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The week ahead in MLB playoff races: September 12-18

One week closer to the end, the things that were unsettled remain unsettled

San Francisco Giants v Atlanta Braves
Charlie Morton vs. Carlos Rodon on Wednesday is a real great matchup to watch
Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Hey y’all. How are you all doing? Besides 2022, looking forward to 2023? With the new rule changes and the continuation of expanded playoffs, I’m having a small crisis of continued interest. But that’s not what this post is about! Let’s look at the remaining playoff races, such as they are.

NL East

The Braves (87-53) lost an aggregate half-game on the Mets (89-52) last week, despite a brief stint in uncontested first place. This is actually not really that surprising, given that the Mets were expected to gain an extra 0.6 wins over the past week.

Mets’ upcoming schedule:

  • vs CHC: Bassitt v. Assad (70%)
  • vs CHC: deGrom v. Sampson (79%)
  • vs CHC: Peterson v. Smyly (65%)
  • vs PIT: Carrasco v. Contreras (63%)
  • vs PIT: Walker v. Brubaker (59%)
  • vs PIT: Bassitt v. Keller (66%)
  • vs PIT: deGrom v. Wilson (79%)
  • Sum win probability: 4.81

Braves’ upcoming schedule:

  • @SF: Strider v. Cobb (58%)
  • @SF: Wright v. Junis (57%)
  • @SF: Morton v. Rodon (50%)
  • vs PHI: Fried v. Suarez (61%)
  • vs PHI: Odorizzi v. Nola (48%)
  • vs PHI: Strider v. Falter (67%)
  • Sum win probability: 3.41

This part of the schedule does not look too favorable for the Braves in terms of making up ground, so they’ll really need the Cubs and Pirates to do something. The Braves likely have to face two fWAR pitching leaders in Carlos Rodon and Aaron Nola this week, while the Mets’ toughest matchup involves... J.T. Brubaker? Being three games back coming into next Monday seems like the default, so there’s work to do.

Last 2 NL Wild Card Spots

Current status: Phillies (78-62) lead Padres (77-64) by 1.5 for fifth seed; Brewers (75-66) trail sixth seed by 2.0 games.

  • Phillies: 3 @ MIA, 3 @ ATL; sum win probability = 2.63
  • Padres: 2 @ SEA, 4 @ ARI; sum win probability = 2.89
  • Brewers: 2 @ STL; 3 vs NYY; sum win probability = 3.25

The Brewers didn’t do enough with a favorable schedule last week and remain a few games out of a spot; the Phillies actually took advantage of easier matchups and didn’t falter too badly against some good pitching to leapfrog the Padres for the fifth spot.

Still, the Brewers have another chance to make some hay, since they’re the only team of the three with home games this week. The Phillies have a series of absolutely brutal matchups this week (Bailey Falter vs. Sandy Alcantara and Spencer Strider, Ranger Suarez vs. Max Fried), but the Padres don’t have it that much easier.

AL East and Wild Card Spots

(Excluding the Orioles, who went 2-5 last week to probably end any realistic playoff hopes)

Current status: Yankees (85-56) lead Rays (78-60) by 5.5; Blue Jays (78-61) by 6.0.

Mariners (76-58) are tied with the Blue Jays and half game ahead of the Rays for the Wild Card seeding. Mariners hold the tiebreaker over the Blue Jays, Rays hold tiebreaker over the Mariners, Blue Jays and Rays have nine games left against one another.

  • Yankees: 2 @ BOS; 3 @ MIL; sum win probability = 2.33
  • Rays: 5 @ TOR; 3 vs. TEX; sum win probability = 4.18
  • Blue Jays: 5 vs. TB; 3 vs. BAL; sum win probability = 4.77
  • Mariners: 2 vs. SDP; 3 @ LAA; sum win probability = 2.63

The sum win probabilities are a little misleading, because the Rays and Blue Jays play three more games each here than the Yankees or Mariners, including a five-game set against one another. This could either continue the morass, or give one team a decisive leg up in the Wild Card standings. It looks like that could be the Blue Jays, and they’re likely a much better team on paper at this point, but the Rays continue to defy high-level, on-paper analyses.

The Yankees will have to slide substantially to lose their division lead at this point, as they only have three games left with the Jays and none with the Rays.

AL Central

Current status: Guardians (73-65) lead White Sox (72-69) by 2.5 games and Twins (69-70) by 4.5 games.

  • Guardians: 3 vs. LAA; 4 vs. MIN; sum win probability = 4.13
  • White Sox: 2 vs. COL; 3 @ DET; sum win probability = 2.90
  • Twins: 3 vs. KCR; 4 @ CLE; sum win probability = 3.10

The Twins really ate it last week, losing a share of first and an above-.500 record as they went 1-6 and got swept by the Guardians. The good news is that they have another chance to redeem themselves with a five-game set in Cleveland (the fifth game is on Monday and not counted n the above). The bad news is that most of the pitching matchups in that critical series look awful for Minnesota, so good luck with that. The White Sox actually got above .500 (again) and could sneak in to the division lead if their competitors split four games or something, but the problem is that the pitching matchups for them in Detroit aren’t awesome as they’re throwing both Michael Kopech and Dylan Cease versus the Rockies.

Non-Braves games to watch (assuming pitching matchups hold):

  • Tuesday: Padres @ Mariners, Yu Darvish v. Logan Gilbert. Not too much to say here — two good starters in a game that has implications for multiple races.
  • Wednesday: Rays @ Blue Jays, Drew Rasmussen v. Ross Stripling. Morton versus Rodon is the real must-watch on this day, but this is non-Braves games, so check out two guys you probably weren’t aware have been quite so good in a head-to-head matchup with Wild Card seeding implications. (Yes, I am tired of the only real intrigue being seeding, are you?)
  • Thursday: Phillies @ Marlins, Noah Syndergaard v. Pablo Lopez. Lopez has really struggled lately, which gives the Phillies perhaps a bit more breathing room than earlier in the series, where they face Sandy Alcantara and Edward Cabrera. This could be a big game for the Phillies to win if they want to avoid feeling more pressure of falling out of the playoffs, though honestly the Brewers need to start playing way better for that to be a real possibility.
  • Friday: Yankees @ Brewers, Frankie Montas vs. Adrian Houser. Another matchup with implications for multiple races. Montas continues to struggle in pinstripes; Houser mostly just eats innings. This one could really go either way, which is why it’s the pick.
  • Saturday: Padres @ Diamondbacks, Sean Manaea vs. Ryne Nelson. Nelson had an amazing debut, blanking the Padres for seven innings with a 7/0 K/BB ratio. Can the Padres get some revenge? This is another one of the games, like the Thursday game, where it could matter a ton if the Brewers actually get their butts in gear, but they really haven’t yet.
  • Sunday: Mariners @ Angels, Marco Gonzales vs. Tucker Davidson. Forgotten among all the dramatics last night was that Gonzales had something like his second-best start of the year against the high-octane Atlanta offense. Davidson has been pretty awful for the Angels, so this game could have a lot of fireworks.

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