The picture above says it all; disdain, frustration, etc. But as the All-Star break approaches it isn't all bad news in the AL East. With the Mid-Summer Classic just around the corner, it is time to look back on the first half of the season in the American League East.
Tampa Bay Rays: I decided to do the recaps in the same order as the division standings. The fact that Tampa Bay is the first team listed is in itself the biggest surprise of the first half in either league, let alone the division.
At 55-36, they have the best record in the Majors. What is interesting about that is that the Rays have played under .500 away from Tropicana this year. But they also have the most home wins of any team in the majors this year to counteract that fact, and are finally managing to put some fans in the seats. They are also 24-17 within the division and are 16-11 in one run games.
The Rays have done it with consistent pitching and solid defense, allowing only 369 runs. These are two things we aren't used to seeing out of that franchise. First half grade: A+ (did you really expect anything different here?)
Boston Red Sox: Boston finished play on Thursday 1.5 games out, but all of that deficit comes from being three back on the all important loss side. However, they have done all of those with a slumping Manny and an injured Ortiz, so one can only imagine what that team will do when both are back at their best.
They were still able to score 478 runs with J.D. Drew in the third spot and Mike Lowell in the 4th spot in the order. Not a knock against those guys, but not what their lineup was projected at the beginning of the year.
The Sox are 18-18 in division play, a number that is well below the 19-9 mark they posted to July 11th of last year. Although they do still have a 34-10 mark at Fenway, they are only 21-29 on the road, a growing trend through out the big leagues this year. First half grade: B+
New York Yankees: Who really thought that the Yankees would be where they are right now at the beginning of the year? Their lineup is astounding on paper. The fact that they have only scored 426 runs as of July 11th, as opposed to 464 scored to that same day last year, is one of their biggest problems.
Inconsistency has plagued this team this year; one day they'll play like a team cruising to a title, the next like a team that doesn't want to be out on the diamond.
On a positive note, they are 17-11 in one-run games, thanks in large part to Mariano, who has been pitching out of his mind, particularly in save situations. They are 19-17 in their division, and the Yanks are also playing about the same on the road as they are at home, a good sign even for an inconsistent team.
They do still have an outside chance if they get hot at the right time. The fact remains, however, that this is not what Yankee players, coaches, management, and fans expected. First half grade: C+
Toronto Blue Jays: They have played inspired ball since John Gibbons got fired. Maybe a shake-up is what they needed because since Gibbons got the axe, they are over .500, albeit not convincingly. But there were finally expectations of contention in Toronto after adding the veteran presences of Scott Rolen and David Eckstein.
However, they still sit 10.5 games in back of the Rays, at 45-47. They are only 12-14 in divisional play. They have also struggled in close games, compiling a 15-21 record in one-run affairs, and are 3-7 in extra inning games.
Their pitching has not been the issue. They have the 3rd lowest total of runs allowed in the American League, and the lowest total in the AL East, with 366 RA. But without Vernon Wells, they have struggled to hit with consistency. First half grade: C-
Baltimore Orioles: When they traded away Erik Bedard, that organization took a turn for the worse. One of the few things that brought people to Camden Yards, aside from walkouts to protest ownership, was gone.
The Orioles also sit 10.5 back from the Rays, tied with the Blue Jays with a .489 win percentage and a 44-46 record. They have the same problems as the Blue Jays really, only on a bigger scale. They are 15-22 in division games, 3-6 in extra innings, and are 17-17 in one-run games. The big problem is that their weak road record of 19-30 is too big of a deficit to be overcome by the strong 25-16 home tally.
Despite 430 runs scored, they have surrendered 432. They have a 4.49 team ERA, have allowed more than a hit an inning, and have also given up around 100 home runs. These would seem to indicate that they would get a bad grade, yes? Well, not really because they were not expected to have a strong season this year. First half grade: C
(Note: Grades are based upon current vs. expected performance)
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