Is the AL East Living Up to Its Preseason Billing in 2013?
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The AL East was viewed as a power division entering the season, and after the first month, they have come close to expectations.
Entering May 7, the AL East had a combined .532 winning percentage, claiming a slight edge over the AL Central (.531) for the best division record in all of baseball.
If the season ended today they would have two teams in the playoffs and a third that would miss the playoffs by one game.
It is always difficult to live up to expectations, but overall the division has lived up to its lofty preseason billing.
Team by Team recap
The Red Sox have exceeded expectations after having their worst season in more than 40 years. After going 69-93 (.426) in 2012, the Red Sox have started 21-11 (.656) and are off to their best start in 10 years.
Down the road in New York, the Yankees have defied logic by going 18-12 despite multiple high-profile players starting the season on the DL. Even though Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez have major question marks surrounding them, the additions of Mark Teixeira and Curtis Granderson will bolster the offense and defense.
After winning 93 games in 2012 the Orioles have defied critics and continue to have success. After 32 games, Baltimore is 19-13, only one game off their 2012 pace. Despite a similar start record-wise, the Orioles run differential is much better in 2013. Through 32 games they are plus-26 compared to a plus-seven for the entire 2012 season.
Good or bad, which team has been the biggest surprise in the AL East?
The Tampa Bay Rays, 14-17, have struggled in April for the first time since they started 15-17 in 2009. However, after starting 5-10 the Rays have gone 9-7 and seem to be finding their way. They Rays will miss James Shields, and Wil Myers probably won’t provide an impact until 2014, but the main reason for the early-season struggles can be directed towards David Price and his 6.25 ERA.
Lastly, the Blue Jays who were the winners of the offseason and the perceived favorite to win the division and maybe the World Series have the worst record in the division and the third-worst record in the league at 12-21. Plagued by injuries to Jose Reyes, Jose Bautista and Brett Lawrie and poor pitching by their three offseason additions (R.A. Dickey, Mark Buehrle and Josh Johnson) the Blue Jays are the biggest disappointment in all of baseball.
Despite mixed results, the division as a whole is still arguably the toughest in all of baseball. The Blue Jays have a bad record, but are still very dangerous because they are capable of scoring in droves and their pitching will turn things around.
Do the AL Central and AL West stack up?
Though the Rays and Blue Jays are struggling, when you look around the league the AL East is the cream of the crop. The Central may be close in record, but the Royals are playing well above expectations and will struggle to maintain a winning record for the entire season. Even though I expect improvement over the 2012 record, the Royals are still at least a year away from truly contending, even in a weak division.
The Tigers are legitimate World Series contenders, but even they have concerns with Verlander’s drop in velocity. The rest of the division is mediocre at best. The Indians have played better under Terry Francona and made several offseason improvements, but still lack starting pitching to year-long success.
Who will win the AL East?
The AL West is a conundrum. The Rangers continue to be one of the best teams in the league even after losing Josh Hamilton and Mike Napoli, but for the second year in a row they are struggling at the start of the season. Last year they turned it around and finished with 89 wins, but Jered Weaver is hurt, which is a major question mark is moving forward.
With nearly 20 percent of the season in the books, it is safe to say that the AL East is the best division in the league. Overall the East has five good teams despite poor starts by Toronto and Tampa Bay. Unlike the Central and West, who combined have four playoff contenders, every team in the East is a threat to make the final five come October.
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