Tha Sports Junkies 101

American League East Breakdown

American League East nmplatescapes/via Flickr


American League East

All across Major League Baseball, teams are making a play for a chance to make the playoffs.  There is no race in the game that has been more up and down than the American League East Division.  Today we look at just what is happening in the tightest race in the game.

Toronto Blue Jays

The Blue Jays entered Tuesday with a one game lead in the AL East.  However, there was another team that is chasing a playoff berth that was in their way.  The Blue Jays would fall to the New York Yankees on Tuesday and find themselves in a tie with the Boston Red Sox for the lead in the Division.  Looking back to a year ago, the Blue Jays went out and signed the talent that was supposed to lead them to a title.  The plan didn’t work out as they would fall to the 2015 World Series Champion, Kansas City Royals in six games.  They got their moneys worth for the talent they had signed and were hoping to carry that over into this season.  What they didn’t know is that they would be hit with the injury bug in the 2016 season and find themselves in the tightest division in baseball.  Jose Bautista, Kevin Pillar, Troy Tulowitzki, and Josh Donaldson would all spend time on the DL in 2016.  However, with the success of JA Happ who has a 17-4 record and a solid rotation of Stroman, Estrada, Dickey and Sanchez, the Blue Jays are hoping to hold off the rest of their Division rivals and make a run at their first World Series since 1993.

Boston Red Sox

This has been a rollercoaster ride of a year for the Boston Red Sox.  With the announcement of David Ortiz retiring and the resurgence of youth that surrounds him; the Red Sox have been a fun team to watch.  They look like a team that is built to win for a long time to come with players like: Jackie Bradley Jr., Mookie Betts, Andrew Benintendi, Xander Bogaerts, and recent call up Yoan Moncada.  They also are seeing Big Papi have one of his best seasons of career as he nears the end of a long and successful career.  Another area that has been a big surprise is the Red Sox pitching staff.  At the beginning of the 2016 season everyone would have predicted David Price to be the Ace of the staff, but to the delight of Red Sox nation, Rick Porcello has emerged as the best pitcher on the staff.  All this being said, the Red Sox have shown a weakness this season.  They have a inability to win low scoring close games.  In the 2016 season they are 3-24 when scoring 2 runs or less, 16-12 when they score 3-5 runs, and 38-1 when they score 6+ runs in a game.  This could be the biggest problem facing the Red Sox now.  If they are able to make the playoffs with either a Division title or a Wild Card spot, they may struggle to go far in a playoff where they face a teams best pitcher more than once.  At this point the Red Sox look like a team poised to make a playoff run, but first they must get in.

Baltimore Orioles

If there has ever been a team that doesn’t necessarily need pitching to win games, it would be the Baltimore Orioles.  The Orioles have proven that if they can get at least 5 innings from their stating pitcher they can win.  When starters are able to go 5 or more innings the Orioles are 69-39.  How you may ask are they winning?  They win with the long ball.  As a team they have 218 home runs, while no other team has even hit 200.  The O’s have six players with at least 20 home runs and the Major League leader Mark TrumboChris Davis (35 HR), Manny Machado (34), Adam Jones (26), and Mark Trumbo sits at the top with 41 dingers.  They have managed to hit home runs in bunches and have continued this onslaught the entire season.  They are also set to get a boost to their starting rotation soon.  15 game winner Chris Tillman is soon to return to the team from the DL.  The O’s are 1 game back of Toronto and Boston, but don’t count them out because with that kind of power in their line-up, they could jump right to the top of the Division.  They have a rough stretch coming up in their schedule, but have more games against below.500 teams than anyone in the Division.

New York Yankees

The New York Yankees made it clear that they were sellers at the trade deadline.  Through the trades of Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller, the Yankees rebuilt a weak farm system in a matter of days.  No one could have expected though that after dealing away the two best bull pen guys in baseball they would become a better team.  Since the trade deadline they have managed to climb back into discussion for a Wild Card spot.  They sit 4.5 games back in the Division and just 3.5 back for the last Wild Card Spot.  With the emergence of Rookie Phenom Gary Sanchez and an insurgence of youth in their line-up they are drawing a lot of attention.  The Yankees have all the teams that are ahead of them on their schedule, so their fate is in their own hands.  If the Young Bronx Bombers and the solid performance of their pitching staff can continue, the Yankees could find themselves in the most improbable of places- The Playoffs.

Tampa Bay Rays

The Tampa Bay Rays are the only team in the AL East that is out of contention.  The Rays are 18.5 games back in the AL East and 17.5 games back in the Wild Card race.  The biggest strength the Rays have is their young solid starting pitchers. Chris Archer, Jake Odorizzi, Alex Cobb, Drew Smyly, Matt Andreise and Blake Snell all give hope to Rays fans that the future could be promising.  The Rays managed to hold on to Archer at the Trade deadline as many teams were shopping for starting pitching, and this could be the best move the Rays have made all year.  They are in a period of rebuild and hope that some off-season moves can bring them back into contention for 2017.  As for this season, the Rays are just using this time as a tryout for their young pitchers and see what lies ahead.

As I said before, the American League East is the most entertaining race in baseball now and it looks like we will have to ride it out to see who can claim the Division title.

Check back on Friday, September 9th for a breakdown of the National League East.