By Christopher Frangolini
They say numbers and records don’t always tell the whole story. Well, now that we are in May – one month into the Major League Baseball season – it is time for the Beantown Blitz AL East power rankings.
Boston Red Sox: 15-10 (.600%)
Baltimore Orioles: 14-10 (.583%)
Toronto Blue Jays: 12-14 (.462%)
Tampa Bay Rays: 11-13 (.458%)
New York Yankees: 8-15 (.348%)
Observation: Through one month the AL East, as expected, is known for it’s offensive power and not it’s pitching. The five teams have combined to score 506 runs, best in the American League. Boston (1) and Baltimore (2) both rank respectively in the top-two of team batting average. And Baltimore (1), Toronto (3) and Tampa Bay (6) all rank in the tops in total home runs.
The pitching on the other hand, hasn’t been as consistent, but isn’t terrible. The Red Sox (13) and Yankees (14) rank in the bottom three of the AL in earned run average. But in total strike outs all five teams crack the top-10 in the AL, with the Red Sox (243) and Rays (213) rounding out the top-two.
Prediction: This is the first in an occasional series ranking the five AL East teams, not in terms of just win/loss record, but factoring in pitching, hitting, scheduling, statistics and my gut.
Boston Red Sox: Right now, the Red Sox are the best in the division and I am not just saying that because they are fresh off a three-game sweep of the New York Yankees (first since 2013). David Price (4-0) and Rick Porcello (5-0) are rounding into solid form for the rotation that is still minus-Eduardo Rodriguez. They have a deep bullpen (and they will get Carson Smith back) and great late inning set up pitching with Junichi Tazawa, Koji Uehara and Craig Kimbrel. They can hit (.285% team batting average, second best in all of baseball) and play defense (Hanley Ramirez has zero errors in 22 games at first, Christian Vazquez’s calling games behind the plate). I think they can win the division.
The Sox next three-game series is against the AL Central-leading Chicago White Sox (18-8). Steven Wright (2-2), Clay Buchholz (0-3) and Henry Owens (0-0) are slated to start.
Toronto Blue Jays: The reigning AL East champions are off to a slow start (12-14), but it’s a long season and I think they are good enough to finish second this year. The problem with their slow start is that they have a problem haulting their losing streaks. The Jays have three separate losing streaks of three or more games, including a four-game streak.
If there is a team that can get by with power hitting, it’s the Jays line up of reining AL MVP Josh Donaldson, Jose Bautista and Troy Tulowitzki. On the mound they lost David Price to Boston, but still have Marcus Stroman (4-0) and J.A. Happ (3-0).
Baltimore Orioles: The Orioles have to be one of the surprises in the AL this year, starting 7-0. This is a team this is similar to the Blue Jays in a sense. They have good power hitting, but not as much talented or deep pitching. Chris Davis (seven homers), Manny Machado (seven homers) and Mark Trumbo (six homers) will change ball games with one swing of the bat, but the problem with that is that bats can easily cool off. Can the Orioles win a 1-0 game? Probably, but more than likely not. The seven quality starts Baltimore owns is 29th in baseball.
New York Yankees: The Yankees (8-15) are off to their worst start since 1991. I don’t think this team is very good, but it’s hard to predict them finishing in the basement of the AL East. They are currently on a five game slide, in which they are being outscored 33-12. They struggle to manufacture runs (only 81), third worst in all of baseball and are only batting .234% (23rd in MLB). They have no clear cut ace and a team 4.79 earned run average. It could get ugly in New York.
Tampa Bay Rays: The Rays finish in the basement of the AL East by default. They don’t score a lot or runs (77) and don’t have a flashy line up, but their pitching has kept them in the running. The Rays rotation isn’t flashy but has been solid, allowing only 3.39 earned runs (third best in the AL) and striking out 213 (second best in AL). Quite frankly, the Rays just don’t have the star power.