slide 9 games over the Tampa Bay Rays, and the Rays would be forced into a one game playoff against the Texas Rangers. So let's take a trip into the near future and take a look at possible ALDS match ups.
We'll start with the current division leaders, the Detroit Tigers and the Oakland Athletics. Both teams have reasonably comfortable leads (6 for the Tigers, 6.5 for the A's) and should win their divisions, barring a major collapse.
I'll start with Oakland - Most analysts have been so focused on the Wild Card race that they have forgotten the Athletics have been running away with the AL West. They are in the top 10 for runs (6th), OBP (9th), and slugging percentage (7th), according to ESPN. Their pitching is the real story, though, with the emergence of young pitcher Sonny Gray, who has 56 strikeouts in 54 innings pitched and a 2.50 ERA, according to ESPN. Also in the A's roster are a few familiar faces: Josh Reddick and Jed Lowrie, who will bear watching if the Red Sox face the A's.
If it comes to the Red Sox vs. A's in the Division Series, the Red Sox hold an edge in just about every offensive category (1st or 2nd in the majors in every major category, according to ESPN), but they also have a terrific pitching staff.
Prediction: Red Sox in 4 because the Red Sox combination of offense and pitching will be too much for the A's.
Next up is the Detroit Tigers, who lead the AL Central. The Tigers would prove to be a tougher match up for the Red Sox because they have the best 3-4 combination in the heart of their lineup, they've got the likely CY Young winner and they have Jose Iglesias as their shortstop. The September series was all Red Sox, as they beat Max Scherzer and then blew out the Tigers the next day, but if they were to meet somewhere in the playoffs, something tells me they would be a much tougher challenge and a likely ALCS match up.
Prediction: If they do meet in the ALDS, the series will go the full 5 games, which the Red Sox will win. But I think they'll meet in the ALCS.
Rangers/Rays - If the season were to end tomorrow, these teams would have to play the one game playoff to get into the ALDS. I don't think either of these teams would pose a legit threat based on their recent stretches. The Rangers just broke up a 7 game losing streak vs. the Rays last night and the Rays went from leading the division to all but out of the division conversation. At this point, the best these teams can hope for is a one game playoff, which favors the Red Sox because they'll probably throw their best pitchers into a one game playoff.
Prediction - The Red Sox would most likely sweep both of these teams if the season were to end tomorrow based on they way both these teams have been playing in September.
These are still "What if" scenarios and there is still a lot to be decided, especially with the Wild Card race. There are still plenty of teams who could get in via the one - game playoff. Follow me on Twitter @ConorJF1016 or leave a comment below.