al wild card race

The American League wild card race is currently a humongous mess. As of Friday morning, the Yankees have a 3.5-game cushion for the top wild-card, but after comes a mass of mediocrity. Eight teams are currently within three games of the second spot, and only three of those teams are above .500. Here’s how the standings look:

Team Record Games back
Yankees 65-55 +3.5
Angels 62-59
Royals 61-59 -0.5
Twins 60-59 -1
Mariners 61-61 -1.5
Rangers 60-60 -1.5
Rays 60-63 -3
Orioles 59-62 -3
Blue Jays 59-62 -3

It is an intractable jumble that could turn out any number of ways. We asked our writers who will come out on top. Here are their answers:

Who will win the two American League wild-card spots?

Matt Clapp: While it seems absurd to say with nine teams in the race, I think the Yankees are a near lock for one of the two slots. They have a four-game cushion in the loss column, and their roster talent appears to be a step up from every team involved anyway. I would even put their chances of winning the AL East above their chances of being left out altogether. So, I would expect the Yankees to get the WC1, and it’s hard to see a scenario where they wouldn’t be favored in the Wild Card Game (would likely take facing Seattle’s James Paxton or Tampa Bay’s Chris Archer, and even still the Yankees may be favored).

And who willl join the Yankees in the WC game? Who the hell knows! Your guess is as good as mine, but I’ll go with the Angels. They managed to survive a six-week absence from Mike Trout, and the best player in baseball is (quietly) putting together the best offensive season of his career (by his slash line, wRC+, etc). I’ll say that Trout leads the Angels to a wild-card berth, while also stealing away the AL MVP from Jose Altuve and Aaron Judge. And Mike Trout vs. the Yankees in a one-game playoff would make for some amazing TV.

Alex Putterman: The Yankees have the best record, the best one differential and probably the best roster, so they seem like a safe bet for the first spot.

Of the eight teams battling for the second wild card, only one has a positive run differential, and that’s the Texas Rangers (at +27), who are 10-5 since trading Yu Darvish on July 31. So although I’m tempted to stick with my preseason Mariners prediction, I’m taking the Rangers. Texas stands in the middle of this pack by regular win-loss record but is the best of the group by Pythagorean record and is second (to the struggling Rays) by FanGraphs’ BaseRuns formula. The Rangers been the best of these eight teams to this point, so I might as well pick them to be the best of the bunch from here out.

Deesha Thosar:  Yankees. This team prepared for a rebuilding season in April, then found themselves to be legit contenders by mid-season. It’d be fun to see how that plays out in a Wild Card Game.

Mariners. Finally, Nelson Cruz and Robinson Cano have an actual shot at making the postseason with a pretty compact team. Can see Seattle pulling it off in a double-wild card format.

Joe Lucia:  I don’t like changing my preseason picks. At the beginning of the season, I picked Seattle and Texas. And while I really want to stick with those two… man, I’m not all that confident in either.

So with that, I think I’m going to lean towards the two teams leading the Wild Card race right now: the Yankees and Angels. I’m not overly confident in either, mainly because of their lack of starting pitching depth, but I think they’re the two best teams in this fray.

Ian Casselberry:  I don’t know if the five years of the double wild-card system back me up on this, but teams that are in a division race would seem to be in a much better position to get a wild card bid as a consolation prize. Isn’t that why the wild card system was created in the first place? Never again can we have a team win 103 games, like the 1993 San Francisco Giants, and not qualify for the postseason!

Trying to keep up with the Red Sox in the AL East are why the Yankees currently hold one of the AL’s wild card spots and they figure to keep hold of it while also seeking to overtake Boston for a division title (and not having to play a one-game playoff).

Even though the current wild card standings have the Angels and Mariners in the race, giving them plenty of motivation to continue playing well, their distance from the Astros in the AL West could ultimately work against them. It’s wild card or bust. That’s why I like the Royals as the team to win the AL’s second wild card bid. Trying to catch the Indians in the AL Central gives KC a prize to pursue and a wild card will end up as their consolation. What about the Twins? They’re right behind the Royals. I believe KC’s stronger pitching, especially in the bullpen, will ultimately give them the edge.

About Alex Putterman

Alex is a writer and editor for The Comeback and Awful Announcing. He has written for The Atlantic, VICE Sports,, and more. He is a proud alum of Northwestern University and The Daily Northwestern. You can find him on Twitter @AlexPutterman.