Wow...if you look at last year's standings from exactly one year ago today it breaks down like this...
Yankees 54-46 1.5 back
Yankees 59-40 1.5 back
So, the Sox and Yankees are where they were last year. They ended up with the same record, and both made the playoffs.
This year, however, the competition around the league is tougher (of course, BOTH the Yankees and Sox are better this year, too...which was obviously ignored by everyone that said it is "OBVIOUS" that the Wild Card comes out of the Central. Let's look at some of the other teams around the league for playoff spots at roughly 100 games into the season.
The Sox and Yankees each 5.5 games ahead of their paces last year...both finished 95-67 last year. The pace this year plays out like this...
Sox 99 wins
Yankees 97 wins
The Sox win the division, but do the Yankees get in at 97 (37.38 wins left at this pace)wins? What a strange question to ask. 97 wins should be a lock...
Tigers on pace to win 109...even if they go 31-30 the rest of the way, they'll have 98 wins...It is probably safe to say they'll make the playoffs.
White Sox and Twins at their current winning percentage are both projected to win 36.58 games the rest of the season. That gives them 95-96 wins each.
Now, not all these teams will continue at this exact pace, and variation will kick in down the stretch. But projecting to the end of the year, there is a 4-game spread for 5 teams vying for 2 playoff spots.
Now, out of these 5 teams, I see two teams possibly getting better without trades and that's the Yankees IF Matsui and/or Sheffield returns. The other is the White Sox, who (as of late) have been underachieving)...Of course the "Ozzie" factor might be starting to show in Chicago, too, but we can only take what we are seeing into account.
I think the Red Sox are playing at their level. They definitely need another starter, and Wake is Wake. Lester also will lose some games (he won't go undefeated)...Of course, Wells could come in and be huge for the rotation. I also believe the Twins are playing above their level. Liriano and Santana have lit that team up. I can't see them keeping this torrid pace alive. They've put themselves right back in it, but they can't play 34-8 every 42 games...nor do they have to...
In short...all teams wanting to make the playoffs will have to play at an exceptional level the rest of the way. A 5-6 game skid, or a bad run of .500 ball for two weeks could bury any of them.