The new playoff format means a few things, all of which are good for the fans. More teams, more games, and more time for anything to happen in a sport where anything can happen. The six wildcard teams at the time of writing this all have one thing in common, they can flat out put up runs. With 5 weeks left in the regular season, which AL Wild Card team can win it all?
The three teams representing the American League Wild Card are the Tampa Bay Rays, Seattle Mariners, and the Toronto Blue Jays.
Tampa Bay Rays
The Tampa Bay Rays have been a solid figure in playoff baseball the last two seasons. Making a historic run to the World Series in 2020, and winning the division in 2021 before being swept by the AL Wild Card Boston Red Sox
This year specifically the Rays are playing under the radar, nobody outside of Tampa Bay is giving them a chance this season. They do not rank any higher than 5th in the AL in hitting statistics and ranked in the bottom half of most of them. Some how, some way this teams is winning at a consistent level and putting up enough runs to get the job done.
Pitching is what keeps them in most games, and their ability to get runners home and not strand them in scoring position. The pitching for this team overall is built to pitch to contact. The Rays are 3rd in the AL in ERA, 3rd in runs allowed and ranked 2nd in earned runs allowed. They simply keep other teams under 4 runs on a regular basis which allows their bats to go to work in late innings on opposing bull pens.
The Seattle Mariners are the most exciting team on this list; both in young talent and having a charged up fan base desperately waiting for some playoff baseball. The Mariners have not made the playoffs since 2001, the longest drought in the MLB.
This season Seattle has a young core built around their rookie superstar in center field. Besides ranking 2nd in walks, the Mariners rank lower than 7th in the American League in every other hitting statistic. Which shocked me as I was expecting much better stats. This team puts up runs in boat loads, and have something electric about them once the 7th, 8th and 9th inning come around.
On the pitching side, this team picked up help over the off-season. They ranked 4th in the AL in 4 statistics on the mound. 4th in ERA, 4th in innings pitched, 4th in runs and 4th in earned runs.
The thing to factor in for this team in home field advantage, which usually means nothing in baseball. This year in Seattle, trust me it does. No team wants to have to go into Seattle and play in the atmosphere that has been built during last years failed run to the Wild Card, coming up a game short the last week of the season.
Toronto Blue Jays
For a few seasons now the Blue Jays have been on the list of teams who have the best lineup in baseball. Unfortunately for Toronto’s fan base, having potentially the best hitters in baseball has not resulted in playoff success.
The Blue Jays hitting statistics are phenomenal, ranking in the top 4 in the AL in 11 different categories and ranking 1st in 5.
- 1st in Batting Average (.261)
- 1st in OBP (.324)
- 1st in SLG (.426)
- 1st in OPS (.750)
- 1st in Total Bases (1,852)
Toronto also ranks 2nd in runs with 590. Hmmm… This team really does have one of the best lineups in baseball.
Pitching has improved this season from last, yet not dramatically. They have given up the 2nd fewest walks in the American League this season with 338. Outside of that they rank towards the middle of the pack in all other pitching statistics.
Which AL Wild Card Team Can Win It All?
The Toronto Blue Jays have a 2.6% chance of winning the World Series. The Seattle Mariners have a 2.6% chance of winning the World Series. The Tampa Bay Rays have a 3.3% chance to win the World Series. (All stats and % chances provided by baseball-reference.com)
Major League Baseball is the most unpredictable sport in the world. The ball bounces left sometimes, and right others. One day a pitcher has his “stuff” and the next outing he left it on the bus. One centimeter higher on his swing would have resulted in a home run. Every team has a chance to make a run in this new expanded playoff format.
Although the Tampa Bay Rays find magic where others find failure and the Seattle Mariners are the young excited kids in the playoffs for the first time in 21 seasons.
The Toronto Blue Jays have spent the last three seasons trying to get their lineup to a position to win some playoff games. I believe this is the year they can get hot at the right time and make a run at the World Series. The stats are there to back that claim up.
*Tomorrow I will break down which team on the bubble can steal a wild card position and sneak into the playoffs.
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Rowan Donaghey is a Sports and Betting Insider for Fantom Sports Industries. Follow him on twitter for daily content via @RowanDonaghey