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Monday, December 22, 2014

An AL East Team Will Miss Out on a Playoff Spot

Has anyone taken a look at the MLB standings lately?  If you have, you’ve probably noticed that the power across the league is pretty concentrated.  The AL East currently has three teams — the Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees, and Tampa Bay Rays — that have a better record than any other team in Major League Baseball.  The Yankees and Rays, both with records of 42-26, came into Sunday leading the division.  The Red Sox trail both teams by a game and, with a record of 42-28, would be first in any other division in baseball.

So, what’s the point?  The point is that it’s highly likely that one of the three aforementioned clubs is going to get screwed out of a postseason spot because they play in the toughest division in baseball.  When the Red Sox were swept by the Orioles in mid-April, I wrote that they were in serious danger of burying themselves before the season even really got underway.  I also sounded off on David Ortiz, who at the time was batting .158 with 0 home runs and 2 RBI.  I’m not sure if he got a hold of some of those Flintstones chewables that gave him his power before or what, but Big Papi has a pulse.  All of a sudden the Red Sox DH is 6th in the AL with 15 homers and is batting a much-improved .263 with 45 RBI.  He’s a huge reason the Red Sox, who came into the season preaching “run prevention,” are leading the AL in runs scored.

The Yankees owe a good portion of their success to Robinson Cano, who’s batting an AL-leading (with 30 points to spare) .371 amidst the breakout year scouts have been anticipating.  Rays DH Carlos Pena is tied with David Ortiz, among others, for 6th in the AL with 15 home runs.  Evan Longoria is 3rd in the league in RBI with 52.  Needless to say, the offenses of all three teams have been very, very good.  As a matter of fact, the Red Sox, Yankees, and Rays are 1st, 2nd, and 3rd, respectively, in the AL in overall runs scored.

While offense has certainly been a factor in placing the three AL East powerhouses atop the MLB rankings, the pitching all three teams have has gotten to this point is pretty amazing.  Take a look at this screen shot of the AL wins leaders, courtesy of ESPN:

If that’s a little too small for you to read, let me break it down a bit.  With the exception of Detroit’s Justin Verlander, the top seven pitchers in the AL in wins are on either the Rays, Red Sox, or Yankees.  The amazing part is that CC Sabathia isn’t even in those top seven (he has 7 wins) and we know he’ll come on strong.  The same can be said for Matt Garza, who also has 7 wins.  The Red Sox have done it without Josh Beckett, who has been on the DL thanks in part to his injury from swinging a bat.

There are a combined eight pitchers from the three staffs with a legitimate shot at winning 20 games or more by season’s end.  Is that going to happen?  Absolutely not.  But it’s still a huge testament to the success they’ve had so far.  Do I think Boston, New York, and Tampa Bay can remain on such a torrid pace the rest of the way?  Normally I’d say no because you never know what can happen with injuries and all that.  The frightening part for the rest of the AL should be that the teams have already had some tough injuries and somehow are still on top.

In my mind, there’s no question that the three best teams in baseball are all in the same division.  If they can somehow continue doing what they’ve been doing the last two months, there’s going to be a team playing golf in October that deserves to be playing baseball.

Stat Credit: ESPN



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