As we approach the middle of September, the NL playoff picture is becoming increasingly clear as the Nats close in on the NL East and teams separate themselves in the Wild Card race.
We are in the home stretch of the 2024 regular season and the playoff picture in the NL is becoming more clear. We take a look at each of the races and make our predictions as to what to expect this post-season.
This one is all but wrapped up as the Nationals lead the division by __ games over the second place Phillies. With only __ games to go, the Nats are all but certain to win this division and are looking to lock up the #1 seed in the NL. Chasing them for the top seed are the Padres (6 games back) and Reds (7 games), with the Cardinals and Giants also still within striking distance. In an NL with little separation between teams 1-6, the #1 seed doesn’t have nearly the meaning it usually does, as the Nats will get a tough matchup with whomever they face in the divisional series. The Phillies still have a long shot at a Wild Card slot, as they currently sit 7.5 games back of the #2 Wild Card position as we enter the season’s final 3 weeks.
Prediction: The Nats close the division by the middle of September and try to stay healthy over the season’s final weeks. They will enter the NL playoffs with home field advantage and have to face the winner of the Wild Card round.
The masterfully rebuilt Reds have performed in 2024, and they currently lead the 4X SAHL NL Central champion Cardinals by 3.5 games. The Cards have never lost the NL Central in the history of the SAHL, but Cincy has opened up a 3.5 game lead with 20 games to play and has the more favorable schedule down the stretch (.495 opponents win % vs. St. Louis .502). The two clubs play each other 6 times over the next 3 weeks, so anything can happen down the stretch. The loser of this race is still in solid position to pick up one of the two NL Wild Card slots, as the Cards currently sit 5.5 games ahead of the fading Dodgers and 7.5 games ahead of the Phillies.
Prediction: The Reds hold off a late season charge by the ever-present Cardinals to win the division, giving SAHL a central NL division winner that is not the Cards for the first time in its history. Regardless, the Cards enter the post-season hot and jump in as a Wild Card.
The closest of all the NL divisional races, the NL West currently has the surging Padres ahead of the Giants by 1.5 games, with the Dodgers fading to 8.5 back after a tough 2-4 week (1-2 vs Padres, 1-2 vs Giants). San Francisco was a heavy division favorite heading into the season, but despite numerous key injuries the Padres have managed to stay atop the division thus far. The Giants’ road to a division title got much more difficult the last two weeks as the team suffered significant long-term injuries to key players McKenna and Jones. Still, not all is dire for the Giants as they currently sit in the #1 Wild Card slot, with a commanding 7 game lead over the Dodgers, who sit 5.5 behind the #2 Wild Card Cardinals.
Prediction: The Padres are slightly less injured than the Giants at key positions and hang on to win the NL West. The Giants nab a Wild Card slot.
The Giants currently hold the #1 Wild Card slot, 1.5 games in front of the Cardinals, who hold the #2 slot by 5.5 games over the Dodgers and 7.5 games over the Phillies. The Dodgers have some work to do if they want to make the post-season, but with their last 6 games agains the lowly Pirates and Diamondbacks, they have a chance to make up some ground in the season’s final 3 weeks. While the Phillies’ playoff chances are slim, they have a chance to be a spoiler in September, with series against the Padres and Dodgers remaining.
Prediction: The Cards make a run at the NL Central but fall just a bit short in the season’s last week. The injury bug in San Francisco takes its toll and the Cardinals jump them to become the #1 Wild Card. The Giants hang on to the #2 Wild Card slot and we get an enticing re-match of last year’s NLCD as a one game Wild Card playoff.