It is August 28, 2021, and the AL West race is essentially over. Your Houston Astros have won the AL West. Why would I say this?
First, let’s project what SHOULD happen the rest of the season. The Astros have a 6.5 game lead over the Athletics, and they have 34 games remaining, The Astros have one of the easiest remaining schedules (remaining teams have a 0.482 winning percentage.) Given their current winning percentage and their remaining weak schedule, the Astros SHOULD go 21-13 down the stretch. This would give them a 97-65 record. Doing a similar analysis with Oakland and Seattle leads them to both 87-75 records.
(Schedule strength data from http://www.tankathon.com/mlb/remaining_schedule_strength)
If that is what SHOULD happen, what COULD happen?
The Astros have already gone 9-4 vs. the Athletics and 8-5 vs the Mariners. They have six games remaining with each team. If the Astros win one vs. the Athletics and two vs. the Mariners, they will own the tie breaker vs. both teams. Therefore, for this analysis the Athletics and Mariners would have to have a better record than the Astros to win the division.
Fangraphs (https://www.fangraphs.com/depthcharts.aspx?position=Standings) projects the Astros to finish 96-66, the Athletics to finish 87-75, and the Mariners to finish 85-77. They also have the Astros to have 98.3% odds to win the division (https://www.fangraphs.com/standings/playoff-odds). As a side note, they also have the Astros with the best odds (15.7%) in the American League to win the World Series.
Let’s look at three possibilities to illustrate why I say it is over.
Astros go 0.500 down the stretch
Let’s assume that the Astros ONLY win half of their games. This would leave them with a 93-69 record. To finish with a better record than the Astros, Oakland would have play 24-9 (0.727 winning percentage). Similarly, Seattle would have to finish 25-8 (0.758 winning percentage.) Are either of these reasonable? Not Really. I say if the Astros JUST go 0.500 in their remaining games, they win the division.
Astros get stone cold down the stretch
Let’s assume the Astros finish the worst we can possibly imagine (13-21) and finish only 89-73. To finish with a better record than the Astros, Oakland would have play 20-13 (0.606 winning percentage). Similarly, Seattle would have to finish 21-12 (0.636 winning percentage.) Is it reasonable to assume the Astros play 0.382 baseball 21% worse than they currently are playing AND for the A’s to play 0.606? I say no. If the Astros win ONLY 14 more games, they will win the AL West.
Oakland and Seattle get RED HOT
What if Oakland or Seattle get silly hot down the stretch? Let’s say Oakland goes 22-11 which would be winning 12% more games than their current performance and they finish 92-70. To reach the same record, Seattle would have to 23-10. To finish 91-71, the Astros would have to go 15-19 (0.441). Of all of the scenarios this is probably the most reasonable to assume Oakland OR Seattle get hot. I just don’t think either can get THIS hot.
Looking at the extremes shows why it is truly over. Your Astros have won the AL West. Mark it down.