Last week we took a look at the top five contenders in the NL ((Fred – link to NL Playoff Update article sent over last weekend)), specifically noting how all five teams were on winning streaks and were performing particularly well against the runline. This week we take a look at the top contenders in the American League and see how that stack up.
Kansas City and Houston have some breathing room in their division races, but the AL East continues to be a battle between the Blue Jays and Yankees. Toronto recently overtook New York in the standings, and lead the Bronx Bombers by a game and a half entering Wednesday’s action. Texas is currently slotted in the final AL Wild Card spot (behind New York), with Minnesota just a game behind the Rangers.
Although the Royals have split their last six games, they are still on a long term 17-7 winning run over the past four weeks to build a comfortable 5.5-game lead over the Blue Jays for home field advantage throughout the MLB Playoffs. However 7 of those 17 wins have only come by one run, so runline players would actually show a losing 10-14 record backing the best team in the AL over that stretch.
Speaking of the Blue Jays, they enter Wednesday winners of 9 of their last 12 games overall, and unlike the Royals they have done well against the runline as 7 of those 9 victories have come by at least two runs. Toronto is the only one of the three AL division leaders to be on par with the NL teams we spoke about last week.
Houston isn’t just doing poorly against the runline, they are having a tough time to win period. Astros had a big momentum boost after acquiring Scott Kazmir at the trade deadline, but have since cooled off in losing ten of their last 18 games overall.
With that instability, Texas has climbed back in the race for the AL West crown. The Rangers have won 14 of their last 19 games overall – five victories coming as underdogs – and are currently in line for a postseason appearance. And with 11 of those 14 wins coming by at least two runs, this may be a team to back on the runline until that hot streak comes to an end.
The Yankees currently hold the top AL Wild Card spot, and while they were struggling for a few weeks their offense has returned. The Yankees scored 15 runs on Friday night as well as a 20-run explosion on Sunday, and they are heating up again with four wins (all by 2+ runs) in their last five games.
Finally, Minnesota doesn’t get much love from the national media but they have quietly put together a 9-2 winning run to creep within a game of Texas for the last Wild Card spot. Two series against the Royals and Astros (both on the road) will determine if they can sustain that momentum.
Overall, the AL contenders are not on par with the NL contenders in terms of consistent ROI on the runline. Those who bet on baseball may want to pick their spots as opposed to blindly backing a team every night.