The National League Wild Card race is exactly how it is described: wild.
The Nationals and Cardinals continue to cling to the top of the standings. However, entering play today, five teams are within five games of the final postseason spot.
There are roughly 47 days and 40 or so games left in the season, depending on each team's respective schedule.
Here is a breakdown of their chances, strengths, and weaknesses...
The Good: San Francisco's bullpen has been one of the best in the league this season, let alone among team's in the Wild Card race. Their lineup struggled through most of the summer, but began clicking after adding Alex Dickerson. When he hit the injured list, they returned to average production. He is expected to return soon, which they hope (along with Mike Yastrzemski) will get them back on track. They also have the fifth-easiest remaining schedule among their fellow Wild Card contenders, according to Power Rankings.
The Bad: Madison Bumgarner and Jeff Samardzija have been the team's only consistent, productive starting pitchers this season. They reportedly expect Johnny Cueto to return from the injured list and rejoin the staff in early September, but that will be good enough for just three or four starts. Similarly, if Dickerson hits a set back, which is common when dealing with an oblique strain, the offense will have to rely on veterans Buster Posey, Brandon Crawford and Brandon Belt, all of whom are having sub-par seasons.
The Odds (according to FanGraphs.com): 1.4 percent, down from 2.8 percent one month ago.
My Prediction: You've had a wonderful career as a manager, Bruce Bochy. But in your last season before retirement, you're going to fall short of a final postseason appearance.
The Good: Any lineup with Bryce Harper, Rhys Hoskins, J.T. Realmuto and Jean Segura can catch fire at any time. Similarly, Aaron Nola, Zach Eflin and Jake Arrieta also have the talent and experience to catch fire. As a group, it's hard to imagine they repeat being just average, which is what they've been doing the past month.
The Bad: The above seven players are not enough, specifically in the rotation, where Nola has been their only reliable starter. Also, if you think the Mets bullpen was bad at points this season, Philly's bullpen has been consistently worse. If their relievers don't pick it up, Harper & Co. will need to score a billion runs each game.
The Odds: 5.8 percent, down from 25 percent just three weeks ago.
My Prediction: They started hot, but sustained success was a long, long time ago. They've been struggling for the better part of three months. Squint and you can see a turn around, but you also see a group of players with either no postseason experience, or guys known for choking in big spots.
The Good: Perennial MVP threat Christian Yelich and rookie Keston Hiura have been hot since the latter was promoted in late May. That's it, though. That's their good...
The Bad: Yelich and Hiura are terrific, but they are not enough to make up for the rest of the lineup, which has been struggling since before the All-Star break. Their pitching has also been among the least productive in the league.
The Odds: 29 percent, down from a high of 44 percent last month.
My Prediction: The Brewers need Mike Moustakas, Lorenzo Cain and Yasmani Grandal to each have monster Septembers, all while Yelich and Hiura continue to shine. Otherwise, they'll fall short, mostly due to their pitching.
The Good: Like the Mets, they've been hot since the All-Star break. Reliable hitters Paul Goldschmidt and Marcell Ozuna have been carrying the offense, the bullpen is strong and consistent, and the franchise has a long tradition of performing well down the stretch.
The Bad: As good as their bullpen has been, relievers Andrew Miller and Carlos Martinez have been a liability. At some point, especially in late September when their younger pitchers start running out of gas, the Cardinals will need their veteran arms to live up to their reputations. Their rotation has been up and down all year, which is likely to continue the rest of the season.
The Odds: 38.9 percent, down from 55 percent last week.
The Prediction: It's difficult to ignore the franchise's history of pulling off miracles by upping their game down the stretch. However, in reality, one season has nothing to do with the other, and I don't see enough depth and consistent talent to keep themselves atop the standings.
The Good: Like the Mets, Washington's top three starting pitchers (Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Patrick Corbin) are as good as it gets in baseball. Anthony Rendon and Juan Soto have turned Harper into a forgotten memory for DC. They've improved the bullpen, though it's still below average,and they have depth and experience.
The Bad: Scherzer has been on the injured list with back pain for more than a month. Washington says he won't be back until the end of August, which assumes the 35-year-old veteran doesn't suffer a set back. Sean Doolittle and Wander Suero are their only above-average relievers, which is why they've thrown 30 percent of the bullpen's innings.
The Odds: 78 percent, down from their 83 percent high in July.
My Prediction: The Nationals may benefit from the rest of the Wild Card competition being thoroughly mediocre. However, they'll fall out of their current spot in the standings.
The Good: Arizona has a plus-67 run differential, which means -- with a bit more luck -- they should be 66-53 as opposed to their real 59-59. In the end, this means nothing. But it does suggest that -- if the ball starts bouncing their way -- they have the potential to make up a lot of ground in a short amount of time. They also have the second-easiest remaining schedule among their fellow Wild Card contenders, according to Power Rankings.
The Bad: They have been playing a consistent .500 baseball since the end of May. No better. No worse. And now they don't have Zack Greinke, who they traded last month, despite being just 3.5 games back of the Wild Card.
The Odds: 10.3 percent, down from 18 percent one month ago.
My Prediction: They have the easiest schedule among their fellow Wild Card contenders, which will help them continue being a .500 team. Plus, playing weaker teams will help get those extra outs and lucky bounces while pulling them up closer to the level of their run differential. They're struggling of late, but they're set up to end that and move up in the standings.
The Good: Our boys are 21-7 since the All-Star break. They're 9-2 in August. Their rotation was already topping the league, and now they have Marcus Stroman. The bullpen has five guys pitching well, all of whom have pennant race experience. The lineup is still hitting home runs and keeping their strikeouts in check. They have a .246 team batting average on balls in play, which suggests that if they get more balls to find grass, they can be a top-scoring offense.
The Bad: They lack depth, especially in the bullpen and rotation. They are one or two injuries away from needing to put faith in Edwin Diaz, Walker Lockett, and Ervin Santana. Also, to win the Wild Card, they need to keep winning, but it would mean they went 45-27 to end the season and give them one of the best all-time comebacks in league history.
The Odds: 46.1 percent, up an amazing 42 points in just four weeks.
My Prediction: There's no way they keep playing at a .700 winning percentage, especially given their difficult schedule the final six weeks of the season. I have less faith in the other teams on the list, though, mostly because they're all trending in the wrong direction at a time when things get more difficult -- not easier.
Wild Card Game
My Prediction: Call me a homer, but I think the Mets will cross the finish line in time to reach the one-game playoff. In the end, I see this going for them much like it did in 2016, when they kept above water and did just enough to outlast the field.
Similarly, with an easy schedule and a well-rounded roster, the D-backs should be able to eek put enough luck to also make the one-game playoff. Bring it on, Arizona.
Matthew Cerrone (Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Contact) is lead writer of MetsBlog.com, which he created in 2003. He also hosts the MetsBlog Podcast, which you can subscribe to here. His new book, The New York Mets Fans' Bucket List, details 44 things every Mets fan should experience during their lifetime. To check it out, click here!