September playoff hopefuls

Chicago White Sox

Games back: 5.5
Games remaining: 28
Playoff odds: 12 percent

Today the White Sox begin a three-game series against the first-place Detroit Tigers. Talk has centered on A.J. Pierzynski returning from a brief minor league rehab assignment after fracturing his wrist in early August. Pierzynski doesn’t have much history when it comes to injuries, but one would have to assume that a loss of power is likely.

Rookie catcher Tyler Flowers has improved enough defensively to catch the eye of manager Ozzie Guillen, but his atrocious strikeout rate has finally caught up with him. Already considered a strikeout machine, Flowers has fanned at a rate of 30.7 percent. Over the past few weeks, his high BABIP has also taken a tumble while his walk rate has been cut in half to 7.3 percent.

Getting Pierzynski’s contact rate back in the lineup should help, especially near the bottom of the order where strikeouts have become frequent.

In his last start, Jake Peavy struggled with his velocity and was knocked around a few days ago by the Twins. Peavy did mention having some health issues after that failed appearance. Philip Humber is set to return, and his presence will be needed if Peavy is set to miss any time.

The White Sox were able to claw their way back into the race after winning five out of six against the Mariners and Twins. The upcoming three-game series on the road against the Tigers will be important to see where this team stands.

Cleveland Indians

Games back: 5.5
Games remaining: 28
Playoff odds: 7.3 percent

The Indians have gotten the worst of it from the injury front. Shin-Soo Choo’s lost season could be over as a strained oblique could cost him most of this month. Jason Kipnis is dealing with injuries to his hamstring and oblique. Michael Brantley is out until next season after wrist surgery. Starting pitchers Josh Tomlin and Carlos Carrasco are dealing with elbow issues, and return dates for Grady Sizemore and Travis Hafner remain iffy.

On the bright side, Jeanmar Gomez had a promising start earlier this week. His location looked good, and he was able to keep the ball on the ground. Usually organizations don’t like to push their young pitching prospects at this point of the season, but they may have no choice.

The Indians have the good fortune of beginning a three-game series against the Royals in Kansas City. So far this season, the team has been successful against KC, winning 10 out of 15. After that, the Indians get their chance to arm-wrestle the Tigers for three games at home. A lot of variance could occur in six games, but the key injuries to this team should prove to be too much for the remainder of this season.

Los Angeles Angels

Games back: 3.5
Games remaining: 25
Playoff odds: 15.9 percent

The Angels are looking legitimate, especially with Ervin Santana enjoying a solid second half. Santana doesn’t have the same velocity he once had in 2008, but his command has been improving towards previous levels. He should be a very solid number three starter behind Jered Weaver and Dan Haren.

The Angels have been light offensively, but with Peter Bourjos threatening to finish strong and Mike Trout showing he is a better option than Vernon Wells, the right alchemy could be in place for an offensive run.

The schedule should be fairly easy for the Angels during the first week and a half as they face the Twins and Mariners at home. On the other hand, the first-place Texas Rangers have the misfortune of having to face the Red Sox and the Rays on the road. This could turn into a very tight race by next weekend.

San Francisco Giants

Games back: 6
Games remaining: 25
Playoff odds: 4.6 percent

Since the Division Series was first played in 1995, only two teams have come back after being down by six games on the first of September. In 2006, the Minnesota Twins were six games back from the AL Central-leading Detroit Tigers. The Twins would go on to win 19 of their remaining 29 games while the Tigers were pushed into a wild card berth by only winning 11 of their final 27 games.

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The second time happened in the NL West in 2007 when the Colorado Rockies were down six games from a wild card spot. The Rockies won 21 of their 28 remaining games to force a one-game playoff with the San Diego Padres. As you may have heard, the Rockies won that game, and we have been saddled with the term “Rocktober” ever since.

The Giants don’t have as many games to pull off a miraculous run, but they do get a chance to face the division-leading Arizona Diamondbacks at home beginning tonight for three games.

Even with Carlos Beltran fully healthy and hitting the ball like he did before being dealt at the trade deadline, it’s very hard to see an offense as anemic as the Giants winning the necessary 18 or 19 games needed. A six-game deficit is a lot to make up in only 25 games.

Assuming the D’backs stay true to form and follow up their nine-game winning streak with another multiple-game losing streak and only win 45 percent of their games, it still would prove too tall of an order for a team that has averaged fewer than three-and-a-half runs per game.

St. Louis Cardinals

Games back: 7.5
Games remaining: 25
Playoff odds: 4.3 percent

After sweeping the first-place Milwaukee Brewers yesterday, the deficit became more manageable, but with only 25 games remaining, a lot has to go right for the Cardinals, and a lot has to go wrong for the Brewers.

The Cardinals have the benefit of playing the most home games among all playoff hopefuls this month. It also must be mentioned that no team has ever made the playoffs since the divisions were expanded after being down eight-and-a-half games at the start of September. The current record holder is the Seattle Mariners, who found themselves down six-and-a-half games, only to win 19 of their remaining 28 games to take first place from the Angels—and all 28 of those games were needed.

On the flip side, the Brewers also have 25 games left, but 12 of them are against the Cubs, Astros and Pirates, against whom the team has a win-loss record of 28-9 this season.

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Brad Johnson
Brad Johnson

“Since the Division Series was first played in 1995, only two teams have come back after being down by six games on the first of September.”

This is a bit misleading since I can recall at least one additional instance of a team overcoming a 6+ game deficit AFTER Sept. 1. Most recently (as best I recall), the Phillies overcame a 7 game deficit to the Mets with 17 to play.

Vince Caramela
Vince Caramela

Yep.  On Sep. 12 2007, the Phillies fell back seven games and came back to knock off the Mets.  Originally I wanted this come out yesterday and I was going off Sep. 1st data only (The Phils were 3 games back at that time).