What's at stake over the final week of the MLB season?
The 2023 MLB season is nearing the finish line, and there are a number of intriguing items yet to be resolved.
Here's what you need to keep an eye on over the final week.
Playoff odds courtesy of FanGraphs.
- Orioles hold tiebreaker over Rays (8-5)
The Orioles are looking to win their first division title since 2014 and second since 1997. There are still some question marks about the rotation and lack of postseason experience, but Baltimore has proved doubters wrong all year. It wouldn't be surprising to see them do the same in the playoffs.
|Team||Record||PCT||GB||Remaining||Odds to win AL West|
|Rangers||87-68||.561||--||@LAA (3) @SEA (4)||82.2%|
|Astros||85-71||.545||2.5||@SEA (3) @ARI (3)||11.3%|
|Mariners||84-71||.542||3||HOU (3) TEX (4)||6.4%|
- Mariners hold tiebreaker over Astros (8-2)
- Astros hold tiebreaker over Rangers (9-4)
- Rangers hold tiebreaker over Mariners (8-1)
At times, it feels like none of the AL West contenders actually want to win the division. The Astros, Rangers, and Mariners have each endured multiple rough patches of late. Houston could rue series losses to the lowly Oakland Athletics and Kansas City Royals if it ends up costing the club a sixth division crown in seven seasons or even the postseason altogether.
Texas' weekend sweep of the Mariners could end up being the big momentum swing that ultimately propels the team to its first AL West title since 2016. The two clubs will close out the regular season at T-Mobile Park in Seattle.
AL wild card
|Rays||95-62||.605||+9.5||@BOS (2) @TOR (3)||Clinched|
|Blue Jays||87-69||.558||+2||NYY (3) TB (3)||97.5%|
|Astros||85-71||.545||--||@SEA (3) @ARI (3)||60.4%|
|Mariners||84-71||.542||0.5||HOU (3) TEX (4)||45.1%|
- Mariners hold tiebreaker over Blue Jays (divisional record)
- Blue Jays hold tiebreaker over Astros (4-3)
- Mariners hold tiebreaker over Astros (8-2)
The race for the final two AL wild-card spots has been a roller-coaster ride. The Blue Jays, Mariners, and Astros have all experienced highs and lows in September, with their respective playoff odds wildly fluctuating on any given day.
Toronto has shown great resiliency, rebounding from a deflating four-game home sweep at the hands of the Rangers earlier this month. The Blue Jays' identity revolves around strong pitching and defense after several years of being an offense-first team. They could be a dark horse in the postseason if they can get there.
The Mariners welcome the Astros to Seattle for a crucial three-game series beginning Monday. The outcome could be crucial to determining who ends up in the postseason.
NL wild card
|Phillies||87-69||.558||+4.5||PIT (3) @NYM (3)||100%|
|D-Backs||82-73||.529||+0.5||@NYY @CWS (3) HOU (3)||84.8%|
|Cubs||82-74||.526||--||@ATL (3) @MIL (3)||56.7%|
|Marlins||81-75||.519||1||@NYM (3) @PIT (3)||51.8%|
|Reds||80-77||.510||2.5||@CLE (2) @STL (3)||6.7%|
The Phillies have nearly locked down the top wild-card spot. After last year's surprising World Series run, Philadelphia is probably the one team the contenders are hoping to avoid.
The Cubs looked to be in the driver's seat for playoff positioning but dropped four consecutive series to throw their chances into serious peril.
The Marlins are navigating life without reigning NL Cy Young winner Sandy Alcantara, whose forearm issue ended his season. Prized rookie right-hander Eury Pérez was also placed on the injured list, leaving the Marlins without arguably their two most impactful starters for the final push.
This race has become at least something of a competition. For most of the season, it felt like the MVP award had Ronald Acuña Jr.'s name on it. However, the summer surge from Los Angeles Dodgers superstar Mookie Betts could give voters some pause.
Betts leads Acuña in fWAR, and the two are close in a number of other statistical categories. The Braves' deep and talented lineup could work against Acuña in the eyes of some voters, but MLB's first-ever 40-homer, 60-stolen base season will surely be more than enough to secure him his first career MVP.
Despite missing almost the entire last month of the campaign as a hitter and not appearing as a pitcher since late August, the AL MVP remains Shohei Ohtani's to lose. It would be a moderate surprise if he wasn't a unanimous choice to claim the honor for the second time in the last three seasons.
NL Cy Young
This is one of the most wide-open races in recent memory. There are as many as five pitchers who could stake a claim at taking home the Cy Young.
Padres left-hander Blake Snell appears to have the edge heading into the final week as he looks to become only the seventh pitcher in MLB history to win a Cy Young in both the AL and NL. Snell leads all NL starters in ERA and sits inside the top 10 in K/9 and fWAR.
Braves hurler Spencer Strider has had a handful of blowup outings. Those rough starts have inflated his ERA, but he still boasts strong peripherals, strikeout numbers, and fWAR. He could present a compelling case for voters.
Zac Gallen has been a mainstay for the Diamondbacks' rotation in 2023. He's set career highs in strikeouts, innings pitched, and fWAR. However, a 4.11 ERA since the All-Star break could be his biggest hurdle.
Cubs left-hander Justin Steele could receive votes after an incredible run, but his recent struggles, which include allowing six runs over three innings in his last start against the Pittsburgh Pirates, will likely be too much to overcome.
AL Cy Young
Yankees ace Gerrit Cole has earned the unofficial title of MLB's best pitcher to never win a Cy Young. That seems very likely to change. Cole has enjoyed an incredible 2023 season despite New York's struggles as a team.
The 33-year-old put an exclamation mark on his season by holding the Blue Jays to one run on two hits with nine strikeouts over eight sparkling innings in his final home start.
Cole is inside the top five among AL pitchers in wins, strikeouts, and fWAR, and he leads in innings pitched and ERA. It's looking like a pretty safe bet that Cole will become the first Yankees pitcher to win the award since Roger Clemens in 2001.
Minnesota Twins right-hander Sonny Gray has enjoyed the best season of his career and could finish runner-up to Cole in the voting. The Blue Jays' Kevin Gausman and Mariners' Luis Castillo are also likely to receive some votes.