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The Indians are still in the Wild Card chase, but barely

The Indians are still contenders, but what are their chances really?

David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

The Indians have lost three games in a row, are once again below .500 for the season, and in fifth place in the chase for the second Wild Card spot. Those are facts, and they sure make it seem the the Tribe is unlikely to make the postseason this year.

On the other hand, the Indians are only 4 games out of the second Wild Card spot, which makes a possible trip to the playoffs sound a lot more plausible.

The Indians have 47 games left in the season. Last year they went 30-17 in their final 47 games, which was the second best mark in the American League during that time. Like last season, the schedule gets easier near the end, so a finish like that shouldn't be ruled out, but it's pretty unlikely. The Indians had already won 62 games by this point last year though, whereas this season, even if they do finish 30-17, it'll only get them to 87 wins, which wouldn't have been enough to make the playoffs last season, or most seasons.

Here's the win total for the team that won the second Wild Card spot in the AL, or would have, if the second WIld Card spot had existed (it's only been around since 2012) since the first full season with three divisions in each league (1996):

Year Team Wins * Year Team Wins
1996 Mariners, Red Sox, White Sox 85 * 2005 Indians** 93
1997 Angels 84 * 2006 White Sox 90
1998 Blue Jays 88 * 2007 Mariners and Tigers 88
1999 Athletics 87 * 2008 Yankees 89
2000 Indians 90 * 2009 Rangers 87
2001 Twins 85 * 2010 Red Sox 89
2002 Mariners and Red Sox 93 * 2011 Red Sox 90
2003 Mariners 93 * 2012 Orioles and Rangers 93
2004 Athletics 91 * 2013 Rangers and Rays 91

The first few years of the Wild Card give you some hope that the Indians might not need to win as many as 87 games to grab a playoff spot, since 85 wins would often have been enough to win the second Wild Card spot, had it existed. In the last dozen seasons though, so few would never have been enough, and more often than not, any total fewer than 90 wins would have left a team on the outside looking in.

Every season is a little different, and it's fair to point out that there haven't been five really good teams in the AL so far this season. Kansas City current holds a half-game lead in the chase for the second spot, and they're on pace for only 86 wins, and it wouldn't surprise anyone if they won fewer than that.

This is where the trouble with being in fifth place in the chase comes back into play. Yes, KC is only on pace for 86 wins, but the Yankees, Mariners, and Blue Jays are on pace for 85. Yes, some of those teams will hit or fall short of their current pace, but a couple of them will probably exceed theirs too. The Indians not only have to improve upon their current winning percentage, they have to improve upon it by 4 or 5 more games than anyone else does, in order to not only pass the teams that fall off, but also leap frog the other teams that improve.

FanGraphs currently has the Indians at a 9% chance of making the postseason, and that seems about right. They start a big series in the Bronx tonight, against one of the four teams they've got to pass in order to make the playoffs. If the Tribe doesn't win at least two of the three games, it'll probably be time to pronounce the team's playoff chances dead.