Jon Paul Morosi has the details -
Five days from the end of the regular season, chaos reigns in the American League.
Not a single division title has been clinched. As a matter of fact, not a drop of champagne has been spilled to celebrate the securing of a playoff berth. Friday night saw extraordinary pennant-race drama, with six of the seven games carrying playoff implications. (Pity the poor Indians and Royals, undoubtedly outdrawn by high-school football in Cleveland.)
The league’s five bids will be awarded in due time, perhaps with the help of a one-game tiebreaker (or two) next Thursday. But there’s a larger question here: Who, exactly, is the favorite to win the AL pennant?
For that matter, is there a favorite?
The Texas Rangers lead the league with 92 wins … followed by the Yankees at 91 … the Baltimore Orioles at 90 … and the Oakland A’s at 89.
In all, there are four teams with between 86 and 90 victories: Baltimore, Oakland, Los Angeles and Tampa Bay. It’s likely that two of them will miss the postseason, while the AL Central champion – Detroit (84) or Chicago (83) – slips into October with a lesser win total. Most tellingly, managers and players point out that two of the most dangerous playoff teams — the Rays and Angels, because of their rotations — aren’t even on pace to qualify.
The temptation is there to credit (or blame) the additional wild card for the compressed playoff picture, but it’s not as if the change in playoff format forced teams to be about as good as their competitors. The circumstances are independent of one another. The competitive balance is significant, though, insofar as teams are trying desperately to win their divisions rather than settle for the one-game wild card playoff.
Whatever the cause, it’s undeniable that only hairsplitting differences exist among contending clubs. Entering Saturday, the AL division leads were one game (East), one game (Central) and three games (West). Through 157 games last year, the margins were seven, 12 1/2 and six, respectively.
I’m trying to remember the last time that three divisions in one league were this close, this late. Maybe it was 2007 in the National League? And, before that, it would have been 2001 in the National League. But, without question, what we’re seeing now in the A.L. is special. Thus, it should be enjoyed!