Debate: Who Wins the AL East?
The AL East is perennially considered to be the toughest division in all of baseball. This season is no different. As of right now, there are three teams within two games of the division lead. Most people expected the Yankees (division leaders) and Rays (2 GB) to be right there, but there is also the upstart Orioles (1 GB) that are right in the thick of things.
It will definitely be an interesting next few weeks for all three teams, but which one will ultimately win the division?
Let’s dig in..
1. Most favorable schedule – Advantage: Yankees
Here are the remaining schedules for Baltimore, New York,and Tampa Bay:
-BAL: 3 vs TB, 3 @ OAK, 3 @ SEA, 3 @ BOS, 4 vs TOR, 3 vs BOS, & 3 @ TB (22 games)
-NYY: 3 @ BOS, 3 vs TB, 3 vs TOR, 3 vs OAK, 3 @ MIN, 4 @ TOR, & 3 vs BOS (22 games)
-TB: 3 @ BAL, 3 @ NYY, 4 vs BOS, 3 vs TOR, 2 @ BOS, 4 @ CWS, & 3 vs BAL (22 games)
Let me break this down a bit. Over each of these team’s remaining 22 games, Tampa Bay plays teams that are under .500 nine times, Baltimore 13 times and New York 16 times. This means that the Yankees only play a winning team SIX TIMES for the rest of the regular season. Furthermore, all six of those games are at Yankee Stadium. They also play the Twins and Blue Jays in seven of their last 10 games.
2. Pitching Staff – Advantage: Rays
The Rays could very well have the best starting rotation in all of baseball, and their bullpen is pretty good as well. Baltimore has the better overall bullpen, but the Rays’ starters are just filthy. Opposing teams will face a heavy dose of Price/Shields/Hellickson/Moore down the stretch, and that bodes well for Tampa Bay.
3. Offense – Advantage: Yankees
The Bronx Bombers lead MLB in slugging, are second in OPS and third in runs scored. Even with Teixeira out of the lineup, they can put a crooked number on the scoreboard quickly. Their run differential (+93) is better than that of the Rays (+85) and Orioles (an absurd -29).
4. Manager – Advantage: Orioles
Buck Showalter is probably the odds-on favorite to win the AL Manager of the Year Award, and he is having one of the best seasons of his managerial career. His no-nonsense and fundamental approach to the game has helped to lift the O’s from the basement of the AL East to the middle of a pennant race.
5. Experience – Advantage: Yankees
This team has gotten the “old” tag at several different points this season, but it is clear that they are battle-tested group. The likes of Jeter, Sabathia, Cano and Granderson will not shy away from the immense spotlight down the stretch.
6. Intangibles – Advantage: Orioles
The Orioles are 25-7 in one-run games this season. This group has a very impressive set of intangibles that allow them to come through in the clutch time and time again.
My prediction: New York Yankees
Of all of the things that I listed above, I think that the experience combined with a more favorable schedule will give the Yankees the ultimate advantage. Although I think the Yankees take the division, I think that there is a favorable chance that there will be three AL East teams in the Postseason (that is, the Orioles and Rays would take the two Wild Card spots).
Those are my thoughts, but I want to hear from you. Tweet to @MLBFanCave and @KyleOKC with the team that you think will end up winning to AL East.