Photo: FS West/MLB.tv
With the MLB season at its halfway point its worth taking a good long look at the current landscape and assessing what we should expect going forward.Since baseball added a second wild card team to each league this season plenty of teams that would’ve already given up on the season will continue with their playoff pushes between now and October. In past seasons they probably would have begun unloading big contracts by now.
So who’s going to the postseason in 2012?
In order to answer this question we’ve looked at Cool Standings, a site that simulates the rest of the season one million times taking into account things like strength of schedule, the number of home versus away games, and run differential to come up with a per cent chance a given team has of getting to October. (Here’s how the formula is calculated.)
Looking at those percentages we’re going to assume that teams that have a greater than 70 per cent chance of making the playoffs are locks. That includes the New York Yankees, Chicago White Sox, Texas Rangers, Washington Nationals, and Pittsburgh Pirates (yes, those Pirates).
Essentially that leaves us searching for what teams will win the National League West, and the four combined wild card spots between the two leagues.
In order to keep things simple we’ve taken the remaining teams that have a greater than 25 per cent chance of making the playoffs and assessed their odds at getting in. (FYI: One of the year’s biggest surprises, Baltimore Orioles, didn’t make the cut.)
Playoff chance: 26.8%
Strengths: Pitching. Top to bottom, the Rays starters and relievers are among the most consistent in the majors
Weaknesses: Hitting is abysmal and they really struggle on the road
Can they make significant improvements via trades before the July 31 trade deadline? Probably not. Tampa Bay has never been very aggressive at the trade deadline. Their best hopes are in getting Evan Longoria back healthy and the rest of the lineup following his lead
Playoff chance: 32.7%
Strengths: This is still one of the absolute best lineups in all of baseball and the bullpen has been better than expected
Weaknesses: Starting pitching
Can they make significant improvements via trades before the July 31 trade deadline? They can and they will. If there's someone to be had at the deadline you better believe Boston will inquire
Playoff chance: 31.5%
Strengths: Powerful lineup
Weaknesses: Detroit's pitching has merely been average. Luckily, they've been steadily improving as the season has gone along, so there aren't any glaring weaknesses
Can they make significant improvements via trades before the July 31 trade deadline? This team is trying to win now, so they'll easily trade some of their top prospects or up-and-coming youngsters for a shot at the World Series
Playoff chance: 66.%
Strengths: Phenomenal pitching, an improving lineup
Weaknesses: Nothing of note
Can they make significant improvements via trades before the July 31 trade deadline? They'll look at anything like they always do, but this club is more of a sure thing than any other team in this group
Playoff chance: 53.3%
Strengths: Winning on the road, scoring runs, bullpen
Weaknesses: No reliable third or fourth starters
Can they make significant improvements via trades before the July 31 trade deadline? All indications are they'll go after another starting pitcher, perhaps even someone who will make a big splash. That's not a typical Braves move, but we shall see
Playoff chance: 41.2%
Strengths: Third in the NL in runs scored (kinda surprising with that lineup)
Weaknesses: Middle relief
Can they make significant improvements via trades before the July 31 trade deadline? The Mets are one of the biggest surprises this year and have everything in place to keep it going. In most years they'd also have the financial backing to pursue anyone, but they're not exactly flush with cash right now, so we'll see
Playoff chance: 64.3%
Strengths: Their pitching staff has been pretty good
Weaknesses: Hitters not named Joey Votto, Jay Bruce, or Brandon Phillips
Can they make significant improvements via trades before the July 31 trade deadline? Absolutely. They are actively pursuing lineup additions in hopes of going deep into October this year. The Reds' championship window is now
Playoff chance: 60.4%
Strengths: One of the more well rounded teams in all of baseball
Weaknesses: Honestly, we can't really think of any. Best run differential in NL, same record at home/road, etc.
Can they make significant improvements via trades before the July 31 trade deadline? Minor tweaks are all they'll be looking for. They've always pulled these type of deals off in the past so expect more of the same
Playoff chance: 43.5%
Strengths: LA might have the best pitching staff in the entire majors
Weaknesses: Can't hit a lick
Can they make significant improvements via trades before the July 31 trade deadline? Going all-in. The Dodgers won't hesitate to make a big push for October
Playoff chance: 51.3%
Strengths: Still one of the best pitching staffs in the game
Weaknesses: Outside of Melky Cabrera's unbelievable (and likely unsustainable) start and Buster Posey no one can hit
Can they make significant improvements via trades before the July 31 trade deadline? The Giants love picking up hit-or-miss ageing vets. They'll probably do more of the same this year, but having a repeat of 2010 when the old additions led to a World Series victory isn't the norm
Playoff chance: 25.3%
Strengths: Well balanced lineup and bullpen
Weaknesses: Back end of the rotation is shaky
Can they make significant improvements via trades before the July 31 trade deadline? The DBacks are in that weird 'should we go for it or not?' place where one good or bad week to 10 days can make all the difference between dealing away their best assets or hunkering down for a playoff push. Expect them to not make any big trades
Yankees, White Sox, Rangers, Angels*, Tigers*
Nationals, Pirates, Giants, *Reds, **Braves, **Cardinals
**We're predicting a two-way tie and extra 'one game playoff' needed to decide the National League's final playoff spot. There are just too many teams bunched up at the top.
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