Seizing Up the A.L. East

 

 

Heading into the All-Star break, the American League East appears to be a three team race but every team has a serious flaw. The winner of the division will have to make moves before the deadline in 3 weeks.

Let’s start with the division leading Baltimore Orioles. Heading into the break, the Orioles are 51-36 and have a 2 game lead ahead of the Red Sox and the Blue Jays. The top three teams in the A.L. East rank number 1, 2, and 3 in the American League in Runs scored. The Orioles are third with 438 Runs. What the Orioles do best is hit Home Runs and they lead the majors with 135. Five players in the Baltimore lineup have double digit Home Runs and two have 9. Buck Showalter is a genius with controlling a bullpen and he has a good one. The Orioles have the 3rd best bullpen in baseball when looking at ERA with a 3.14 ERA and are anchored by one of the most underrated pitchers in all of baseball in Zach Britton. The flaw of the Baltimore Orioles is their starting rotation. Their starting rotation has the 3rd worst ERA in all of baseball (5.21) and have thrown the fewest innings in all of baseball (463). The inability of the starters to pitch deep into games means that the bullpen is being overused and a tired bullpen is not something that Showalter will want to have come September. Besides Tillman, no other pitcher has a sub 4.00 ERA. If the Orioles want to finish the season on top, they will have to add at least 1 starting pitcher.

The Toronto Blue Jays are tied for second in the division with Boston and have played well in their last 30 games going 19-11. The Blue Jays offense struggled for the first 6 weeks of the season but woke up and now have scored the 2nd most runs in the American League (441). The most surprising part about this team has been their starting rotation, which has been the best in the American League (3.66 ERA). They have thrown the most innings in all of baseball (572), and that is without last year’s ace David Price. The only part about this team that I do not like is the bullpen. Roberto Osuna has been very good this season converting 18 of 20 saves but the guys leading up to Osuna are the problem. As a whole, the Toronto Blue Jays have blown 12 saves this season. Drew Storen, Jessie Chavez, Gaven Floyd, and Brett Cecil have all struggled this season. Only Joe Biagini (2.91 ERA) has pitched well this season. The Blue Jays need to go out and get a set-up guy before the deadline.

The Boston Red Sox are tied for 2nd in the division and Dave Dombrowski has already been aggressive to improve this ball club. They acquired Aaron Hill and Michael Martinez to sure up baseball’s best offense in baseball (486 runs). They also acquired Brad Ziegler from the Arizona Diamondbacks to help the bullpen survive the next couple of weeks without their All-Star closer Craig Kimbrel. The starting rotation is a real problem for this organization has they only have 3 legitimate starters. Steven Wright may be the most surprising pitcher in all of baseball as he has the lowest ERA in the American League (2.68). Rick Porcello is 11-2 and David Price has had good and bad stretches but is heading into the All-Star break with 8 innings of shutout ball today against the Rays. After that, who knows who will be in the rotation? Eduardo Rodriguez, Sean O’Sullivan, Clay Buchholz, and Henry Owens are possible options but have all struggled this year. The Red Sox have a deep farm system and Dombrowski will have to deal a solid prospect if they want to compete for a division title.

The most interesting team in the American League East is the New York Yankees. They enter the break at .500 with a 44-44 record. Every time the Yankees look to be ready to take off, they have a 4 or 5 game losing streak that eventually takes them 2 weeks to get back to .500. Yankee fans must be frustrated. The Yankees could become sellers this trade deadline and deal Chapman, Miller, and Beltran. But this is the Yankees we are talking about and they never wave the white flag. Besides their bullpen, the Yankees are a weak team. Their rotation (4.81 ERA) and their offense (24th in runs) have been inconsistent all season. Baseball Prospectus ranks the Yankees farm system as the 16th farm system in baseball. In order to compete for the division, they will have to sell the few prospects that they do have to stabilize their rotation and lineup. The Yankees have not had a complete rebuild in 25+ years and I think this would be the ideal time to rebuild and regroup.

The Tampa Bay Rays are in the cellar of the American League East and they can look to their last 30 games as to why they will be sellers at the deadline. Over the past month, the Rays are 8-22 and head into the break with a 6 game losing streak. In the Month of July, the Rays are 1-8 and are averaging 2.5 runs per game. The Rays are always known for their starting pitching but this year it has not dominated like it normally has in the past. I really thought that Chris Archer was turning into one of the game’s best pitchers but he has really struggled this season as he already has 12 losses. The Rays could be able to deal potential trade chips like Alex Colome and Logan Forsythe. The 2017 rebuild of the Tampa Bay Rays should start to begin now.

If I had to predict who would win the division right now, I would go with the Toronto Blue Jays. Good starting pitching and a good offense can hide the lack of bullpen depth that they currently have right now. The Red Sox and Orioles both have major starting pitching problems and unless those problems are fixed, it is difficult to imagine either of them being able to maintain consistency when the games become more important. Expect all 3 of these teams to be active during the trade deadline. It should be a fun race that goes deep into September.

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Weekend Review: Mariners Disappoint

 

My biggest take away from this weekend is that every time I begin to buy that the Seattle Mariners are for real, they have a weekend like this past weekend. The Mariners were swept at home against the Minnesota Twins. The Twins came into the series with only 12 wins on the season. The Mariners even had their ace on the mound in Felix Hernandez and he got bombed in the 3rd inning as he gave up 5 runs Friday night. Miguel Sano and Joe Mauer led the way for the Twins in the series as both of them homered in every game in the series. Now every team in baseball is going to have a bad weekend and get swept. But the fact that the Mariners got swept by the worst team in the American League is a problem. These are the type of series that you circle on a schedule and believe you can begin to build some momentum going into the next week. Now they have the task of trying to rebound from a difficult weekend and luckily they welcome the San Diego Padres into town. I am going to have to see a lot more of the Mariners this year before I buy stock in the Mariners.

 

  • Jake Odorizzi pitched into the 7th inning with a no-hitter before Starlin Castro hit a 2-Run Home Run to give the Yankees a 2-1 lead. Teams who have had pitchers throw 1-hitters this season are 3-3. I guess if you only get 1 hit, make it count like the Yankees did on Sunday.
  • Dodgers are 10-1 when Clayton Kershaw pitches and 17-23 when the other starters pitch.
  • Dallas Keuchel beat the Los Angeles Angels and got the win for the first time since April 15th. Now wins do not tell the entire story but his 7 starts in between wins looked like this: 6 ER, 5 ER, 5 ER, 2 ER, 8 ER 3 ER, and 7 ER. The Astros rotation has been awful this season and the Astros need Keuchel to start pitching like the guy who won the CY last season.
  • The White Sox are in trouble. After a strong April, the White Sox are no longer in 1st place in the American League Central. Their bullpen blew 3 straight leads, leads of 4, 6, and 2, as they got swept by the Kansas City Royals. I would be worried if I were a White Sox fan right now.

 

 

Did the Yankees Salvage their Season?

 

A few weeks ago I wrote a post about how the Yankees were about to enter a crucial stretch of games and at the time, they were buried in the basement of the American League East. Looking back at the last 17 days for the Yankees, they had an impressive stretch.
3 out of 4 against the Royals
2 out of 3 against the White Sox
1 out of 3 against the Diamondbacks
4 game sweep of the A’s
Lost 2 out of 3 to the Blue Jays
They have an 11-6 record during that time and ultimately may have saved their season. Remember, after the Yankees lost two out of three against the Red Sox, Alex Rodriguez went on the DL with a hamstring injury and shortly after that C.C. Sabathia went on the DL as well. During this important stretch, a few players for the Yankees have really stepped up. The first player who stepped up has been Carlos Beltran. Beltran looked like a player who was playing like a 39 year-old in April. Once Rodriguez went down and Beltran was moved to the DH, he began hitting like the Carlos Beltran that the Yankees gave a huge contract to 3 years ago. Over the past 14 games, he has hit .302/.340/.628 with 3 HR and 14 runs batted in. He has been a huge factor in the middle of the Yankee lineup.
Another big performer over the past few weeks has been C.C. Sabathia. Sabathia did spend 15 days on the disabled list but over his past three starts has looked like the C.C of old. He has thrown 20 innings only allowing 11 hits and 1 earned run with 21 strikeouts. That equals a 0.45 ERA and a great sign for the Yankees going forward.
The biggest addition to this team over that past three weeks has been Aroldis Chapman. Chapman was suspended for the first 6 weeks of the season for a domestic abuse incident. Chapman has allowed Girardi to manage his pen to shorten games. The big three in the pen have been outstanding since Chapman has arrived. In Dellin Betances’s last 12 games, he has pitched to a 1.64 ERA and opponents are hitting .179 with 20 strikeouts. In Andrew Miller’s last 10 games, he has pitched to a 1.86 ERA and opponents are hitting .211 with 18 strikeouts. Since debuting with the Yankees, Aroldis Chapman has pitched in 8 games and has a 2.25 ERA and opponents are hitting .200 with 11 strikeouts.
Unfortunately for the Yankees, the Red Sox have gone 11-5 during the same stretch and the Yankees are currently 6.5 games back in the American League East. For the Yankees, the worry is not about winning the division in May but the worry was to dig themselves such a big hole that they cannot climb out of it. They have weathered the storm and 6.5 games in May is nothing to worry about. There are still a lot of questions that the Yankees will have to answer during the final four months of the season. They are an older team and a lot of their players are injury prone. But the Yankees deserve a lot of credit for how they have played over the past three weeks.

Who are the Yankees?



Since I have been following baseball, the Yankees have always been the most aggressive team when it comes to signing free agents. The price of the player or the total salary of the team was never a thought. The only thing that mattered was winning. Players like C.C. Sabathia, Mark Texiera, and Alex Rodriguez all took top dollar to play for the Yankees. The 2013 offseason saw the Yankees act like the Yankees of old with Steinbrenner at the helm. They signed Jacoby Ellsbury (7/153), Masahiro Tanaka (7/155), Brian McCann (5/85), and Carlos Beltran (3/45). Despite all of these signings, the Yankees missed the playoffs for the second consecutive season. I know baseball has change a little with teams worrying about having to pay the Luxury Tax, but this is the New York Yankees we are talking about. 

Many thought with a lot of big names hitting the free agent market, the Yankees would be aggressive. Names like Scherzer, Lester, Shields, Sandoval, and Ramirez (who could have replaced Jeter) all signed with different teams including their rival Boston. On Monday, the Red Sox signed Cuban infielder Yoan Moncada to a 31.5 million dollar signing bonus. Many believed the Yankees were the favorite to sign Moncada but supposedly the Yankees would not go higher than 27 million. Giving the lack of top prospects in the Yankees farm system, it was surprising to see the Yankees not get more aggressive for a player who many scouts believe has star potential. 

Heading into 2015, the Yankees have many questions marks regarding their roster. Will the Yanks regret not getting one of the big name free agents that could have helped bolster their staff or lineup? Have times changed in New York?