Heading into Father’s Day, the 2017 Major League Baseball season has been…weird. Last year’s World Series teams are a combined two games over .500. The team that picked first in the MLB Draft last Monday is leading their division. A playoff team from last year has the second-worst record in all of baseball.
But I think what’s most striking about this bizarre season is how the two leagues are shaking out. In the American League, the Houston Astros are bludgeoning the competition and have an 11 game lead in the AL West. The Minnesota Twins and New York Yankees, on the other hand, are each leading their division by a game.
The Boston Red Sox have a healthy 3.5 game lead on the Cleveland Indians for the first of two Wild Cards, but Cleveland’s Wild Card lead is essentially nonexistent. The Tribe is a game up on both the Rays and Rangers, and just 5.5 games up on the A’s, who have an AL-worst record of 29-38.
Roll on over to the National League, and the situation is different. The Washington Nationals are playing the role of the Astros, leading the NL East by 10 games. But the NL Central leaders are the Milwaukee Brewers, who are 2.5 games up on the Chicago Cubs, and the Colorado Rockies are leading the NL West, one game ahead of both the Arizona Diamondbacks and Los Angeles Dodgers.
The D-Backs and Dodgers lead the Wild Card race together in the National League, and they don’t exactly have much competition. The Cubs, who are the one NL team above .500 that is not in the playoff picture, are eight games back of the two teams. No other club is fewer than 10 games back. The entire NL East, minus the Nationals, of course, is double digit games out of any playoff spot, while every NL Central team is closer to the division lead than a Wild Card berth.
That’s led to this situation – the AL’s worst team (Oakland) is closer to a playoff spot than the eighth best team (currently Miami, at 30-35) in the National League.
The two leagues are in different states right now. In the American League, every team is theoretically still in the hunt – the White Sox and A’s are the only two clubs with playoff odds under 5%, per Fangraphs. Over in the National League, that number triples to six teams (Pirates, Giants, Braves, Reds, Phillies, Padres), and five of those six are under 1%!
Five National League teams (the four current powerhouses, along with the Cubs over the Brewers in the Central) have playoff odds over 75%, while the number is at four in the American League. Playoff odds aren’t a guarantee, but wouldn’t you rather be a team in a league where one playoff spot is still seemingly up for grabs (the Blue Jays have the fifth-best odds in the AL at 36.8%) than a team in a league where you need to hope for something to go quite wrong for one of the favorites (the Cardinals have the NL’s sixth-best odds at just 25.3%)?
We’re almost into the second half of the season, with the all of the teams in baseball having played between 65 and 70 games so far. If the National League is going to get interesting, one of those five favorites will need to go on a long losing streak, and one of those four teams that hasn’t seen their season fall apart is going to need to go on a long winning streak. As for the American League, we’re just hoping that all of the teams keep beating each other up – it would be awesome to go into September seeing the entire AL East all fighting for playoff spots.