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Orioles playoff odds: Still in the picture with a month to go

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The Orioles have 32 games left to play. They're two games out of the second wild card spot, and one of seven teams within three games of that spot.

Baltimore Orioles v Boston Red Sox Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images

The confused tangle in the American League for the second wild card spot has been a mess for the last month and more, with no team ever breaking out and showing strength for long. Teams have 30-32 games still to play in the season and there are a total of seven teams within three games of that spot.

Someone, eventually, is going to emerge from that crowded field. Teams whose presence in the periphery is something of an accident will start to lose a bit more and drop out. Other teams may keep muddling along without ever getting much closer and time will eventually run out on them. There are only so many games still to be played.

The various models that spit out playoff projections have their guesses about what will happen. They run thousands of simulations to arrive at their conclusions. In the real world, we get only one, and things can get weird and unexpected very easily.

Minnesota Twins

  • Record: 67-63
  • Standing: Second AL wild card team
  • Current playoff odds (Fangraphs): 31.2%
  • Next week: vs. White Sox (three games), vs. Royals (three games)
  • Games remaining against playoff contenders: 16

The Twins have two big advantages working in their favor. The first is that they are already 1.5 games ahead of any of the closest competition. So if nothing changes, they make it. The second advantage is that their schedule has a lot of games left against jabroni teams, including seven of their final ten games being against the disappointing Tigers.

Los Angeles Angels, etc.

  • Record: 66-65
  • Standing: 1.5 games behind Twins
  • Current playoff odds (Fangraphs): 20.6%
  • Next week: vs. Athletics (three games), at Rangers (three games)
  • Games remaining against playoff contenders: 21

Where there is Mike Trout, there is hope. Six of the next nine games that the Angels play will be against the Athletics, so this is going to be their real chance to boost themselves into the top spot and then find a way to stay there. With as many injuries to pitchers that this team has suffered this year, it's incredible that they're still in the race.

Seattle Mariners

  • Record: 66-65
  • Standing: 1.5 games behind Twins
  • Current playoff odds (Fangraphs): 15.1%
  • Next week: at Orioles (three games), vs. Athletics (three games)
  • Games remaining against playoff contenders: 25

It's not going to be a cakewalk here for the Mariners, as nearly all of their remaining games are against teams who are either in a postseason spot or within three games of one. However, seven of those games are against the Rangers, and they don't play Texas for two more weeks. The Rangers are three games out. They could drop out of the picture by the time Seattle is playing them.

Baltimore Orioles

  • Record: 65-65
  • Standing: Two games behind Twins
  • Current playoff odds (Fangraphs): 8.6%
  • Next week: vs. Mariners (three games), vs. Blue Jays (four games)
  • Games remaining against playoff contenders: 23

Hey, we know these guys. The Orioles have not had a record better than .500 since June 11, and yet, here they are, two games out. Now is their chance to climb above and stay there, because if they can win the Mariners series, that's one team they've hurdled that's between them and the top.

They have seven games remaining against the Rays, who are also three games out. If the Rays drop out of the picture, the Orioles path down the very stretch gets much smoother. Seven of their final nine games are against the Rays.

Kansas City Royals

  • Record: 64-65
  • Standing: 2.5 games behind Twins
  • Current playoff odds (Fangraphs): 16.7%
  • Next week: vs. Rays (three games), at Twins (three games)
  • Games remaining against playoff contenders: 15

At this point, most of any team's remaining games are against divisional foes. The AL Central has two non-contending teams, where the East and West have just one, so the Royals have the same easy schedule advantage as the Twins do. That's less apparent over the next week, though, so the Orioles need to put distance ahead of this team now.

Tampa Bay Rays

  • Record: 65-67
  • Standing: Three games behind Twins
  • Current playoff odds (Fangraphs): 12.9%
  • Next week: at Royals (three games), at White Sox (three games)
  • Games remaining against playoff contenders: 27

The Rays have the hardest road of the whole bunch, as they can't even rely on the one bad team in the AL East to pad their schedule - they've already completed their games against the Blue Jays. They even have two games remaining against the NL Central-leading Cubs. If they make it, they will have earned it. After this week's White Sox series, no non-contenders remain on their schedule.

Texas Rangers

  • Record: 64-66
  • Standing: Three games behind Twins
  • Current playoff odds (Fangraphs): 5.4%
  • Next week: at Astros (three games), vs. Angels (three games)
  • Games remaining against playoff contenders: 22

The three games against the Astros are being displaced, possibly to Tampa, due to flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey's torrential rains.

As for the Rangers themselves, it's kind of absurd that the team that traded away Yu Darvish is still hanging around in the playoff picture, but that's the AL wild card for you this year. After all, the Twins, who are leading it all, also ended up being small sellers at the trade deadline. That hasn't held them back any.

**

The Fangraphs projection still thinks that 82 wins will be sufficient to take down the second wild card spot, projecting, if you round up, a tie between the Twins and Angels at 82 wins. I continue to have my doubts that 82-83 wins will be enough for a playoff spot - but if it is, the Orioles "only" need to go 18-12 the rest of the way to get to 83.

Any bad week will start to drop these teams from the periphery out of the picture. That would include the Orioles. If they drop their series against the Mariners and then stumble against the Blue Jays, they'll be in trouble. Here's hoping they end the week above .500 and keep building from there.