Looking at the MLB standings today, I couldn’t help but notice just how strong the AL East is so far this season. Even the fourth place team, the Toronto Blue Jays, are seven games above .500, and the only bad team in the division is the Orioles.
I thought it might be interesting to see what the differences are when an AL East team is playing in its division as opposed to playing teams in other divisions.
Here are the results with in-division records first:
New York Yankees: 26-18, .591 winning percentage; 43-24, .642
Tampa Bay Rays: 27-17, .614; 41-27, .603
Boston Red Sox: 22-23, .488; 42-26, .618
Toronto Blue Jays: 25-17, .595; 34-35, .493
Baltimore Orioles: 10-35, .222; 28-39, .418
As a whole, AL East teams are 110-110 when playing each other and 188-151 (a .555 winning percentage) when playing out of division teams.
As you can see the Red Sox, Orioles and, to a lesser degree, the Yankees have all played substantially better outside of their division than within it.
The only team to do substantially better in the AL East than outside it is the Blue Jays, and that is entirely the result of the fact the Jays are a perfect 12-0 against the Orioles.
What conclusions can we draw from this?
First, the Yankees look like the best team in the division based on their ability to win both within their division and against non-division teams. This may mean they’ll play better in the postseason than the other AL East team that makes the playoffs.
This isn’t really news, however, since everyone expects the Yankees to perform well in their postseason, given their high-priced talent and previous postseason experience.
The Rays have played exceptionally well in their division and will need to continue to do so if they are going to make the postseason. The Red Sox have played poorly against the rest of the AL East and will need to turn that around going forward if they want to make the postseason.
Finally, although the Orioles have the worst record in baseball, they aren’t nearly as bad as they appear to be based on their overall win-loss record. Instead, the Orioles are taking a pounding under the new weighted schedules that force them to play the other AL East teams more often.
In fact, based on the O’s record outside their division, it seems apparent that they are probably no worse than the Mariners and substantially better than the Pirates, who play in one of this year’s weakest divisions.
The only good thing about being a small market team like the Orioles stuck in a division full of free-spending, top market teams is that the Orioles are virtually assured of receiving the first pick in the 2011 Draft.
Let’s hope they use it wisely and some of their good, young talent from past drafts and trades begin to gel the way the Rays’ young talent has the last three seasons.