A Division Review: AL East

A Division Review: AL East

The American League East sits presently with three competitive ball clubs in the Tampa Bay Rays, the Boston Red Sox, and the New York Yankees (despite having the worst bout of injuries mankind has ever laid eyes upon). The Red Sox have largely under-performed but after starting 6-13 have surged to a 12-6 record since. The Orioles are Oriole’ing™ it up as bad as possibly can and the Blue Jays are sitting six games below .500 during a rebuild. How has each team gotten here?

Tampa Bay Rays

The Rays are 23-12, which is the best record in baseball and are in first place in front of the Yankees by two games. They have gotten the job done with one of the better offenses in baseball (tied for 6th in team wRC+, 8th in OBP, 6th in Hard-Hit%). They have had the best rotation in baseball (lowest rotation FIP, lowest ERA, lowest xFIP, lowest SIERA). They have arguably the best bullpen in baseball after the Astros unit (2nd lowest FIP, tied-4th lowest HR/9, 4th lowest ERA). They also rank solidly in defensive metrics (tied-9th in team Defensive Runs Saved, tied-8th in UZR, tied-2nd in Fielding Percentage%).

Key Contributors:

  • OF Austin Meadows (190 wRC+, 1.0 WAR in 20 games)
  • 2B Brandon Lowe (157 wRC+, 1.6 WAR in 32 games)
  • OF Tommy Pham (137 wRC+, 1.1 WAR in 34 games)
  • 1B/3B Yandy Diaz (136 wRC+, 1.0 WAR in 32 games)
  • OF Avisail Garcia (126 wRC+, 0.9 WAR in 30 games)
  • SP Blake Snell (37.1 IP, 3.36 FIP, 0.9 WAR in 7 starts)
  • SP Charlie Morton (39.1 IP, 2.96 FIP, 1.1 WAR in 7 starts)
  • SP Tyler Glasnow (43 IP, 2.40 FIP, 1.5 WAR in 7 starts)
  • RP Jalen Beeks (29 IP, 2.93 FIP, 0.6 WAR in 10 relief appearances)
The Athletic
Charlie Morton-Photo courtesy of The Athletic

New York Yankees

At 21-14, the Yankees stand just two games behind the Rays. Offensively, the Yankees look to be only slightly better at the plate than the Rays, which is to say they very well may be a top-five offense in baseball this year. The Yankees so far are also tied for 6th in the following: wRC+, batting average, BB%, OBP, and wOBA. Their rotation so far has ran a nice ERA that ranks 5th in baseball (3.58), but the underlying metrics support a rotation that is more middle of the pack than one of the best (12th in BB/9 and K/BB, 13th in FIP and xFIP). The Yankees bullpen has been one of the better units in the game. They rank 2nd in K/9, 4th in xFIP, and they have held opponents to the fourth lowest batting average in the game. Defensively they do not rate out particularly well, as they are 19th in Defensive Runs Saved and UZR and 23rd in Fielding Percentage.

Key Contributors:

  • OF Aaron Judge (146 wRC+, 0.9 WAR in 20 games)
  • 2B DJ LaMahieu (123 wRC+, 1.0 WAR in 31 games)
  • C Gary Sanchez (160 wRC+, 0.8 WAR in 22 games)
  • 3B Giovany Urshela (161 wRC+, 0.9 WAR in 27 games)
  • 1B Luke Voit (136 wRC+, 0.7 WAR in 35 games)
  • SP Domingo German (38.1 IP, 2.72 FIP, 1.4 WAR in 7 appearances)
  • SP James Paxton (37.2 IP, 2.53 FIP, 1.5 WAR in 7 starts)
  • RP Aroldis Chapman (12.2 IP, 1.25 FIP, 0.6 WAR in 14 appearances)
CBS Sports
Domingo German-Photo courtesy of CBS Sports

Boston Red Sox

The Red Sox are 18-19 and have been playing better ball as of late. Offensively, they have been very underwhelming. They have the 9th lowest Isolated Power in baseball, are tied 16th in wOBA, and rank 20th in wRC+. They have had a subpar rotation on the run-prevention front, having the 7th-highest ERA in baseball, but there are numbers to support improvement on the horizon. They are also 7th in K/9, 12th in xFIP, and tied for 10th in SIERA. Much of their high ERA can be explained away to a strand-rate that is the 2nd-lowest in all of baseball at 68%. Most pitchers, let alone teams, don’t strand so few runners. The league-average is around 72.5% or so. They have also allowed the third-highest BABIP which is due for regression to the mean. They have had a solid bullpen so far. Their unit ranks 4th in SIERA, 4th in K/9 and has held opponents to the 4th lowest batting average in baseball. They rank 22nd in DRS, 20th in UZR, and tied for 20th in Fielding Percentage.

Key Contributors:

  • OF Mookie Betts (134 wRC+, 1.1 WAR in 36 games)
  • SS Xander Bogaerts (114 wRC+, 1.3 WAR in 35 games)
  • OF Andrew Benintendi (115 wRC+, 0.8 WAR in 33 games)
  • DH J.D. Martinez (134 wRC+, 0.8 WAR in 35 games)
  • SP David Price (36 IP, 3.45 FIP, 0.8 WAR in 6 starts)
Jim Rogash/CBS Boston
Mookie Betts-Photo courtesy of Jim Rogash/CBS Boston

Toronto Blue Jays

It’s been an expected rough start to the 2019 season. At 15-21, to go along with the fact that the Rays are surging and the Red Sox are probably going to play even better baseball moving further, it is safe to say that the Jays playoffs hopes are not looking so optimistic at this point. They have one of the worst offenses in baseball (3rd-highest K%, 4th worst BB/K rate, 4th lowest OBP, 4th lowest OPS), a subpar rotation (7th worst K/9, 3rd worst BB/9, 3rd worst K/BB, 16th in FIP), and a bullpen that has outperformed expectations (16th in K/9, 12th in BB%, 14th in K/BB). The pen had the 2nd lowest opponents batting average and WHIP due to an unsustainable 78 strand% (4th highest in baseball) and the 2nd-lowest BABIP in baseball. They round it out with a middling defense that is tied-9th in DRS, 16th in UZR, and 25th in Fielding Percentage.

Key Contributors

  • 1B Justin Smoak (118 wRC+, 0.5 WAR in 32 games)
  • 2B Eric Sogard (191 wRC+, 1.2 WAR in 16 games)
  • RP Sam Gavliglio (24 IP, 2.72 FIP, 0.4 WAR in 12 appearances)
  • SP Marcus Stroman (45.2 IP, 3.10 FIP, 1.2 WAR in 8 starts)
  • SP Matt Shoemaker (28.2 IP, 3.87 FIP, 0.5 WAR in 5 starts)
Ben Margot/AP
Matt Shoemaker-Photo courtesy of Ben Margot/AP

Baltimore Orioles

The Orioles stand with one of the worst records in baseball at 13-23 and already ten-and-a-half games back in the division race. The offense has not been getting it done (tied-19th in batting average, 4th-lowest BB%, tied for the 7th worst BB/K rate, 7th worst OPS). They have the worst rotation in baseball, with the worst FIP and xFIP in baseball, as well as the 3rd worst SIERA and 5th highest ERA in baseball. They also have the worst bullpen in baseball, running the highest ERA, FIP, and xFIP in baseball. The Defense has really misses Manny Machado’s presence as the Orioles currently rank 25th in DRS and UZR and 21st in Fielding Percentage.

Key Contributors

  • OF Trey Mancini (147 wRC+, 1.1 WAR in 33 games)
  • OF Dwight Smith Jr. (125 wRC+, 0.9 WAR in 33 games)
The Athletic
Trey Mancini-Photo courtesy of The Athletic

Yes, it’s that sad in Baltimore. But fortunately, the rest of the division has plenty to cheer for. Toronto has Vladdy Jr. and then Bo Bichette on the way. The Yankees will be in full gear soon enough when their Injured List becomes more bare. Just imagine how much of a powerhouse they could be when they get a lot of their guys healthy. The Red Sox are playing much better baseball now. The Rays, well they are one of baseball’s most young and exciting teams.

Featured Photo Credit: Charles Krupa/AP

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