The odds are low, but it’s not over yet
The 2021 season is winding down, with only 19 games remaining on the Oakland A’s schedule. Their hopes of reaching the playoffs are slim, especially after dropping their last two contests against a last-place opponent, but it ain’t over till it’s over.
In the AL West division, Oakland trails the Houston Astros by 6.5 games. Mathematically that’s still a possibility for the A’s, but realistically their path to the postseason is a Wild Card.
There are five teams battling for two AL Wild Card spots. The Yankees played early today and lost, so here are the standings entering Monday evening, with everybody except Oakland playing tonight:
The Blue Jays and Red Sox lead the way, with New York falling a half-game behind this afternoon but still tied with Boston in the loss column. Then the A’s and the Mariners are within reach, tied with each other at three games out — but only two back in the loss column compared with the Red Sox and Yankees.
Here’s the remainder of Oakland’s schedule:
- 3 @ Royals
- 3 @ Angels
- 4 vs. Mariners
- 4 vs. Astros
- 3 @ Mariners
- 3 @ Astros
They have one more week against sub-.500 opponents, and then it’s fellow contenders the rest of the way with Seattle and Houston. The other Wild Card teams have it slightly easier, but they do each have two or three series left against good teams, and sometimes they play each other which guarantees one of them takes a loss.
The A’s could help their odds a lot by taking advantage of the weaker competition in the coming days, which they didn’t do by losing a series against the last-place Rangers last weekend. Then they’ll get a chance to directly knock out another Wild Card candidate if they can muster a big performance against the Mariners, and technically there are enough head-to-heads left against the Astros to make one final run at the division.
But all of that would require the A’s suddenly getting hot for more than a few days at a time, and their recent play has been discouraging. In particular the bullpen has blown eight saves in the past three weeks, resulting in six extra losses, but the rotation and lineup have also been inconsistent lately.
The postseason odds are not in Oakland’s favor, according to some major sources.
- FanGraphs: 5.4% (split 4.4% Wild Card, 1% division)
- FiveThirtyEight: 7% (split 6% Wild Card, 1% division)
- Baseball-Reference: 10.5% (split 9% Wild Card, 1.5% division)
But they’re not at zero yet, and last week we saw how a few good days in a row can change the picture a lot. There’s still time for the A’s to control most of their own fate if they just win some games. They’re good enough to be in this race, but can they prove they’re good enough to be atop it?