Lehigh Valley IronPigs
Lehigh Valley led the North Division for much of the season until a recent 8-12 streak dropped them out of the top spot as Pawtucket got hot and caught the 'Pigs last week. Certainly, being just one game out of first isn't much of an issue with 20 games remaining, but they don't have any games remaining with the PawSox. The IronPigs recent slide dropped them out of the division lead, but into the Wild Card lead.
Lehigh Valley has four games left at Indianapolis, but Gwinnett doesn't play either Lehigh Valley or Indianapolis over the final three weeks of the season.
*Things to keep in mind: Teams may wind up with less than the full schedule of 144 games. If a team has a game rained out and it can't be made up without any real maneuvering, it's just not made up. For instance, between the three teams battling for the North Division, only Lehigh Valley would play 144 games, as it stands right now.
Perhaps the strangest thing to know about the International League Playoffs is that the North Division winner always plays the wild card winner. The theory behind that policy is that the North Division winner has to beat out five other clubs to win the division, while South and West Division winners need only beat out three other clubs to win their division. And keep this in mind, too. The five-game series between the North and Wild Card winners actually starts with the first two games in the wild card city before moving to the division winner's city for the final three games of the series.
Like Lehigh Valley, Reading was in a much better spot prior to their current 4-8 streak. Of the four teams still in the hunt for the Eastern Division title, Reading has games remaining against just New Britain. The two teams will play a three-game set in New Britain next week, so they will need some help if they are going to win the division. The good news for the R-Phils is that the top two teams in the division advance to the Eastern League playoffs. That creates quite a battle among Reading, Trenton and New Britain. It gets even more interesting when you factor in that Trenton and New Britain have eight games remaining against each other, four in each city, including a four-game set to finish the season in New Britain.
*Things to keep in mind: The playoff format in the Eastern League matches up the top two teams in each division. The division winner hosts games one, two and five (if necessary) and the "wild card" team would host games three and four (if necessary).
*First-Half Division Winner
Things get a little more difficult to figure out in the Florida State League. Daytona won the first-half division title and currently has a comfortable lead in the second-half standings. Clearwater doesn't have any games remaining against Daytona or Tampa, but has seven games remaining - three at home - against Dunedin in the second-half race. If Daytona wins the second-half division title, league rules call for a Wild Card to be crowned and that distinction goes to the team with the best overall record in the division (obviously, not including Daytona).
A look at how the "wild card" race stands in the North Division shows how important those seven games between Dunedin and Clearwater could be as they battle for the right to play Daytona, should the Cubs wind up winning both halves of the season.
*Things to keep in mind: As the first-half winner, Daytona has the choice of hosting either game one or games two and three of the Division Playoff Series. As for the home field advantage in the League Championship, the South Division Champion gets the advantage, as home field shifts back-and-forth between the two divisions each season.
|Kannapolis||Chicago White Sox||30||20||-|
The South Atlantic League also uses a split-season format and Lakewood finished seven games out in the first-half, so they need to win the division in the second-half or finish with the best overall record in the division if Hickory repeats as division champs in the second-half. Lakewood stands six games out with 21 games remaining in the second-half. The numbers don't look very good for them to win the wild card if Hickory were to come back to win the second-half crown in the Northern Division.
|Kannapolis||Chicago White Sox||67||51||-|
Lakewood's schedule has 14 of their remaining 21 games against teams ahead of them in the Northern Division, but they've finished their season series with front-running Kannapolis. The 'Claws have four home games against Greensboro, five road games against Hickory and they wind up the season with a five-game trip to Hagerstown, giving them some reason for hope if they can get hot down the stretch and get some help from other clubs against Kannapolis. Hickory was the first-half champion, giving them a guaranteed spot in the SAL post-season.
*Things to keep in mind: If Hickory were to win the second-half, then again, there would be a "wild card" team crowned by looking at the best overall record of the other teams in the division. The Division Series is just a best-of-three, with Hickory - the first-half champion - hosting game two and three, if necessary.
The CrossCutters are just one game out in the Pinckney Division of the New York - Penn League. At eight games over .500 Mickey Morandini has his club in a good spot to reach the playoffs. If things don't work out for the division title, Williamsport would also have a legitimate shot at gaining the wild card spot.
|Hudson Valley||Tampa Bay||27||29||5.0|
The wild card race is wide open, but Williamsport is right in the thick of things. Williamsport still has a number of games against teams they're battling for a playoff spot, including: State College (5 games), Mahoning Valley (4 games) and three each against Tri-City, Jamestown and Batavia.
*Things to keep in mind: The New York - Penn League features three divisions with one wild card team in the playoffs.
Gulf Coast League
The GCL Phillies are currently 10 games out of first place in the GCL North at 21-26, just three games away from being eliminated. Williamsport is 6 1/2 games out of the wild card race, with four teams to climb over for a playoff spot.
*Things to keep in mind: The division winner with the best record plays a one-game series against the wild card team, while the other two division winners play in a separate one-game playoff. The winners of those two games meet in a best-of-three series.