Thursday, September 29, 2005


Great weekend to be a baseball fan

Give the MLB schedulers a big pat on the back this year. With all but three playoff races now all but decided (I am leaving out the NL Wild Card, since I expect the schizophrenic Phillies to fold like a cheap tent this weekend, letting Houston escape), we get two three-game winner take all series to decide the final three spots in the AL (the Angels are already in as AL West champs).

The Yankees and Red Sox will square off at Fenway. Going into tonight, the Yanks have a 1-game lead over the Sox as they finish up their respective penultimate series (Yanks against Baltimore, Sox against Toronto). The pitching matchups are all very compelling, as Chien-Ming Wang goes against David Wells Friday, Randy Johnson faces white-hot Tim Wakefield Saturday and Mike Mussina and Curt Schilling lock up Sunday. If both teams win tonight, a playoff is possible. If the Yanks open a 2-game lead, they will need only 1 win in the series to wrap it up. If they are tied after tonight, it's a best-of three.

The White Sox (who should have NEVER been in this spot) will face the Indians in Cleveland. Each will wrap a series tonight (Sox face Detroit, Indians have T-Bay (who have already won the first two games of the series)) and, assuming the Indians win, they will play for the division title. If the Indians lose tonight and the Sox win, it's all over. Pitching matchups are: Mark Buerhle v. Kevin Millwood, Jon Garland v. Jake Westbrook and Brandon McCarthy v. Scott Elarton. The lead is 3 as of this morning and the White Sox are definitely in the driver's seat, and an 11-5 record head-to-head against the Indians certainly looks favourable, but you better believe the Sox will be looking to wrap things up tonight. A Sox win tonight means they clinch at least a share of first place and, even if the Sox lose tonight and the Indians win (cutting the lead to 2 games), the Indians are still faced with the daunting task of sweeping the Sox to catch/pass them.

However, Cleveland is also playing for the wild card. With a 92-66 record, the Indians are tied with Boston. There are many ways things can play out here, so lets look at the math:

Update: Well, as expected, everyone won last night. I also was, apparently, on something when I did my math yesterday, as there a few inconsistencies in the original post, so I'm replacing that mess with this section. Let's do it again:

As of today, the Yankees (94-65) lead the AL East by one game over Boston (93-66). Cleveland is also 93-66, tied for the wild card with Boston. Chicago is now in, as is LA. The Yankees need two wins over Boston this weekend to clinch the AL East.

Playoff scenarios for Boston:

  • If Boston wins once, they can only make the wild card. For that to happen, Cleveland must lose to Chicago twice or be swept. A Sox sweep puts Cleveland out. One Cleveland win forces a one-game playoff on Monday between the Sox and the Indians.
  • If Boston sweeps the Yankees, they win the East outright.
  • If Boston wins twice (tying the Yanks), it gets muddy. If Cleveland is swept by Chicago, or loses two of three, there will be no AL East playoff. Since the Yankees win the season series with Boston 10-9, the Yankees would win the AL East and the Sox are the wild card. If Cleveland wins two games against Chicago and Boston two against NY, Boston and Cleveland meet in a one-game playoff for the wild card Monday while the Yankees (again based on head-to-head) are the AL East champs. If Cleveland sweeps Chicago, Boston is out.

Playoff scenarios for NY are a bit simpler.

  • Win once and they are guaranteed a tie for the AL East. If Cleveland sweeps the Sox, then the Indians (at 96-66) win the wild card and Boston and NY (each at 95-67) have a one-game playoff for the AL East title. Otherwise, the Yanks win the East and Boston drops into the third scenario outlined above.
  • Win twice or more, they win the AL East.
  • If the Yankees are swept, it depends on Cleveland. If Cleveland wins once, the Yankees and Cleveland play off on Monday for the wild card. If Cleveland wins twice or more, the Yankees are out.

And finally, for Cleveland:

  • Sweep the White Sox, win the wild card.
  • Win twice, they win the wild card if Boston loses twice or the Red Sox sweep the Yankees. If the Red Sox win twice, the Indians and Red Sox play off for the wild card.
  • Win once, they win the wild card ONLY if the Yankees sweep the Sox. If the Red Sox win once, the Indians and Red Sox play off. If the Red Sox sweep, the Indians and Yankees play off.

NL is really easy. If the Astros take two of three from the Cubs or the Phils drop two of three to Washington (or the 'Stros win once and the Phils lose once) the Astros take the NL Wild Card.

Any way you slice it, though, it should be a very exciting weekend of baseball and, hopefully, these games can be found on TV this weekend. Playoff predictions and season-end award predictions coming Monday.