The actual Major League Baseball players can't start thinking ahead to the playoffs yet. I mean, OK, so the Dodgers probably can and it won't much matter, but everyone else still has roughly 5 1/2 weeks of games remaining. Most of the majors still has a legitimate shot at making the postseason.
The AL wild card race in particular is going to be tons of fun down the stretch and there's no telling who actually comes away with those two spots. The NL wild card chase still has a chance to be interesting. The NL Central figures to be a race as well.
In glancing around the standings, though, there are several races that are a foregone conclusion and I can't help but let my mind wander a bit toward the American League playoffs. I'm allowed. I'm not a player. You readers remind me often of this fact (that I'm not a player, I should clarify -- you often also tell me I'm not allowed to have an opinion but that's only because we're such good friends and you're ribbing me).
When I do think about the potential AL playoffs, I'm giddy, because there's almost nothing that would surprise me. Let's take a look at what figures to be the three division winners and the possibilities.
Of course, what if David Price returns to form and throws like he's capable in the playoffs (finally) while Rick Porcello starts pitching while it's 2016. The offense also has shown big upside at times.
Indians - Danny Salazar and 2016 All-World postseason reliever Andrew Miller were placed on the disabled list Tuesday. The offense has also seen several of its bigger-name players go through slumps this season. Cody Allen has struggled at times as closer this season, too. Now imagine if Miller can't come back to form by October.
Of course, we saw what was possible with this group last season and they didn't even have a healthy Carlos Carrasco or Michael Brantley (or Jay Bruce, if we want to focus on Brantley also being hurt right now) -- not to mention Edwin Encarnacion is an upgrade over Mike Napoli.
Astros - What if Carlos Correa isn't able to fully get back, this year, to what he was pre-injury? What if Lance McCullers is cooked for the season? The rotation behind Dallas Keuchel with the likes of Brad Peacock, Collin McHugh and Charlie Morton could be passable, but what if the latter three are going through a rough stretch?
But what if they aren't? And what if Correa returns playing like the MVP candidate he was pre-injury while the rest of the Astros' offense parties like it's April and May of 2017? The easiest thing I did in these rankings for about six weeks was "1. Astros" to start things off.
It seems to me that any one of these teams could win the World Series or be bounced in a sweep in the ALDS.
Of course, the Red Sox and Indians still have a shot to blow their divisional leads. We also have to consider that one of the wild-card hopefuls could be insanely hot. Good luck predicting which two have the best shot at nailing down those spots, but between the Yankees, Twins, Angels, Mariners, Royals, Rangers, Orioles, Rays and Blue Jays, arguments could be made either way.
There are question marks all over the board in the AL. It's unreal how much variance in possible outcomes there is, perhaps more than we've seen in the short time frame that has been the two-wild-card era in either league.
Go ahead and make an argument for any team you want listed above to make the World Series. Right now, no one should be 100 percent telling you that you're wrong. If someone does, he or she hasn't been paying attention to the Junior Circuit much this season.
|The "everything turns to gold" moment for the week was Curtis Granderson homering in two of the first three games after being acquired. That included a game-altering grand slam Monday, too.||--||106-56|
|Forget everything I said in the intro. The Red Sox have Doug Fister dealing a one-hitter against the Indians. That just totally wrecks the entire curve.||--||92-70|
|Kind of under-the-radar, no? Just dealing with major injuries, winning games and running away with the East while being completely overshadowed and somewhat overlooked.||--||65-97|
|There's no team I'm more interested to watch down the stretch and into the playoffs. (I also get to watch Jose Altuve while I'm at it, so that's a win-win).||1||95-67|
|Andrew Miller on the DL is very scary, especially if you saw the velocity readings in his last outing. Still a long way until October, though. He has time to get right.||1||80-82|
|Remember the hype train for Gary Sanchez heading into the year and how quickly it died due to a slow first week, injury and the emergence of Aaron Judge? Yeah, well, Sanchez has been outstanding since. He also has 12 home runs since the All-Star break.||2||92-70|
|Very few players in baseball are more fun to watch than Javier Baez. He's having a big second half, too, hitting .299 while slugging .598 with 10 homers and 28 RBI.||2||71-91|
|Having won 13 of 17, the Twins are all kinds of hot right now. And you know what? Watch them play if you get the chance. They are all kinds of fun, too, especially on offense.||4||73-89|
|Still going very well, but this race could come down to one game and I can't help but worry about last Friday. They had a 5-0 lead through the top of the second and then lost on a walk-off grand slam to Manny Machado. You gotta close those out.||2||77-85|
|They're hot again. The Brewers have won seven of nine and now the wild card is nearly as within reach as the division (the Cubs are only a half-game behind the Rockies in overall record). Keep the faith, Milwaukee. There are now two different roads to the postseason.||3||95-67|
|Take 1: Getting into the Wild Card wasn't supposed to be an "if," it was supposed to be a "when." And it still might be, but these last several weeks have made the task tougher.||5||52-110|
|Take 2: Getting into the Wild Card wasn't supposed to be an "if," it was supposed to be a "when." And it still might be, but these last several weeks have made the task tougher.||5||74-87|
|With how many teams are in the mix in the AL playoff chase, we'll often see matchups versus contenders. That's only common sense. The Mariners have a very interesting stretch coming up, though. They will have already been on the road -- FAR away from home, mind you -- for six games before three on the road vs. the Yankees and three on the road versus the Orioles starting Friday. Brutal stretch.||3||90-72|
|Mike Moustakas is totally gonna sit on 35 homers for weeks and troll us, right? (For those unaware, the Royals are the only team ever without a 40-homer guy, as the franchise record is 36 home runs).||3||74-88|
|The Fish have won nine of their last 11 and are starting to become rather interesting in the NL wild card race, now sitting .500 for the first time since they were 10-10. It's still an uphill battle, of course, but stranger things have happened.||5||67-95|
|Since that eight-game winning streak, the Cardinals have lost six of eight. Before said winning streak, they were 53-56. Feels like we can see the outlier here, but the schedule is favorable moving forward.||6||90-72|
|Joey Gallo getting hurt is not cool at all. Stop it, Baseball Gods. You already cost us three months of Adrian Beltre, thereby giving us Gallo and ... wait. Darn it, I'm lost now. Whatever: The Rangers are in the AL wild-card race, so they're going to confuse you the rest of the way as much as I just confused myself.||3||60-102|
|The Rays are tied with the Tigers for the second-worst record in the AL since the All-Star break. They still have time to fix things, of course, because the buzzwords now are AL WILD CARD.||3||100-62|
|Since they got hot and climbed back to .500, the O's are 5-9 and they've now lost five of their last seven. Knowing what we' know about how the wild-card race has gone, the next hot streak is right around the corner.||1||52-110|
|I won't blame you if you'd like to clip them from their mention in my intro as contenders. This is a deeply-flawed team that is six out of a spot with six teams to leap. That's an order taller than the CN Tower.||1||91-71|
|They've lost eight of 10 and now sit eight back in the Central. Given that they're in fourth place and six games under .500, it's fair to stop calling them contenders.||--||61-101|
|You know what's fun? Boog Powell having no relation to the Boog Powell you're thinking of and the first Boog Powell looking like a quality leadoff man (.283 AVG/.386 OBP so far) and the second Boog Powell resembling nothing like a player who would ever lead off in his day despite being a great player. Oh, and those two Boog Powells met on Tuesday and called (technically FaceTimed) a Boog Powell playing in the Little League World Series. Got all that?||1||86-76|
|Last week, this space said: "Would you believe that since the start of July, the Padres have a winning record?" That's still the case. They are 23-22 in that time frame.||2||79-83|
|I love that David Wright has started a rehab assignment and could return this season. Injuries have decimated him but he's long been one of the many good guys in the game.||2||77-85|
|Only 10 teams in MLB history have had a rotation ERA of over 6.00 for a full season. The 2017 Reds currently sit at 5.99.||1||83-79|
|Rookie Lucas Sims was the Braves' first rounder in 2012 out of high school. He was shaky overall through four starts, but threw very well on Tuesday against a potentially-dangerous Mariners offense. (Just in case you're wondering: It's not a good sign of how the season is going when I have to resort to comments like that).||1||88-73|
|The Giants have a winning record in August, thanks to having won series over the A's, Diamondbacks and Cubs.||1||107-55|
|Clearly into punching bag territory, the Tigers have lost 13 of 16 and those AL Central titles seem such a distant memory.||2||77-85|
|Lucas Giolito's White Sox debut was a mixed bag. He definitely has good stuff and looked very good the first time through the order. Three homers allowed in innings 4-6 is tough, though. The good news is the White Sox can work with him without worrying about results for a bit.||--||93-69|
|Not only does Rhys Hoskins have a great name (maybe a 60-70 or so), but he's walked as much as he's struck out and has six homers in 13 games.||--||82-80|