Five games out of first place…does not seem like a lot of games to make up on June 23rd now does it? Well based on history in the American League being this many games out on this day really is a mountain.
In 2006, there were seven teams that were 5 games out on this day. The Orioles, Rays, Twins, Indians, Royals, Mariners and Angels. Of these seven teams only the Twins by going 59-31 made the playoffs.
In 2007, there were nine teams that were 5 games out on this day. The Yankees, Blue Jays, Orioles, Twins, White Sox, Royals, Mariners, Oakland, and the Rangers. Of these nine teams only the Yankees by going 58-32 made the playoffs.
In 2008, there were seven teams that were 5 games out on this day. The Orioles, Blue Jays, Indians, Royals, Oakland, Texas, and the Mariners. Of these seven teams none of them made the playoffs.
In 2009, there were eight teams that were 5 games out on this day. The Yankees, Blue Jays, Rays, Orioles, White Sox, Royals, Indians, and Oakland. Of these eight teams only the Yankees after going 65-27 made the playoffs.
In 2010, there were six teams that were 5 games out on this day. The Blue Jays, Orioles, Royals, Indians, Oakland, and Seattle. Not one of these teams made the playoffs.
So in the last five seasons of all 37 teams in total that were 5 games out of first on this date only 8.1% (3 of 37) of these teams made it to the playoffs. The ’06 Twins and the ’07 and ’09 Yankees and they had an average record of 60-30. The history of these teams during these years is also are important part to look at and one could argue that these teams were significant worse before this date than they should have been.
This brings us to this year. There are currently five teams that are 5 games out of first place (which is the lowest in at least the last 5 years) and these teams are the Blue Jays, Orioles, Twins, Royals, and Oakland. This means in the last six years on this date the Blue Jays have been five games back five times, the Orioles six times, the Twins three times, the Royals six times, and Oakland five times. Of all the times these teams that have been five games out on this date (25 total times) ONLY the Twins in ’06 were able to make the playoffs. This means that in all the chances the teams that are currently five games out had to make the playoffs they only did it 4% of the time. Moreover, if we presume that it would at least 85 wins to make the playoffs the average record these teams would need to go would be 52-36. This, of course, does not take into account both the Blue Jays and Orioles play in the AL East where the chance of them making the playoffs would need to rely on them making it in as a wild card as winning the division outright would take (based on the last five years) 95 wins and hence a record of around 62-26 and does anyone think the Orioles or Blue Jays can go 36 games over .500 from here out when the Blue Jays have won 36 games and Orioles 33 games all season?
No five games out on this date is not an impossible hill to climb and teams have done it before but the mountain for these teams to climb is getting larger and larger and soon decisions will have to be made if they can truly compete this year or will they need to make players available to true playoff contenders and set themselves up for future years to come.