After the Angels managed to salvage their series against Oakland and hang onto the slimmest of postseason hopes earlier today, I decided to come up with a view of the Angels' best roads and chances of making the playoffs.
I've decided to limit the teams in the wild card discussion to teams within 4 games, because anything more seems too crazy at this point. So we are left with:
The Athletics (82-61)
The Orioles (81-62)
The Yankees (81-62)
The Angels (78-66)
The Rays (77-66)
As the Orioles and Yankees are also tied for the AL East lead, the Angels will only need to pass one of them (or the A's) in order to get into the playoffs- in addition to holding off the Rays. Making up at least 3 and a half games over one of the teams that have been among baseball's best and most consistent all year? A daunting task to be sure. But it is doable. Let's take a look at each team's schedule over their remaining games to see who the Halos have the best shot of catching.
The Angels- 18 games remaining- 3 @ KC, 3 vs, Texas, 3 vs. Chicago, 3 vs. Seattle, 3 @ Texas, 3 @ Seattle.
Well, it could be better, but it could be worse. 9 at home and 9 away, 9 against teams above .500, 9 against teams below .500. The good news about the Texas and Chicago series is that Chicago has been bad of late and the Angels know they can beat them, and hopefully by the second Texas series Texas will have clinched the AL West so they won't have anything to play for. It's unfortunate the Angels won't be playing any direct contenders, but at least there won't be any embarrassments like this last series. In addition, the Angels are the only contending team left with 2 off days. It seems clear the Angels will need to play incredible baseball from here on out in order to make it, but even if they do, it can't be said their fate is in their own hands.
The A's- 19 games remaining- 3 vs. Baltimore, 3 @ Detroit, 3 @ NY, 4 @ Texas, 3 vs. Seattle, 3 vs. Texas.
The Angels can at least be grateful they don't have to play this hellish schedule. The A's have a single day off in the last 20 days of the season and play one team out of contention. Ouch. Well, good for us. Even if the A's do somehow manage to do well with this schedule, at the very least that means less wins for all the teams they're playing, and there is still that extra spot.
The Orioles- 19 games remaining. 3 @ Oakland, 3 @ Seattle, 3 @ Boston, 4 vs. Toronto, 3 vs. Boston, 3 @ TB.
The Orioles have the world on a string. 13 games against sub .500 teams (including six against the hilariously bad Red Sox) and two days off? Not good for the Angels. The small silver lining is that the O's have 12 away games. Really, the only team whose schedule is easier from here on out is...
The Yankees- 19 games remaining, 3 vs. Tampa Bay, 3 vs. Toronto, 3 vs. Oakland, 3 @ Minnesota, 4 @ Toronto, 3 vs. Boston.
Not not not not good. 12 home games, 13 sub .500 teams, bad bad bad bad bad. An epic Yankees collapse would be great, but with schedule it's rather hard to imagine.
The Rays- 19 games remaining, 3 @ NY, 4 vs. Boston, 3 vs. Toronto, 2 @ Boston, 4 @ Chicago, 3 vs. Baltimore.
9 home, 10 away, 10 vs. above .500 teams. I don't really have much to say here because if the Angels can't hold off the Rays, then they don't have a snowball's chance in hell of making the playoffs.
It seems clear that the Angels need two things to get into the playoffs: a fantastic run and a collapse by one of those three teams. Do I believe the Angels have what it takes? Absolutely. Mike Trout and Albert Pujols have both looked good of late, and when they're on, the whole offense seems to be. Along with pitching's great run recently, a run of great games could be very possible. However, with the schedules of the Yankees and Orioles and the A's extra game cushion, will a good run be enough? Obviously that depends on just how well the Angels can play, for example a 15-3 run would probably be enough to at least get the Angels a tie, but what about something a little more within the realm of possibility, like 13-5? That record would certainly require a team to play terrible baseball. The O's and Yankees would need to be 9-10 (which would constitute a collapse in my book given their schedules), and the A's would have to be 8-11, which seems unlikely given their success since Mid-May. Since I want to err on the side of optimism, I'm going to predict that one of these teams will drop enough games for the Angels to tie them with 13 wins through the end of the season. Let's give each team some totally not based in reason percentages, shall we?
The O's- 15%. I know how lucky the O's have been this season, and I can't explain it any better than you can. Maybe Buck Showalter sacrificed Nick Markakis to the baseball gods. Maybe Adam Jones sold his soul to the devil. No one knows for sure. But I don't think that luck is going to run out any time before the season ends.
The A's- 20%. Despite their difficult schedule, I just don't see it happening. The A's have been far and away the best team in the AL for the last 90 games and I have to admit it'd make me really happy to see three teams from the AL West in the playoffs. Maybe that would shake up that East Coast bias the awards writers have year after year.
The Yankees- 30%. Not a very high chance, but I'm putting the Yankees' chance of collapse higher than the A's or O's because they've seemed to suffer from the same issues since the All-Star Break that the Angels have all season: a nonchalant, screw-all attitude that results from big contracts and bigger egos. However, unlike the Angels, the Yankees can afford it because they started the season well.
So there you have it. If the Angels can win 13 of their last 18 and finish with 90 wins, I'd think they'd have a 45% chance of at the very least tying for a wild card spot. Not good odds, but it's better than I could have hoped for after the Halos were swept in 4 by Tampa Bay and were left 2 over .500.
Thanks for reading, please post your thoughts :)