IBI Power Poll: Who are the American League wildcard teams?
By Jim Pete
September 21, 2013
Welcome to a brand new season of the Weekly Power Poll. The power poll is a piece that will show up semi-regularly here at Indians Baseball Insider, and will focus either on an important weekly topic for the Cleveland Indians, or look at something with historical perspective. Last season, we took a look at several issues, including the top players in the long history of the Cleveland Indians franchise. We’ll revisit those polls over the next several months as we begin to formulate a top 100 players of all time here at IBI, but we’ll also cover several other topics, especially with the Cleveland Indians playing “meaningful September baseball.”
The 2013 regular season is winding down and the Cleveland Indians are knee deep in the race for the wildcard. It’s time for the Power Poll to kick into full gear and take a complete look at the teams involved in the American League playoff race.
The division winners in the American League are locked.
The Boston Red Sox have already clinched the American League East, and the Detroit Tigers (six games up on the Cleveland Indians, with a magic # of three games) and Oakland A’s (seven-and-a-half games up on the Texas Rangers, with a magic # of two games) have virtually locked up the Central and the West.
The wildcard is far from settled.
The Tampa Bay Rays are 84-69 and ½ game ahead of the Cleveland Indians, and just beat the Tampa Bay Rays in an 18-inning marathon.
The Cleveland Indians are 84-70 and ½ game ahead of the Texas Rangers.
The Texas Rangers are 83-70, and two games ahead of Baltimore, after the Orioles just lost the heartbreaker to Tampa.
The Kansas City Royals are 81-72, and tied with the Baltimore Orioles, but are 4-3 against the Orioles on the season.
The New York Yankees are 81-73, and a half game behind the Royals and the Orioles.
Here’s a closer look at all of the teams involved:
The Cleveland Indians:
The Indians seem to be in control of the future, but as Cleveland fans, we all know how that works out. Here’s the real situation though. The Indians face off against the Houston Astros on Saturday and Sunday, and then welcome the Chicago White Sox to town on Tuesday and Wednesday. The Indians are now 3-1 against the Astros, and 15-2 against the White Sox. They then head off to Minnesota for their final four games of the year. They are 9-6 against the Twins, but only 3-3 against the Twins in Minnesota.
The Indians tend to beat the teams they are supposed to, and are a mixed bag against teams with records in their vicinity. Their schedule really should bode well for them going forward, but that Minnesota series could be an interesting one. We’ll see if the Tribe’s lack of offense and with a starting rotation that is seemingly holding together by a string of strange health and unreal returns can do what they need to do to return to the playoffs.
The Tampa Bay Rays:
The Rays have three games left with the Baltimore Orioles on Saturday, Sunday and Monday, then head to New York for a three-game series against the Yankees before closing out the year with a three-game set against the Blue Jays. The Rays are now 10-6 against the Orioles after an 18-inning marathon on Friday, 9-7 against the Yankees, and 10-6 against the Toronto Blue Jays.
A lot has been made of their schedule, and it’s certainly not easy, but they have a winning record against all three teams. They have won every series after April with the Orioles, have won four of the past six games against the Yankees, and have won every series with the Blue Jays since their May series. This team has nice pitching, and has a sense of playoff belonging. It doesn’t hurt that their on-field management and upper management are on the same page, and one of the best systems in baseball. This team isn’t as good as past Tampa Bay teams, but they aren’t as bad as some folks suggest.
It will be interesting to see how their team responds after playing two-games in one, but winning.
The Texas Rangers:
The Rangers have two more games at Kansas City on Saturday and Sunday, before heading home for a three game set against the Houston Astros and then a four-game set against the Los Angeles Angels. The Rangers are 2-1 against Kansas City, are 14-2 against Houston, and 11-4 against the Angels.
The Rangers haven’t been playing very good baseball, but they also have a schedule that’s arguably easier than the Indians after they get outta Kansas City. Of course, they have to get out of Kansas City, and that’s no given at this point. The Rangers are also a pathetic 2-8 over the past ten games, and they are one of only two teams in the race to have a losing record over their last ten games. If the Rangers get in, they’ll be backing in, that’s for sure.
The Rangers elimination number now sits at a combination of 9 wins and losses between the Indians and Rangers.
The Kansas City Royals:
The Royals are 2 ½ games behind the Cleveland Indians, and have two more games at home against the Texas Rangers, before heading onto the road for their final seven games. They play three in Seattle, the close out with four against the Chicago White Sox. The Royals are 1-2 against the Rangers, 3-1 against the Seattle Mariners, but they are only 7-8 against the Chicago White Sox. They’ve lost their last three against the White Sox.
The Royals are an interesting ball club this year, and truthfully, after beating the Indians in four of their last six, a team to contend with. The only road bump in front of the Royals right now is the simple fact that they are 2 ½ behind the Tribe. They just don’t seem to have the amount of time and games needed to get the job done, especially when considering their schedule. Of course, stranger things have happened.
The Royals elimination number now sits at a combination of seven wins and losses between the Indians and Royals.
The Baltimore Orioles:
The Baltimore Orioles are 2 ½ games behind the Cleveland Indians, and have three more games in Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana. They then close out the season with three games against the Blue jays, and three games against the Boston Red Sox, who clinched the division tonight. I only mention that because it could certainly alter how they play that last series of the year. The Orioles are 6-10 against Tampa Bay, 8-8 against the Blue Jays, and 9-7 against the Boston Red Sox.
I certainly wouldn’t count out Buck Showalter and the Baltimore Orioles. They can win baseball games, and while they have a losing record against the Rays, they could have a nice and easy time of it over their last six games, especially if Boston spends the last weekend protecting their starters. Like the Royals, they are 2 ½ games back though, and they have a lot of business that is out of their hands.
You also have to wonder how much this 18-inning loss will take out of them. If they get punched in the face over the next couple of days, they could be done.
Like the Royals, the Orioles elimination number now sits at a combination of seven wins and losses between the Indians and the Orioles.
The New York Yankees:
The New York Yankees are three games behind the Cleveland Indians, and have two more games at home against the Giants on Saturday and Sunday, before welcoming the Tampa Bay Rays into town on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. They close out the year with a three-game set at Houston. The Yankees are 1-0 against the San Francisco Giants, 7-9 against the Rays, and 2-1 against the Astros.
I hate that I even have to mention the Yankees here, but the Evil Empire has managed to stick around all season long with a line-up filled with former Cleveland Indians’ cast-offs. Seriously, you have to give Joe Girardi some credit with this team, because they truly have no business being involved in a playoff discussion. Their schedule isn’t particularly difficult, and ends with the same Astros team that continues to find ways to lose baseball games. Of course, they have a whole bunch of teams in front of them, and are three games back.
The Yankees elimination number now sits at a combination of six wins and losses between the Indians and the Yankees.
There is your American League wildcard picture. The Cleveland Indians no technically control their own destiny with a spot in the wildcard playoff with the Tampa Bay Rays, but there are no givens in baseball.
Do your Cleveland Indians have a legitimate shot at one of the final two wildcard slots, or are their better teams behind them that are going to pass them by?
The Indians record of 7-3 over the last ten games is the best of all the teams mentioned, but is that a true testament to how well they are playing, or how bad the teams are they are playing? With the remaining schedule all against teams that are going to end up with 90 losses or more, and who are a collective 7-23 over their last 30 games, are the Indians a lock?
Pick the two teams you expect to win the wild-card spots heading into the final week of the season:
Jim is currently the senior editor and Columnist, as well as the host of IBI's weekly online radio shows, Smoke Signals and Cleveland Sports Insiders. You can follow Jim on Twitter @Jim_IBI, or contact him via e-mail at email@example.com.