went on the DL, with everybody stepping up & doing their thing. Yasiel Puig not being around doesn’t seem to hurt either. They just swept the Giants and life is looking pretty good.
Why they won’t: Clayton Kershaw never comes back & their mess of a starting rotation eventually comes back to Earth. They’ve done well so far, but can it last?
Key Series: vs Ch. Cubs (Aug 26-28), at Miami (Sep 9-11), vs San Francisco (Sep 19-21), at San Francisco (Sep 30-Oct 2)
San Francisco Giants
Why they’ll make the postseason: They won enough games early in the season. They still have Mad Bum & Cueto.
Why they won’t: They’ve gone into the shitter since the All-Star Break. Back then they were keeping up with the Cubs, now they’re trying not to fall behind the Cardinals. The Dodgers are owning them this season and get six more chances to do so in September.
Key Series: at Ch. Cubs (Sep 1-5), vs St. Louis (Sep 15-18), at LA Dodgers (Sep 19-21), vs LA Dodgers (Sep 30-Oct 2)
My Current Predictions
AL East: Boston Red Sox
AL Central: Cleveland Indians
AL West: Texas Rangers
Wildcard 1: Toronto Blue Jays
Wildcard 2: Kansas City Royals
NL East: Washington Nationals
NL Central: Chicago Cubs
NL West: Los Angeles Dodgers
Wildcard 1: St. Louis Cardinals
Wildcard 2: San Francisco Giants
It hurts to finally leave the Houston Astros out of my playoff projections, but they’ve given me no choice. At least we’re getting two great Wildcard games that could lead to two heated rivalry series (Rangers vs. Blue Jays, Cubs vs. Cardinals). Best case scenario for MLB right there.
ALDS: Toronto over Texas, Boston over Cleveland
ALCS: Boston over Toronto
NLDS: Chicago over St. Louis, Los Angeles over Washington
NLCS: Chicago over Los Angeles
World Series: Chicago over Boston
How much would MLB love it if it came down to the Cubs & the Red Sox? The Cubs finally breaking the curse or Big Papi retiring on top. They really, really, really hope it happens. And hey, it’d be good TV so I wouldn’t mind it either.
Thanks for reading, see you next time for more baseball fun!