A little over a week ago, I visited some playoff odds and talked about the W-L records that would need to happen in order to make the AL West competitive again.
Over a week later, and the Seattle Mariners have gained… a whole half-game on Texas in the standings. Meanwhile, Houston has actually dropped another half-game.
The deeper we get into August, the more likely it becomes that Texas will be representing the AL West as division champs in the ALDS. So it’s in that frame of mind that I wanted to revisit where things stand.
Today, Texas sits at 71-50, and still on pace for 95 wins by the end of this thing. At the risk of counting chickens before they hatch, stick a fork in Houston. They’re done.
At 9 games back in the division, it’s just not happening. Even if Texas finished out the regular season slate by going 19-22 to hit 90 wins, it would take a 29-14 finish by Houston to accomplish that same record. They also play Seattle six more times, so barring a sweep there, they’ll still find themselves looking up from the third slot in the AL West standings.
Speaking of Seattle, they’ll need to finish 27-17 in order to reach 90 wins. They still play Texas seven times. Even if they manage to go 4-3 in those games, or if we’re feeling really bullish on their chances of going 5-2 in them, that would leave them needing to go 23-21 or 22-22 with their remaining slate. Not impossible, but with six games also against Houston, it’s a bit tougher.
Of course, this all assumes that Texas drops off from their current pace, and significantly. If Texas continues close to this pace and/or wins the majority of the head-to-head games against Seattle, it’s game over in the AL West. As it is, over at FanGraphs, the projected rest-of-season standings have Texas finishing out their schedule at 21-20, good for 92 wins. Seattle would need to finish 29-15 to get there and force even a one-game tiebreaker.
And that’s probably why the playoff odds have Texas at 87.1% to win the division. We can talk about the record in one-run games (27-8), or how the run differential doesn’t look so great. And if we were talking about the same exact roster as before the trade deadline, it’d be a perfect comparison. However, most of 2016’s run differential doesn’t factor in the contributions Carlos Beltran and Jonathan Lucroy are already making.
It’s hard to say for sure, but Martin Perez throwing his changeup -- the pitch that put him on the prospect radar -- 40 times on Monday evening would seem to have at least something to do with Jonathan Lucroy’s influence behind the plate. And if you haven’t seen his plate approach, or the way Carlos Beltran has impacted the offense -- his game-tying single on Tuesday evening as an example -- then it’s hard to truly appreciate that an offense that already ranks as 4th in the AL based on run production might actually be better than that.
Beyond that, Yu Darvish looks healthy again. Cole Hamels is, well, Cole Hamels. And if any combination of Martin Perez, Colby Lewis, Derek Holland, etc. can produce in the rotation, that run differential can actually improve before season’s end.
So while the division race may not technically be over, if I’m a fan of Seattle or Houston, I’m not exactly feeling confident that my team can do what Texas did last season and erase a large deficit to claim the division crown.