What to Watch For In Baseball’s Final Weekend of 2023

There are plenty of reasons to stay tuned.

The 2023 regular season is almost over, but much remains to be decided as we head into the final weekend. First and foremost, the playoff fields are not set in either league, with four teams fighting for three spots in both the AL and NL (sorry, Padres fans, too much has to go right).

In addition, several major awards still hang in the balance, as do a myriad of milestones and statistical titles. Below is a primer highlighting what’s at stake with the calendar flipping to October.


The Playoff Picture


The AL West & the Blue Jays


Three games separated four teams heading into Wednesday night, with the Rangers in the best position to clinch the next playoff spot. Texas had a three-game lead in the loss column over the Astros heading into their four-game series with Seattle, which is more likely to determine the Mariners’ fate than the Rangers.

Toronto also controls its own destiny, even after losing on Wednesday, but their margin for error is slim. The Jays have 71 losses, one fewer than the Astros and two fewer than the Mariners.

If Toronto wins three of their remaining four games against the Yankees and Rays, they’re in, regardless of what happens with Houston and Seattle.

If the Blue Jays don’t falter, the last spot will come down to the reigning champion Houston Astros and the Seattle Mariners. Neither club has an easy path.

After defeating Seattle on Wednesday night, the Astros head to Arizona with a slim lead on their division mates and will face another team fighting for its playoff life, the Diamondbacks.

Meanwhile, as mentioned earlier, Seattle will take on the Rangers at home. If the Rangers clinch Thursday, it could actually help Seattle, as they may opt to give their stars some extra rest.

However, that’s no guarantee since the AL West crown will come with a first-round bye.


The NL Wild Card


The divisions are sewed up in the NL, as is the first Wild Card spot which the Phillies secured on Tuesday. Atlanta and Los Angeles will get the first-round byes, so the only teams with much to play for are the four clubs fighting for the two remaining Wild Cards.

Technically, the Padres are still alive, thanks to Atlanta’s come-from-behind victory over the Cubs and their extra-innings victory over the Giants. However, one more loss or a Chicago win, and their season is over.

The Reds are also in a precarious situation, with two losses more than the Marlins and Cubs and four more than the D’Backs. Cincinnati will probably need to win their remaining four games to have a chance. Thankfully, they face the Guardians and Cardinals.

Arizona’s victory Wednesday afternoon brings them closer, and they are now two up on the Cubs and Marlins with four games to go. The D’Backs would be wise to take care of business vs. the ChiSox on Thursday since they’ll host a desperate Houston team over the weekend.

The last Wild Card slot probably will come down to the Marlins or the Cubs, who sport identical records. Chicago closes with one more game against the Braves, then three in Milwaukee against a Brewers squad with nothing to play for. Miami has the seemingly easier path, with one more against the Mets and three in Pittsburgh.

This race could go the distance.


Awards Up For Grabs




It appeared that the MVP races would be landslides a few months ago, with Shohei Ohtani and Ronald Acuña Jr. cruising to the titles. But Ohtani got hurt, missing most of September, and Mookie Betts went on a second-half tear to put the heat on Acuña.

Despite a slightly lower WAR than Betts, Acuña will likely take home the crown, having done what no one else in the history of MLB has done with his 40 HR/70 SB season. Betts could still make it interesting, though he likely won’t play all three games this weekend.

Despite missing a month, Ohtani will finish the year with the highest WAR in baseball. However, the Angels’ fall and his absence down the stretch might sway some voters to look elsewhere.

The Rangers have two candidates, Corey Seager and Marcus Semien, who are deserving. However, Seager missed more time than Ohtani this year, and Semien’s value is partially tied to his excellent defense, which is often overlooked in MVP voting.

The dark horse is Julio Rodríguez, who has put the Mariners on his back in the second half. He may steal the award from Ohtani if he can lead them into a playoff berth.


Cy Young


Gerrit Cole should take home the AL Cy Young, along with the ERA title, but the NL remains wide open. Cases can be made for Blake Snell, Justin Steele, Zac Gallen, and Spencer Strider.

Snell will win the ERA title and could win 15 games with a victory on Sunday, but he owns a 13.3% BB%, which is the worst in baseball among qualified pitchers.

Steele is 16-5 with a 3.03 ERA but may not pitch again this season if the Cubs clinch before Sunday.

Gallen has 17 wins and is second in innings pitched to Logan Webb heading into Friday’s matchup with the Astros. However, his ERA is over 4.00 in the second half.

Strider is the strikeout king and could win 20 games if the Braves let him go five innings in his last start, but an ERA of 3.81 may not get it done.

Webb and Kodai Senga will also get votes, but Webb has a losing record, and Senga’s walk rate is nearly as high as Snell’s. Each hurler’s final start this weekend could go a long way towards determining the ultimate winner.


Rookie of the Year


Senga’s strong second half will garner some votes, but Corbin Carroll should be a near-unanimous choice in the NL.

However, the AL vote should be closer. Josh Jung was the clear favorite at the All-Star break, but he missed six weeks with a fractured thumb and just returned to the lineup.

Meanwhile, after a slow start, Gunnar Henderson has played like the preseason favorite since June and will likely take home the prize. Jung supporters will point to better per-game numbers, but it will be hard for him to overcome the lost games. If he goes off this weekend, perhaps it’s not too late to flip the script back.




There are a few more milestones that can be achieved this weekend besides the ones already mentioned (Ronald Acuña Jr. being the first player to steal 70 bases since Jacoby Ellsbury in 2009 and Spencer Strider winning 20 games).

Luis Arraez will take home the NL Batting Title, but can he hold on to hit .350? He will if he doesn’t take another at-bat, and he hasn’t played since Saturday with an ankle injury. The last player to accomplish this in a 162-game season was Josh Hamilton in 2010.

Also, if Austin Riley or Marcell Ozuna can hit three more jacks, Atlanta will be the first team since the 1997 Rockies to have three players with 40+ dingers. The last non-Coors Field team did it was the 1973 Atlanta squad. If all four get there, it would be a first.

Finally, Freddie Freeman has 58 doubles through Wednesday. If he can get to 60, he’ll be the first player since 1936 to accomplish this feat. Doubles aren’t as sexy as home runs, but it should be celebrated when a player does something that hasn’t happened in nearly 90 years.

Scott Youngson

Scott is a SoCal native who, after two decades of fighting L.A. traffic, decided to turn his passion for fantasy sports into a blog - the now-defunct Fantasy Mutant. He currently writes for FantasyPros and Pitcher List and will vehemently defend the validity of the Dodgers' 60-game season championship.

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