Last week I reviewed how the National League Playoff Picture was shaping up. Now that we have passed Memorial Day it is time we took a look at the American League. However, while the NL has not gone at all how predictions saw it, the American League has gone more to form. Additionally, when we look at the wildcard picture things are more complicated here. In the NL there are still 12 teams who could claim a wildcard spot. In the American League, there are probably only seven or maybe eight teams that have a realistic shot at making the playoffs.
There have been no real surprises on this division especially with the Boston Red Sox who have been fairly consistent most of the season. They came out of the gates fast and were always going to slip back into the hands of the Yankees. They have a run differential of +82 and you could argue their pitching has not yet really been at its best. That tells you just how good this offense has been and they are going to be a lot of fun to watch in 2018.
The Yankees did stumble out of the gate but came roaring back and at one point led this division. Their pitchers also have more to give but their offense has been strong. This should be a really fun back-and-forth between these two teams all season.
The Rays have done what they always seem to do and have defied many people’s expectations to sit third. However, they are 10 games back from the division lead and 6.5 back from the wildcard. We have already seen their intentions as they shipped their closer and veteran outfielder to Seattle this week. Do not be surprised to see more selling from this ball club.
The Blue Jays have flashed some good but they are close to being out of the playoff picture. They are 8.5 games back in the wildcard standings but it feels like a long shot they make it at this stage. Do not be surprised if we see the Blue Jays sell off some veteran names such as Josh Donaldson. We have already seen this team turn to youth in 2018 and we could soon see more of it.
The Bottom Dwellers
There is no nice way to phrase this, the Orioles have sucked in 2018. Outside of Manny Machado their offense has been terrible and their pitching has actually been worse. The most interesting thing about this team is will they sell Machado off as a rental and who to?
As I predicted to start the year the Indians have not run away with this division. However, I thought that would be because the Twins would push them all the way. In reality, it has been that this has just been the worse division in baseball. The Indians are the only team with a positive run differential and the only team over .500. The Indians cannot afford to slip up now because winning the division may be their only route into the playoffs.
The Detroit Tigers have actually surprised me and many others in 2018. I fully expected the Tigers to be completely out of this and among the worst teams in the majors. Some of the reason they are still in it this season is because the Indians and Twins have let the game slip. The Tigers have a tough decision to make here: commit to the rebuild or push for the playoffs in 2018. Honestly, they would be foolish to try and make the playoffs because even if they win this division they will come up against one of the juggernauts of the AL in the first round of the playoffs.
The Twins have been the most disappointing team for me. I fully expected them to be pushing the Indians. Instead, they are 3.5 games behind the Indians who have yet to hit their straps. The Twins will be extremely disappointed but they have a relatively young team who can challenge in the future. They are certainly not out of the division race but I think the Indians pull away from this bad division.
The Bottom Dwellers
I did expect the Royals to be near the bottom of this division so this is no surprise. Their whole roster has been disappointing and we know they are already looking to sell. The glory days have well and truly gone for the Royals.
The White Sox have been a little bit disappointing. I hoped their young team would be able to be close to .500 and maybe look like challengers a year early. That has not been the case. The White Sox are a fun team to a watch with a lot of talent. Do not be surprised if they end the season strong in 2018.
The Houston Astros are leading their division, but not quite in the dominant fashion they should be. However, their run differential is +126 which leads the majors. This indicates that they could pull away from this division across the rest of the season. They have an amazing young team and their only weakness is too much faith in their bad closer. If anyone is going to take on the Red Sox and Yankees then this is the team to do it.
The Mariners have been somewhat of a surprise package this season and are in pole position for the second wildcard spot. The Mariners are already taking steps to boost their roster for a playoff push. However, they are a long way behind the top three teams in this conference. Without some major injuries to the Red Sox, Yankees and Astros I struggle to see them winning a playoff series. Right now their pitching is carrying them and that does present an issue. They have scored the least amount of runs in the division and will need to find some more offense if they are to sustain this push.
The Angels came out of the gate fast and then faded. They have two of the most interesting players in the majors in Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani so I want to see them in the playoffs. If they want to challenge the upper echelon of this conference they need more from their offense. Their rotation also probably needs a couple more pieces before they are true challengers. These would be my bet right now for the wildcard.
The Athletics are much like the Tampa Bay Rays, pleasantly surprising. Every year we expect nothing from this team and every year they seem to hang around. The trouble is they do not excel at anything and that will make it hard for them to claim that second wildcard spot.
The Bottom Dwellers
The Rangers are in a real mess. Their offense is boom or bust and their rotation is mostly just flat out bust. The Rangers have already started looking towards the future in some positions. Their biggest bright spot has been the play of Nomar Mazara who is having his breakout season in 2018.