The Detroit Tigers control their own destiny in terms of making the playoffs this season. What I mean is that, if the Tigers win all 15 of their remaining games, they will finish with a record of 35- 23, for a winning percentage of .603.
The Tigers currently find themselves 2.0 games behind the New York Yankees for the final playoff spot, and 0.5 games behind the Baltimore Orioles. Those two teams have five games remaining against each other, scheduled for this weekend. If one team sweeps those games, they maintain their lead over Detroit, while the other falls into 10th place. If they split them with the Yankees winning 3 of 5, and the Tigers win their next five games, Detroit would be virtually tied with New York, but percentage points ahead in eighth place. Then, it’s a race to the finish line, most wins are in.
Let’s say that the Yankees win all 17 of their remaining games. Well, seven of those games are against the Toronto Blue Jays, who are just two games up on New York and four games up on Detroit. That would put the Tigers three games ahead of the Jays for the final playoff spot, with the Yankees taking second place in the Eastern division.
The most perfect, evil storm that could hit the Tigers within games outside of their division would be for the Yankees to take 5 of 7 against Toronto while sweeping all five against Baltimore, but that still wouldn’t stop the Tigers from overtaking the Jays by a game. Change that to the Yankees winning 4 of 7, and the Jays would still hold onto second place, if both teams both won all their remaining games. But that would put the Tigers one game ahead of New York, even if the Yankees finished on a 14- 3 run.
If the Tigers and Yankees both finish the same number of games above .500, Detroit would be percentage points ahead of New York according to winning percentage. As luck would have it, the Tigers have two games against the St Louis Cardinals that were “postponed” but no makeup date has been announced, and the two teams do not have any mutual days off remaining on the schedule. The last such date was September 3, but MLB chose to not play those two missed games in a double header, instead giving both teams the day off.
So, let’s say MLB changes plans and schedules the Tigers vs Cardinals in a double header on September 28, the day after the season is scheduled to end. Well, if the Tigers remain true to form and win both games, that moves them to within one game of the Yankees- even if the Yankees win all their games. But either the Yankees or Toronto have to lose those seven games, and the Tigers would be in the playoffs!
The Tigers also have a shot, at least mathematically, of overtaking one of the three teams in their own division. They are currently packed within a game and a half of each other, 5.5 to 7 games ahead of Detroit. It would take some doing, but those teams have to play each other as well, and if the Tigers are going on a run, they’re going to pick up a few games on their victims.
The Chicago White Sox must play the Minnesota Twins and the Cleveland Indians four times each, while the Twins and Indians play each other three times. They could conjure up a perfect storm to split all those games and still remain ahead of the Tigers, even if Detroit goes 15- 0, sweeping all three enemies along the way. Not likely, but then none of this is likely.
Of course, the Tigers aren’t going to win all 15 games remaining. They haven’t done that since Babe Ruth was a baby. Not even in 1984 when they started out 35- 5, and these ain’t no ‘84 Tigers. But the point remains that the Tigers have within their own control, the ability to earn a playoff spot in 2020.
Chances are that the Tigers will make the playoffs if they can go on another six game win streak like they did just recently, and win half the rest of their games. An 11- 4 finish would put them at 31- 27 for the season, which is probably good enough for a playoff spot. The bad news is that they probably need that kind of a run, barring a total collapse in the Bronx, to grab a playoff spot this season.