A week past the midway point of the MLB season and the American League East Division looks like it will have two familiar rivals, the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees fighting it out to see who wins the title and who get's a wild card berth.
Not far behind in this common 3 team battle in the American League East are the Tampa Bay Rays, 6 games
behind the league leading Red Sox. Strap your seatbelts, this is going to be a
fight to the finish as there will be just over 2 months of competitive baseball
remaining in probably the best division in baseball, the American League East.
Boston Red Sox
At 56-36, the Boston Red Sox lead the Yankees by 1.5 games for the
division lead. They're listed as an 8/5 choice by Bodog to win the AL Pennant
and 7/2 to win the World Series. This is a heavy hitting team from number 1-5.
Can the Red Sox do the MLB odds makers expect and win the American League
Pennant and possibly face the Philadelphia Phillies for a World Series
Offensively, the Red Sox are top heavy in their lineup. Adrian Gonzalez has to
be the best acquisition in this past baseball off season. Gonzalez is
unstoppable at 17 HR, 77 RBI,.346 BA, 408. Personally, I think that Gonzalez is
the best player in baseball. He also put on a display, finishing 2nd in the
Home Run Derby. The Red Sox have a true asset in Gonzalez, who's just entering
the prime of his baseball career.
Another positive for the Red Sox is the re-emergence of "Big Papi"
David Ortiz. Ortiz is mixed up in the whole steroids investigation but has
seemed to fly under the radar this season at 19 HR, 58, .298 BA. He's the Big
Papi of old, has his confidence back with the same swagger that he carried
through the mid-2000's. The Red Sox lineup is loaded with reliable offensive
Dustin Pedroia (13 HR, 46 RBI, .291 BA, 16 SB) and Kevin Youkilis (13
HR, 65 RBI, .288 BA, .403 OBP) are considered the team leaders and they don't
disappoint. Finally, the Sox have one of the best leadoff hitters in baseball
in Jacoby Ellsbury. Ellsbury is having a great, well rounded season with
13 HR, 51 RBI, .317 BA, and 28 SB. These are top numbers from a top level
Josh Beckett and Jon Lester are the backbone of the pitching staff. Beckett is
considered the ace. When he's on, he's unstoppable. This season, Beckett is
8-3, 2.27 ERA and opposing hitters are hitting just .187 off of him this
season. Lester is a good number 2 pitcher for the Sox at 10-4, 3.31 ERA . Jon
Lackey hasn't been able to get in the groove this season but he's a winning
pitcher while Clay Buchholz (6-3, 3.48) has done a good job Buchholz is
Closer Jonathan Papelbon put's fear in the eyes of his
opponents. This season, he's picked up the saves (20) and has gotten somewhat
lucky as his ERA hovers around the 4.00 mark. The Sox will need Papelbon to put
out his best when the season comes to a close.
Overall as a team, the Red Sox are loaded. I'm not thrilled with the price that
the betting odds makers has them listed at. Anyone can win this division, let alone the
World Series. Be rest assured , Boston will be in the mix.
New York Yankees
The New York Yankees have been playing some solid ball as of late as they're
led by their ace C.C. Sabathia. Many felt that the Yankees might miss the playoffs this year due to last years free agent market, and their failure to acquire what they needed, but the Yanks are proving them otherwise.
Derek Jeter has picked up his 3000th hit. Can
this veteran club pickup some hardware in October? Bodog has them listed as
11/4 to win the Pennant and 6/1 to win the World Series. I think that these
prices are fairly accurate for a veteran ball club.
Offensively, this is a team effort. Alex Rodriguez (13 HR, 52 RBI,.295 BA) has
to be a concern. Arod is getting up there in age and possibly steroids play a
part in his body breaking down. Alex seems to get injured often. He's a
question mark. Look for Derek Jeter to have a good 2nd half after a poor
1st half of the season.
The monkey is off of his back and that 5 for 5 day has
to bring Jeter some confidence that he can still hit. His numbers won't stand
out but the Yankees are looking for Derek Jeter's timely clutch hitting. Can he
do it for another year? I'm leaning towards yes. He's never let this ball club
down and don't expect him to let them down if the division goes down to the
The offensive production of the Yankees comes from the pure hitting ability of
this season's home run derby winner Robinson Cano (15 HR, 57 RBI, .296 BA)
while the power comes from the duo of first baseman Mark Teixeira and Curtis
Granderson. Granderson has the Yankee Stadium swing. Teixeira has lost his
ability to hit for average. He need's to regain it soon as he and Granderson
both lead the team with 25 home runs a piece. Overall, this is a lineup that
can win a division with a bunch of veterans.
When you think of the Yanks pitching staff, C.C. Sabathia is the ace. Sabathia
is the best pitcher in baseball. He has 7 consecutive victories and is 14-4
with an ERA of 2.64. Sabathia is putting on as good a pitching display as
you're going to see. In his last 41 2/3 innings, Sabathia has given up just 2
runs and struckout 51 batters.
The rest of the pitching staff is filled with pitchers that can give a
good performance on any given day and can also have a bad performance. A.J.
Burnett has had somewhat of a bounce back season at 8-7 with a 4.15 ERA. Saying
that, the Yankees didn't get what they paid for.
Then there's the greatest closer of all time, Mariano Rivera. The numbers and
his age mean nothing. The Yankees can still count on Rivera to shut the door on
the opposition when needed.
Look for the Yankees to battle out the division with their hated foe, the
Boston Red Sox. The Yankees primary concern is to make the post season, whether
it be division title or wild card.
Tampa Bay Rays
The Tampa Bay Rays are currently third in the division, 6 games behind Boston
at 50-42. This is where the Rays are expected to be, give or take a game or
two. The Rays play better on the road than they do at home. They're 28-20 on
the road and they don't have the loudest supportive fans. It's understandable
why their a .500 home team. The Rays are currently 15/1 odds to win the pennant
while they're a 28/1 shot to win the World Series. These are good betting lines but the
Rays would need to get very lucky.
The Rays are an average offensive team and Evan Longoria (11 HR, 43 RBI, .234
BA) has had a very disappointing season. They have 4 players in double
figure home runs but the Rays are poor at getting on base. They're just 19th in
OBP and 22nd in BA.. Matt Joyce (13 HR, 43, .295 BA) , Ben Zobrist (11 HR, 48
RBI, .270 BA .10 SB), and B.J. Upton (15 HR, 52 RBI, 245 BA, 22 SB) have all
had fairly good season while the Rays can also count on veterans Casey Kotchman
and Johnny Damon. Look for the Rays offense to pick it up as the season is more
than halfway complete.
Where the pitching is a concern, Tampa Bay has no ace but 3 above average
pitchers in James Shields (8-8, 2.60), Jeremy Hellickson (8-7,3.21), and David
Price (9-7, 3.73). WIth Kyle Farnsworth in the bullpen, this is a solid
The Rays are a fairly easy team to assess. They have slightly above average
players, which leads to their slightly above average record. The offensive is
underperforming a bit and look for a little improvement down the stretch.
Anything can happen, this team can't be counted out.
Toronto Blue Jays
The Blue Jays can beat any given team on any given day but are merely average
at 47-48. Don't expect the Jays to be in consideration for post season
play as they sit 10.5 games behind the Red Sox.
The Blue Jays have 2 major hitters to support their offense, one of which is
extraordinary in Jose Bautista. Bautista has huge numbers. He has 31 HR, 65
RBI, .336 BA, and .470 OBP. This man almost get's on base half of the time when
he steps to the plate. This should be no surprise as Bautista hit 54 homers
last season. Without Jose, the Blue Jays would be nowhere.
First baseman Adam Lind has accounted well for himself this season. Lind is
batting .304 while also hitting 16 HR, and 52 RBI. With the support of Yunel
Escobar, these three players form a solid base to the offense.
The Blue Jays have no legitimate closer and that's a problem. The pitching has
been led thus far by Ricky Romero (7-9, 3.18) and Brandon Morrow (6-4, 4.37).
Overall pitching is a weakness with Toronto. If they had a legitimate pitching
staff, their record would improve drastically with a superstar like Jose
Bautista leading the offense.
Toronto should make it a priority to get a legitimate closer and starting
pitcher. These needs are really holding this team back.
Bringing up the rear in the basemant of the AL East is the Baltimore Orioles.
The Orioles just broke a 9 game losing streak and stand at 37-54. I'm a little
surprised. I didn't expect them to be contenders but I expected the Orioles to
be a little better than what they're record tells us. The addition of Vladimir
Guerrero hasn't been a successful one thus far. Guerrero has lost his power. He
has 7 HR, 31 RBI, .279 BA. His batting average is a little deceptive as
Guerrero has only walked 11 times this year. People expected more from an aging
Power hasn't been a problem for third baseman Mark Reynolds. Reynolds leads the
team with 20 home runs. He has 49 runs batted in and is only hitting .222 but
his power is much needed in this Orioles lineup. Nick Markakis (8 HR, 39 RBI,
297 BA) Adam Jones (14 HR, 54 RBI, .284 BA), and J.J. Hardy (13 HR, 33
RBI, .275 BA) have been reliable hitters for Baltimore this season while
Derek Lee has also been a disappointment like Guerrero. The O's have a pretty
good offensive team for a team that's in last place.
Pitching has killed Baltimore. They rank last in ERA at 4.81. The only winning
pitcher on the staff is Jake Arrieta (9-6) and he carries a 5.10 ERA. Jeremy
Guthrie is the complete opposite. He has a 4.45 ERA and is just 3-13 on the
season. Baltimore hasn't come through for Guthrie in the same manner.
These are servicable pitchers at best. Starter Zach Britton has had a decent
season but Baltimore needs to improve in the pitching department.
Baltimore needs some pitching and to stay young. Vladimir Guerrero and Derek
Lee haven't done the job here.
There you have it. The American League East is a very formidable division with
the 3 top teams being the main focus. The Red Sox and Yankees are looking to
win, but at least seeking a wild card spot.