Several teams have already played 13 games, which means by Sunday, they will be more than a quarter of the way through the season. That’s farther than you realized, right? You blink, and you miss a lot.
Thus, you might be a little surprised how, already, a few teams are essentially already playing for playoff positioning rather than playoff qualification. In a short season like this, with a playoff setup that’s so forgiving (16 teams will make it), all it really takes is a couple of good weeks and you’re most of the way there. Whether you realize it or not, some teams have basically nailed down a playoff spot already. It’s not official, mind you. But they’re pretty much there.
Here are five teams who are, for all intents and purposes, playoff teams already, along with their FanGraphs Playoffs Odds percentage. Teams are listed in order of their FanGraphs playoff odds, starting with the highest.
Dodgers: 10-4 (98.8 percent)
This one might seem a little strange because the Dodgers are, in fact, in second place: The surprisingly hot Rockies have a higher winning percentage. But who are we trying to kid here? The Dodgers have scored the most runs in baseball and entered Friday with the second-lowest ERA, which is an excellent way to win a ton of baseball games. Dustin May looks like not just a Rookie of the Year candidate but a Cy Young one, Mookie Betts is doing so many Mookie Betts things you can’t keep track of them, Corey Seager is back to his future-MVP-winner mode (although he exited Friday's game early), A.J. Pollock is somehow the best hitter on the team and Cody Bellinger hasn’t even gotten going yet. The Dodgers, a team everyone assumed was making the playoffs anyway, may be hurt by the more punishing playoff format once it gets going. But this team is gonna cruise to October.
Yankees: 9-4 (98.2 percent)
So, as it turns out, this is what it looks like when the Death Star is fully operational. Gerrit Cole has been all the Yankees could have hoped for in Year One, and Zack Britton suddenly looks like Peak Orioles Britton, but let’s not bury the lede here: The Yankees are mashing. They have a .782 OPS as a team during a time when offenses around the league are still struggling, and New York's lineup, the one we’ve all been waiting to be healthy at the same time, is downright terrifying. They somehow have four guys in the lineup with an OPS over .900, from A-Rod-numbers Gio Urshela to still-doing-it DJ LeMahieu to finally, finally healthy Giancarlo Stanton. But of course the real stud is Aaron Judge, who has more home runs than two whole teams and is on pace to break 30 homers in a 60-game season. The rest of the vaunted AL East is seemingly playing for second place at this point.
Twins: 10-4 (97.3 percent)
The addition of Josh Donaldson was the icing on the 100-win team cake in the offseason, but Donaldson hasn’t done much so far and he’s already on the shelf with injuries. But no worries, because the Twins are still the Twins and, more to the point, Nelson Cruz is still Nelson Cruz (and will be hitting 420-foot homers when he’s 93). The lineup is overwhelming one through nine, but the pitching has quietly driven Minnesota's hot start, with Randy Dobnak, of all people, looking like a Cy Young candidate, José Berríos solid as ever and Kenta Maeda and Homer Bailey a nifty veteran combo. And honestly, the best news for the Twins is that with the new playoff format, there is almost no way that they are going to face the Yankees in the first round of the postseason.
A’s: 10-4 (96.5 percent)
Surprise! The team with the highest playoff odds in the AL West is not the Astros. The A’s are downright lovely right now. The offense is scoring just enough runs despite relatively slow starts for Matt Chapman, Khris Davis and Marcus Semien, and the pitching looks deep and versatile: With Frankie Montas, Jesús Luzardo and Sean Manaea (who is off to a slow start, granted), they’ve got three pitchers in their 20s who don’t look that different than the old Hudson/Zito/Mulder trio. The A’s are also helped out a lot by a wobbly start by the rest of the division outside of Houston. The A’s and Astros are likely both making the playoffs, but thanks to their seven-game win streak, it’s the A’s who are currently in the driver’s seat.
Cubs: 10-3 (93.2 percent)
They have looked united under David Ross in a way that’s the precise opposite of the way they looked at the end of last year, and the rest of the division is barely making it out of the starting gate. Meanwhile, the Cubs are the hottest team in the sport, winning six in a row before Thursday's loss and zooming out to a 10-3 start. They already have a four-game lead in the division. Remember when people thought last year was the end of the Cubs dynasty? There’s no one in the National League set up better than they are right now.