The American League East Remains a Powerhouse

Once upon a time, the American League East was baseball’s most powerful division. In the early part of this century, watching the Red Sox and Yankees battle for supremacy was exhilarating. The rivalry had never been stronger. It was Derek Jeter against Nomar Garciaparra. It was Alex Rodriguez against David Ortiz. It was Theo Epstein against the American League EastEvil Empire. Every game was crucial.

That intensity was ultimately cooled, as the Red Sox won multiple championships and old Yankee Stadium was demolished. Some of the history and passion was lost, as the other teams caught up. Tampa Bay won the division in 2008 and 2010. Baltimore rode a renaissance to the crown in 2014. Toronto even won the American League East last year, as the old duopoly was dismantled.

A New Era in the American League East

This year, in a new world order, four teams have a legitimate shot at winning the division as mid-September approaches. And while the division has changed irreparably from the halcyon days, few divisions in Major League Baseball can match the American League East for quality. It’s still by far the most difficult division to win.

 

Right now, the American League East has a combined winning percentage of .523. That’s the best in all of baseball. The National League Central is second at .505. Meanwhile, the National League East currently has a joint winning percentage of just .487 among its five teams. While romping to a playoff berth is always preferable, this may suggest a competitive advantage to whichever team eventually emerges from the American League East. That team will be more battle-tested than any other, having beaten three other teams to the crown.

The Fight for a Title

The Red Sox and Blue Jays currently sit atop the division at 77-61. Baltimore lurks just one game behind. But this is actually becoming a four-team race, because the Yankees continue to surge despite trading away three of their best players in July. The Bombers are in fourth place with a 72-65 record, just four-and-a-half games behind the leaders. That may seem like a lot at this stage, but the Yankees are closer to first place than all but one second-place team throughout baseball. Whether people like it or not, New York is in this thing, too. And that makes for a compelling finish to a bizarre season.

September is full of inter-division games. The Red Sox will play six against Toronto, seven against Baltimore, seven against New York, and three against Tampa Bay. Each division rival faces a similar schedule, with one more interleague series thrown in for some of them. Therefore, this thing could change on an almost hourly basis until the death.

With multiple games affecting the standings each night, scoreboard watching will be imperative. One streak, either positive or negative, could have massive consequences at this point, for a variety of teams. Only the best will survive, as the battle for October reaches boiling point. Let the strongest team emerge victorious.

The Next Red Sox Ace is Here

6 IP, 5 Hits, 2 ER, 2 BB, 10 Ks, 3.00 ERA. Not a bad debut for the new Boston Red Sox ace, David Price.

Command looked pretty good early on, especially having to deal with the cold temperatures at game time. Of his 103 pitches thrown, he threw 71 for strikes and worked both sides of the zone. He employed a nice mix of his fastball, curveball and change-up tored sox ace keep Francona’s Indians off-balance.

One thing I did notice was the velocity on his fastball. Price routinely sat in the 94-95 range in 2015, but Tuesday’s debut had him sitting in the 90-92 range, while topping out at 93.9.

But let’s not hit the big red panic button just yet. Game time temps were hovering around 34 degrees so that most certainly played a big role in the drop of velocity as well as it being his 1st start of the year. With temps expected to be around 55 degrees for the Red Sox Home Opener, and Price’s 2nd start of the season, I anticipate the velocity to reappear sooner than later.

What to Expect From the Red Sox Ace Moving Forward

Consistency, that’s what you can expect to see moving forward. David Price’s next start will be the Sox Home Opener on April 11th. In 11 career starts over at the Fens, Price is 6-1 with a 1.95 ERA, in 74 innings. Look for Price to not only build on those stats, but also thrive.

Now I don’t want to get ahead of ourselves and talk postseason play, because quite frankly on paper this team is not postseason material, but everyone’s big concern when they heard Price was coming to Boston was his postseason numbers. Hard to disagree with most fans when you look at what he’s produced in 14 postseason appearances.

2-7, 5.12 ERA , 63.1 IP, 62 Hits, 36 ER, 11 HR.

Are those numbers “ace worthy”? Not by any means, but it begs the question, why can’t he produce in the postseason? Well, for starters in the 2013 ALDS against the Sox, the Rays offense combined for a dismal .225 batting average. Right there, if your team is not producing offensively that automatically throws the world’s weight onto the pitcher to keep you in the game.

In last year’s ALCS match up with the Royals, the Jay’s offense didn’t fare much better— hitting a combined .234 batting average. Do we see a pattern?

Now I’m not saying offense is the key to a pitchers success, but if your hitters are not hitting and putting runs on the board what more can a pitcher do for the team? I would love to hear someone come up with a good explanation because I have not figured one out yet.

Instead of focusing on the postseason though let’s live in the now. David Price is your Red Sox ace and he’s not going to take that responsibility lightly. He’s going to go out to that mound every 5th day and prove to not only the Sox brass that he belongs here but the fans as well that he’s the real deal and he will help the Sox achieve their goal of reaching October baseball.

So David, and Astro (Price’s dog)…Welcome to Boston. Enjoy riding your bike through the city, explore the city and all its offerings. And for God’s sake, lead us to the promise land.

Red Sox and Blue Jays Headed in Opposite Directions

Red Sox

As Red Sox fans, we understand nothing is won in April. Well, except for games that if won could be the difference between a potential playoff run and a disaster of a season, alas the 2011 Boston Red Sox. We also know crowning a team in April makes no sense, again alas 2011, when many Boston sports media moguls deemed that team the best ever.

Yet we can’t help the hyperbole. This is the most likeable Red Sox team since at least 2009. This team has that feel about it you need to see if you have World Series expectations: the ability to win all types of ball games. They can jump to quick leads and cruise. They can grind pitchers down with their plate discipline and win the game late. They can win in a pitcher’s duel. They can save runs in the field and manufacture them on the base paths. And we have yet to experience the lineup with David Ortiz in the middle of it. I can’t wait.

The Toronto Blue Jays, on the other hand, have begun the season in the opposite direction. The Sox and Jays are not just opposites in the standings so far—they have opposite feels to them, and those feelings began in the offseason.

Where the Sox were expected to have a rebuilding year, the Jays were expected to finally have their breakthrough, their time to shine in the AL east. The Jays made the big offseason splashes; the Sox kept quiet. Whispers of Jays’ players’ discontent with John Farrell leaked out—the Sox hired him. The Jays suddenly had media-induced expectations before they played a single inning together, while the lack of expectations for the Sox aided in the identity already spawned by Pedroia, Ortiz, Lester, Middlebrooks, and even Jackie Bradley, and that identity is a grind-it-out every day, every pitch approach.

In week 1, new Jays’ addition, and supposed ace, R.A. Dickey gave up ten earned runs, six walks and three homers. Melky Cabrera has yet to display the power he possessed at the plate last season (shocker). Jose Reyes has gotten off to a hot start, but he has done that in the past, only to fade over the course of the season or sustain a series of injuries. The Jays have no identity coupled with the expectations of a potential champion. The Red Sox established a clear identity in week 1: win any way you can—the first step to a successful season.