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AL East: I’m Confused!

Jared Wickerham, Getty Images

I know the season’s only a week old, but trying to make sense of the American League East standings just doesn’t make sense!

I thought the A.L. East was the toughest division in baseball.  Wow, I was wrong – at least so far.

Boston and Tampa Bay, two of the top teams in the division the past few years, are still winless.  The Red Sox and Rays are 0-6 but both of them had completely different expectations heading into the season.

Tampa was pretty much gutted during the off-season.  They lost their entire bullpen to either free agency or trades while Carlos Pena (Cubs) and Carl Crawford (Red Sox) signed with other teams.  Starting pitcher Matt Garza (the anchor to the rotation) was traded to the Cubs.  Tampa brought in Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez to offset some of the losses – but let’s be honest, it’s not 2004 anymore, Dorothy!

We knew the Rays would have issues and so far, they are.

Tampa has scored 8 runs – IN 6 GAMES.  They are hitting .145 – by far the worst in the Majors.  All-Star 3rd baseman Evan Longoria is out for 3 weeks and their lineup is pretty weak – that’s not going to change anytime soon.

Jonathan Daniel, Getty Images

Joe Maddon’s pitching staff has been marginal at best – but they still don’t have a true closer.  Quite honestly, it’s also hard to figure out who your closer is when you don’t have any saves yet – since you don’t have any wins!

I can’t figure out Boston.  The Red Sox came into the year as everyone’s World Series favorite but have been anything but so far.  Six of the 9 players in their starting lineup are either current or former All-Stars but they’ve managed to hit just .181 as a team.  That’s the 2nd worst in MLB (just ahead of Tampa).

Boston’s pitching has even been worse than their hitting – if that’s even possible.  They’ve got a team ERA of 7.13.  The worst in baseball – that’s just awful.

Is there cause for concern?  Not yet.  Just wait until June 1st before you start making real broad generalizations about a team.

Boston’s problem?  Everyone is struggling at the same time.  Adrian Gonzalez is hitting .304 but everyone else is hitting under .231!  Youkilis (.105), Pedroia (.227), Crawford (.174), Ellsbury (.167), Ortiz (.227) are all pressing right now but that will change.  At least I think.

Rob Carr, Getty Images

At the top of the division are the Baltimore Orioles.  At 5-1, the O’s are one of biggest surprises in all of baseball this year.

Most of us thought that their off-season acquisitions (Vladimir Guerrero, Mark Reynolds, JJ Hardy, Derek Lee and Kevin Gregg) would make this team better but it’s been the youthful pitching staff that has carried the Birds thus far.

The O’s team ERA is 2.33 - by far the best in the Major Leagues.  They’ve had quality starts (at least 6 innings pitched, giving up 3 runs or less) in 4 of their 6 games thus far.

The Yankees are about what we expected.

They Bronx Bombers lead the AL with 13 homeruns.  And the slow-starting Mark Teixeira already has 4 HR’s and 10 RBI’s.  Jorge Posada (now the full-time DH) even has 3 bombs and Alex Rodriguez looks as relaxed at the plate as I’ve seen in years.

There were so many questions about the Yanks starting pitching before the season but most of them have been answered thus far.  AJ Burnett (coming off a disastrous 2010 campaign) is 2-0 and has looked pretty good in both of his starts.

New York’s bullpen is their strength.  Mariano Rivera has saved every Yanks win (4) so far.  Joba Chamberlain, Rafael Soriano and Mo make up the best 7th, 8th and 9th inning pitchers – it’s not even close.

Nick Laham, Getty Images

Toronto is also in 2nd place right now.  They’re doing it with hitting and pitching.  Their team ERA is 2.78 (2nd best in the AL) and their hitting .283 (4th best in the AL).  If the Blue Jays keep it up, they could very well hang around in this division race for quite awhile.

I’ll do another story on the AL East in 2 weeks and I’m pretty sure the standings won’t look the way they do right now (on April 8th).

EAST W L PCT GB
Baltimore 5 1 .833 -
NY Yankees 4 2 .667 1
Toronto 4 2 .667 1
Tampa Bay 0 6 .000 5
Boston 0 6 .000 5

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