The American League East is the best division in baseball—clearly the most talented in the MLB today by far. But only two teams from each division can make the playoffs, so who will it be?
Let's take a look at who will finish where (and why they will finish there) between the Rays, Red Sox, and Yankees. Because let's be honest: Baltimore or Toronto, there is always next year.
In third place and missing the playoffs:
Tampa Bay Rays
Let's look at Tampa. They started off the season playing .800 ball, and people were talking about them playing in the World Series. It is not April anymore, and now, still, Tampa is very close to the top of the division. Their problem?
They play in the division with the two best teams in baseball.
Starting Pitching —Above Average. Looking at their starters, this is a strength for Tampa, as James Shields, Matt Garza, and David Price could be key starters for them as they push forward.
Bullpen —Average. This could really hurt Tampa, as they really do not have a shut-down guy before Rafael Soriano. So we do not really know what the game could hold for Tampa if the starter does not go seven.
Offense —Average. Good offensive team, but they still have holes in their lineup which they need to fix. They do not have a hitting catcher. Carlos Pena is batting .199 and BJ Upton acts like he does not even want to be on the team. It seems like the Rays don't even get a hit every other week.
Coaching —Above Average. Joe Maddon and his staff are one of the best in baseball and know how to run a team.
What They Need at the Deadline —At bat, they need somebody to come off the bench or maybe a catcher that does not hit like a little leaguer.
Finishing in second place, making the playoffs, and winning the wild card:
Boston Red Sox
Let's take a look at the Sox. They are beat up right now with injuries to both catchers, a starter, and their best player in Dustin Pedroia. But this is a team with veterans that knows how to get the job done when coming to the finish line. That is why Boston will take the wild card.
Starting Pitching —Above Average. Boston's starting pitching is a real strength for this team and could be the reason why they are going to the playoffs as wild card winners.
Bullpen —Below Average. There is one big problem for Boston: their pen. Fans cringe when Jonathon Papelbon comes into the game. His ability to close it out is going down. And after Papelbon, who is next?
Offense— Average. Even with injuries and some known defensive players, Boston still manages to score runs when they need them—the most in the game of baseball.
Coaching —Above Average. Tito Francona and his staff are one of the best in the game, and they maybe have the best pitching coach in John Farrell.
What They Need at the Deadline —They could use another bat, but most importantly, another arm for the pen. They also need a back-end starter for the rotation, which is hit with injuries to Josh Beckett and Clay Buchholz.
Now—taking the division—your AL East Champions are...who else but the:
New York Yankees
Arguably the best team in baseball, the Yankees are looking to repeat a championship run and are looking like the favorite for the World Series. But not all coming easy. Not really hit by many injuries—but rather by disappointments.
Starting Pitching —Best in baseball. The best pitching rotation in the game today is in New York. Without looking at Burnett and his pitiful run he is on, Phil Hughes, CC Sabathia, and Andy Pettitte combine for a record of 29-7. They should all be on the AL all-star team.
Bullpen —Below Average. Outside of the greatest closer of all time, Mariano Rivera, the rest of the Yankees' bullpen is a joke. Joba is looking like a minor league pitcher when he is in the game, and their next go to guy is...Chan Ho Park.
Offense— Above Average. The Yankees are starting to get back some key bats in their lineup like Tex and A-Rod, but they still badly need someone off the bench. You cannot count on Colin Curtis and Chad Huffman in October, and Nick Johnson is somewhere in the Bahamas.
Coaching— Average. Joe Girardi over-manages the game too much, but they've got very good coaches in Kevin Long and Dave Eiland.
What They Need at the Deadline —They need a bat off the bench and maybe two solid middle relief pitchers who can solidify their pen if they are to make another World Series run.
So there is the AL East in a nutshell. It should be one second half of baseball to remember.