AccuScore: Hang on for a wild ride in NL chase

AccuScore provides baseball predictions and projections by calculating the probability teams have of winning each game, their division and making the playoffs. Using projected starting lineups, baseball predictions are created by simulating each game of the season one play at a time, 10,000 times. Visit AccuScore for weekly updates for all baseball and sports predictions.

American League

Baseball’s new postseason format allows for five playoff entrants: the three division winners plus two wild cards. In the American League, AccuScore sees five clear favorites and a sixth true contender with every other team trailing significantly before the start of the 2012 season.

The Rangers and Tigers are significant favorites to win their divisions. The Yankees and Red Sox – as they often are – are in a virtual dead heat for the AL East crown, but both are at least 75 percent likely to make the postseason. The Angels are projected to win nearly 91 games, putting them right there with both AL East teams in the race for one of the two wild cards. Outside of those five teams, the Tampa Bay Rays hold the greatest potential heading into the season and are basically a coin toss to make the playoffs.

The Blue Jays are talented, but they have the misfortune of competing against the Yankees, Rays and Red Sox. The Orioles have the same dilemma, but without the talent. The AL Central possibly holds some intrigue if the Tigers falter due to poor projected defense and some depth concerns in the pitching staff. The White Sox and Indians are both projected for about 77 wins. The Royals and Twins hold some appeal (youth and talent for Kansas City, track record before 2011 for Minnesota), but neither are seen in AccuScore simulations as true contenders. They combine to make the playoffs just five percent of the time. Seattle, meanwhile, has holes both in the lineup and pitching staff and could be one of the worst teams in baseball.

AMERICAN LEAGUE WINS LOSS WIN% MAKE PLAYOFFS WIN
DIVISION
Texas Rangers 93.8 68.2 57.9% 83.7% 59.1%
Detroit Tigers 93.3 68.7 57.6% 89.5% 86.2%
New York Yankees 91.7 70.3 56.6% 75.5% 39.6%
Boston Red Sox 91.7 70.3 56.6% 75.0% 40.4%
Los Angeles Angels 90.8 71.2 56.1% 72.1% 38.6%
Tampa Bay Rays 86.8 75.2 53.6% 49.7% 16.8%
Toronto Blue Jays 79.1 82.9 48.8% 14.9% 3.1%
Chicago White Sox 77.4 84.6 47.8% 12.4% 5.8%
Cleveland Indians 77.2 84.8 47.7% 12.0% 5.9%
Oakland Athletics 76.8 85.2 47.4% 8.9% 2.2%
Kansas City Royals 73.4 88.6 45.3% 3.4% 1.5%
Minnesota Twins 71.0 91.0 43.8% 1.6% 0.7%
Seattle Mariners 67.6 94.5 41.7% 0.4% 0.1%
Baltimore Orioles 67.3 94.7 41.5% 0.4% 0.1%

National League

Unlike in the American League, the playoff race in the National League is wide open. Eight teams look like legitimate playoff contenders with at least a 34-percent chance of playing deep into October. Those same eight teams also have at least a 15-percent chance of winning their respective divisions. The extra wild card spot will clearly ratchet up competition in the NL.

The Phillies, once again, are the clear favorites overall because of their pitching rotation. Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels are the true difference-makers in the playoff race. The Braves look to be the biggest challengers in the NL East, but still project to be eight games behind in the standings. Atlanta is 54-percent likely to make the playoffs and 20.5 percent likely to win the division. Washington is a dark horse pick by many this year, but AccuScore sees the team more likely a year away. The Nationals make the playoffs in 11.6 percent of simulations.

Cincinnati is the leader in what should be a competitive NL Central race. The Reds win the division 50.6 percent of the time. They have less than a projected three-game lead over the defending World Series champion Cardinals. St. Louis is 33-percent likely to win the division, and would be the most likely wild card team (63.4 percent playoff probability). Milwaukee benefits from having Ryan Braun for the full season, and the Brewers make the playoffs in 41.6 percent of simulations.

The NL West should be another competitive race between the Giants, Rockies and Diamondbacks. San Francisco is 50.9-percent likely to win the division, while Arizona is forecasted at 20 percent and Colorado at 24 percent. Each team has issues: the Giants offense remains weak overall; Arizona is tasked with repeating last year’s surprise performance; and Colorado is relying on youth and an iffy pitching rotation. The Dodgers are an unknown quantity at this point with probably the best hitter and pitcher in the NL in Matt Kemp and Clayton Kershaw, but little else surrounding them. It remains to be seen how much the new ownership can change the roster this season to make a playoff push. San Diego has one of the best farm systems in the majors, but that wonât benefit the big club this season. The Padres are just five-percent likely to sneak into the postseason.

NATIONAL LEAGUE WINS LOSS WIN% MAKE PLAYOFFS WIN
DIVISION
Philadelphia Phillies 95.7 66.3 59.1% 88.6% 74.8%
Cincinnati Reds 92.1 70.0 56.8% 76.4% 50.6%
San Francisco Giants 89.3 72.7 55.1% 66.2% 50.9%
St. Louis Cardinals 89.3 72.7 55.1% 63.4% 33.0%
Atlanta Braves 87.5 74.5 54.0% 54.0% 20.5%
Milwaukee Brewers 85.4 76.6 52.7% 41.6% 15.7%
Colorado Rockies 84.7 77.3 52.3% 40.2% 24.0%
Arizona Diamondbacks 83.5 78.5 51.6% 34.3% 20.0%
Washington Nationals 78.1 83.9 48.2% 11.6% 3.0%
San Diego Padres 75.1 86.9 46.3% 5.0% 2.3%
Miami Marlins 74.9 87.1 46.3% 5.8% 1.3%
Los Angeles Dodgers 74.9 87.1 46.2% 6.4% 2.8%
New York Mets 73.7 88.3 45.5% 2.6% 0.4%
Chicago Cubs 73.0 89.0 45.1% 2.4% 0.6%
Pittsburgh Pirates 69.2 92.8 42.7% 0.7% 0.1%
Houston Astros 65.7 96.3 40.5% 0.1% 0.0%