A Quick Look at the AL WC picture

At last, September has arrived. It is the final month of the regular season. September marks that time of year when games begin to develop a playoff-like atmosphere. These games often feature dominant pitching, stellar defense and clutch hitting. tensions rise and fans scoot forward to the edge of their seat as teams tussle for a playoff spot. This year, I think it is safe to say that the fans are getting their moneys worth.

The AL Wild card race is about as tightly packed with contenders as seen in recent years. The Yankees hold the top spot. Minnesota holds the second spot, a game behind the Yankees. From the outside, we have six additional teams attempting to scratch and claw their way into the playoff picture, all within 4.5 games of the second spot. Take a look below at the updated AL Wild Card standings (as of 9/1/17).

Wild Card Teams W L PCT WCGB WCE # L10 STRK
NY Yankees 71 62 .534 +1.0 5-5 W1
Minnesota 70 63 .526 7-3 W4
LA Angels 69 65 .515 1.5 28 5-5 W3
Baltimore 68 66 .507 2.5 27 8-2 L1
Tampa Bay 67 68 .496 4.0 25 7-3 W1
Texas 66 67 .496 4.0 26 5-5 L1
Seattle 66 68 .493 4.5 25 3-7 L5
Kansas City 65 67 .492 4.5 26 4-6 L1

New York Yankees (71-62, 1+)

The Bronx Bombers have to feel good about their chances of grabbing one of the two spots. Many did not know what to expect of the Yankees heading into the 2017 season. All were certainly excited about young star Gary Sanchez who shined in his rookie campaign. In just 53 games he slugged 20 homers and drove in 42 runs.

This year, another gift in rookie sensation Aaron Judge. Despite his second-half struggles (.185 batting average in August), he still leads the AL in home runs with 37. The Yankees offensive talent runs deeper than just those two young studs. They have great contributions from Brett Gardner, Matt Holiday, Aaron Hicks, Starlin Castro and Didi Gregorius, one of the leagues most underrated players.

Solid Yankee pitching this year ranks them 3rd in the AL with a 3.81 staff ERA. Give a lot of credit to Luis Severino, with his breakout season.  He’s established himself as an elite pitcher in the American League. The Yanks ace of recent years, Masahiro Tanaka, struggled mightily early in the season as he surrendered home runs at an alarming rate and not pitching deep into games. It seems as though Tanaka has found his groove recently as he owns a 2.63 ERA over the past month. If Tanaka can stay on top of his game, then the Yankees will be a very tough team to beat in October.

The Yanks bolstered their starting rotation by adding star pitcher Sonny Gray as well as veteran Jaime Garcia at the trade deadline. CC Sabathia and Jordan Montgomery have also been key pieces to the rotation. The offense and starting pitching should do well enough to carry them into the postseason.  But if the Yankees want to solidify themselves as legitimate World Series contenders, their star closer Aroldis Chapman and talented set-up man Dellin Betances need to find some consistency.

Minnesota Twins (70-63, 2nd)

It has been a pleasantly surprising year for Minnesota as no one expected them to be in position to claim a wild card spot. The Twins finished 2016 with a record of 59-103, landing them fifth in the AL Central. The key to their offensive success this year has been young slugger Miguel Sano, in the process of bouncing back from a disappointing rookie season, batting .267 and has 28 homers. Brian Dozier provides power as he has 26 home runs. Thirty-four-year old Ervin Santana has put together a career year with a record of 14-7 and an ERA of 3.27. Another bright spot for the Twins pitching staff has been their young and talented pitcher Jose Berrios.  Occasionally inconsistent, he really shined at various points throughout the season. He owns a 3.80 ERA and a record of 12-6. These two guys will be key down the stretch as the Twins try to hang on to the second wild card spot.

Los Angeles Angels (69-65, 1.5 GB)

The Angels have a solid season going.   They would likely occupy a totally different spot if not for the Mike Trout injury that forced the two-time MVP to sit out for almost two months. Trout was having another absolutely ridiculous season until he injured his thumb while sliding into second base, head first in a game in late May. At that point of the season Trout was tied for the league lead in home runs with 16 and fourth in RBI with 36 while batting .337. The Angels managed to play solid baseball during his absence and that is the reason they are just 1.5 games back of the second wild card spot.

They have played pretty solid baseball lately, winning three straight games. Overall, their pitching remains solid.  Luckily they can rely on their superstar to carry the load offensively with help from Albert Pujols, Andrelton Simmons and Kole Calhoun. If the Angels are going to sneak into a playoff spot, they will need solid starting pitching from their veteran starters Ricky Nolasco and Jesse Chavez.

Seattle Mariners (66-68, 4.5 GB)

Seattle has disappointed their fans over the past few seasons. They’ve put together very solid rosters stacked with offensive and defensive talent as well as good starting pitching. But, they just fail to get the job done, year in and year out.

Over the past few years they have featured a roster with Elite players such as Nelson Cruz, Robinson Cano and Felix Hernandez as well as other quality players such as James Paxton and Kyle Seager. This year they have stumbled upon even more talent in rookie Ben Gamel and newly acquired Jean Segura. Even while loaded with talent, the Mariner remain average, two games below .500 on the year. But here they are at the end of August, right in the mix of things. This team can win, just one good month of baseball away from making the playoffs. The key to their success will be getting their long time ace Felix Hernandez healthy and pitching to his potential.

Tune into the second part of this article for analysis on Baltimore, Kansas City, Tampa Bay and Texas