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September 12, 2013

Skewed Left

Three Narratives About the NL Central's Crowded Playoff Picture

by Zachary Levine


At the start of the season, we had a simple narrative to explain how three teams from the same division might make the postseason in 2013.

The Angels would avoid the terrible start that left one of the best teams in baseball out of the playoffs last year, bulk up with Josh Hamilton, and join the Athletics and Rangers in the postseason. Of course, they would get plenty of help from the addition of the Astros and their 19 easy matchups to the division, and the continued haplessness of the Mariners, too.

Of course, that didn’t happen. But with 2 ½ weeks to go in the season, it looks close to a sure thing that the division that the Astros vacated will be the first in baseball history (or the two years in which it’s been possible) to get three playoff teams. The Cardinals and Pirates are comfortably clear, while even the third-place Reds have a six-game lead on the technically still pursuing Nationals with 15 to play.

According to Colin Wyers, 98.4 percent of the simulations used to compute BP’s playoff odds on Wednesday ended with the Cardinals, Pirates, and Reds all in playoff position. (That percentage almost surely would have gone up with Wednesday’s results.)

The Astros have indeed been awful and have indeed helped contribute to some of the separation in the AL West. The first-place Athletics have gone 14-5 against the Astros, while the Rangers have gone 14-2 despite a season-opening loss. The Angels failed to live up to their portion of the bargain in part because of their performance against the Astros. They were swept in a four-game series at home in late May/early June and overall have gone 7-9 against Houston with three meaningless games to play.

The Reds will be the last of the NL Central teams to see their old friends in interleague, which should help them push even closer to a clincher and a dismissal of the Astros portion of the narrative. But with that one gone, let’s look at some other narratives that could be in play as soon as the NL Central makes the first playoff-bound trio from the same division official.

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<< Previous Article
Premium Article Covering the Call-Ups,... (09/12)
<< Previous Column
Premium Article Skewed Left: The Liter... (09/05)
Next Column >>
Premium Article Skewed Left: Danny Val... (09/19)
Next Article >>
Premium Article Prospects Will Break Y... (09/12)

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