MLB Playoff update--posted by Tony Garcia on 9/27/2006
The AL teams are known. All that is left is some positional jockeying. The four teams are Oakland (AL West winner), New York (AL East winner), Detroit and Minnesota (AL Central and Wild Card winners). Barring an 0-fer run by the Yankees, Tigers and Twins coupled with Oakland running the table on the rest of the season, Oakland will be the #3 seed. They will go against the AL Central winner. The AL Central winner will get home field advantage. The Yankees will get the AL Wild Card winner and home field advantage.
Before I add anything else to this picture I want to explain my thoughts on the Wild Card. The Wild Card is nothing more than a race for #4 (or in the NFL for #5 & #6). I believe the greatest races in baseball history are those where the fight for #1 was in the balance. This year in the AL is a great example.
I first read about what I call the "Costas Plan". Basically, no Wild Cards would exist and the Division winner with the best record would get a 1st round bye. I like it. It would restore a huge incentive to be #1. It would remove the end of season race being for 4th best. I know it is not a reality because it would mean fewer markets having interest at the end of the season, but it is what I believe would be best for baseball.
This year with the Costas Plan you would have TWO races in progress with large implications. First is the battle between the Twins and the Tigers. The loser would get to spend October at home watching the winner play. The other battle would be for the first round by. That battle, as of this moment, would be between the Yankees, the Twins and the Tigers. Much more exciting than what we have now...positional jockeying. And, with positional jockeying being the sole incentive the teams involved may be very inclined to play rookies and prospects a little more (blegh).
Back to the here and now.
TradeSports is leaning towards the Tigers finishing with the Division (76.5). The AL Pennant: Yankees (44.5%), Twins (21.5%), Tigers (19.0%) and Athletics (18.0%). Smart early money, of course, is on the Yankees, but beyond that 'premium' being added there is no clear favorite, and the Yankees are not even in the "very possible" 45-55 range.
Now to the National League.
The Mets have clinched the #1 seed in the NL. They will face the Wild Card winner unless the Phillies get the Wild Card. In that case the Mets will face the lower of the other Division winners (likely to be St Louis). The Mets will have home field advantage.
The Central appeared to be a lock this time last week. But then the Cardinals went on a seven game losing streak. In the meantime the Astros went on a seven game winning streak and picked up, well, seven games. It is a battle again! As the Astros are proving, never say never, but their chance of winning the Wild Card are slim (0.3%) as they need to make up 4 games on the Dodgers, 3 on the Phillies, while only having 5 left to play.
Anyway, if for some insane reason you last week shorted contracts for Cardinals to win the NL Central or bought Astros win the NL Central then you should be very pleased. The Cardinals have now fallen to 73.0% (still a very strong possibility) and the Astros have risen to 24.0% (an underdog but not a long, long shot).
The NL West is the big battle. The Padres own a two game lead and will very likely win the division (86.5%). The Dodgers are not completely out of it, being only 2 back, but I would not put money on them at this point (15.5%).
In the Wild Card race the Dodgers are being given the advantage on TradeSports (57.0%) over the Phillies (33.0%).
Again, under the Costas plan the big races would be even better because the loser of the Padres-Dodgers race would be out...no consolation prize of "Wild Card". All or nothing...much better race is the result.
Back to the NL...the odds for the pennant: Mets (40.0%), Cardinals (19.0%), Padres (17.4%), Dodgers (12.5%), Phillies (10.5%) and the Astros (5.0%).