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BSBL- Abbreviated Analysis: The American League East

The American League East used to be a powerhouse division. This year? It looks a little different.

Yankee Stadium by Dex907) is licensed under CC BY SA-2.0

BSBL- Abbreviated Analysis: The American League East

Estimated Reading Time: 7 Minutes

Well – here we are. Roughly a third of the way into the 2020 MLB season. While a few teams have barely seen the field as a result of dealing with COVID outbreaks, the majority of the league has managed to play roughly a third of their games (give or take). This seems like a good time to start reflecting on what has been, and what may be. After all – the playoffs are right around the corner in this most unique of seasons.

Every few weeks we’ll be checking in on each team as they navigate this 60 game race to the postseason. While there’s plenty to talk about off the field, this series will focus primarily on the games and how the season is shaking out. So, let’s dive in, shall we?

The Toronto Blue Jays

The Jays have had a rough start to this campaign – mainly because they found out, just as it was getting underway, that they wouldn’t be allowed to play their home games at the Rogers Centre.

Their core of young bats has got off to a fairly slow start. Bichette, Gurriel, Biggio and Guerrero, Jr. began the seasonwith a combined 6 HR and 17 RBI thus far. It’s was actually Teoscar Hernandez who has carried the load early on.

Bo Bichette has since supercharged his efforts, and is now hitting above .350 with no signs of slowing down.

The pitching staff is led by Hyun Jin Ryu and Tanner Roark, both of whom are off to 1-1 starts. Both sport ERAs north of 4.00, with Roark’s at 5.63, and the rest of the rotation hasn’t fared much better. They’ve already had some injury blows with closer Ken Giles, SP Trent Thronton, and OF Derek Fisher currently on the injured list. Chase Anderson, who started the season there, has recently been activated and will hopefully help relieve some of the burden that has been placed on the bullpen so far. They’ll finally be playing in their “home” park in Buffalo, NY this week. It’ll be interesting to see how the team settles in over the coming weeks. If the bats can all get going and the rotation can start going deeper into games, the Jays could make some noise.

The Boston Red Sox

Fans of the Sawx were well aware that this season would be a challenging one, particularly given the state of their rotation coming in. Chris Sale – OUT (Tommy John), David Price – OUT (now a Dodger), Rick Porcello – OUT (now a NY Met). Ouch. That’s a gaping hole on the mound. It got even bigger when Eduardo Rodriguez, the presumptive ace of the staff, was lost for the season. He came down with COVID and developed a heart condition as a result of the illness. That left Nate Eovaldi to pick up the slack. After him, it’s been a rag-tag collection of arms (Zack Godley, Martin Perez, Ryan Weber) filling out the rotation. Collectively, the pitching staff is near the bottom of the league in several categories. Their staff ERA is 5.24 (14th of 15), with a 1.551 WHIP (14th of 15), 8.59 K/9 (13th of 15) and .257 BAA (15th of 15) have made it hard for Boston to remain competitive so far.

Offensively, it’s been just as much of a struggle. Guys like J.D. Martinez, Andrew Benintendi and Rafael Devers have yet to find their form. Xander Bogaerts has been the most consistent player in the lineup. He’s in the top 3 in hits (15), HR (3), and BA (.341). Mitch Moreland and Christian Vazquez have contributed early as well, but it’s going to take more than a couple of guys to make up for all of the pitching challenges facing this team the rest of the way.

The Baltimore Orioles

I feel like the Orioles are akin to the Miami Marlins of the NL East – nobody really gives them a chance. Perhaps it’s because one never knows just which version of the team will show up to play on any given day. Their first two weeks has seen them get swept by the Rays and Marlins, yet they’re only 12 outs from sweeping the defending World Series Champion Washington Nationals (the game was suspended thanks to a debacle with the tarp on Sunday that led to an unplayable field. It’ll be resumed on Friday in Baltimore). They currently sit at 9-7 on the season.

The pitching has been pretty reliable out of the gate, ranking in the top 10 in several categories as a staff. Alex Cobb and Tommy Milone have fared the best so far among the starting rotation. Wade LeBlanc and John Means have had some rough patches over their first few starts. On Sunday they claimed Jorge López from the Kansas City Royals to add some depth.

On the offensive side, the O’s have proven to be a pretty steady lineup. Outside of an aging Chris Davis, there is promise all over the place. Renato Nunez, Anthony Santander, Hanser Alberto, Rio Ruiz, Pedro Severino – they’re all off to solid starts. Collectively their offense is in the top 10 in runs scored (85), hits (148), home runs (25), RBI (83), and batting average (.261), leading the entire AL in the latter category. In a shortened season where anything can happen, this team has the potential to compete. Even if they don’t sniff the division title, they will almost certainly have a say in who could win the East.

Tampa Bay Rays

Like the Orioles, the Rays are off to a decent start, sporting an 11-8 record. On paper, their rotation is solid. Blake Snell, Tyler Glasnow, Charlie Morton, Yonny Chirinos, and Ryan Yarbrough comprise a pretty formidable staff. Thus far, however, they’ve met with only moderate success. Snell has only lasted a total of 13 innings over his four starts. Morton has struggled with an ERA of 5.40 and he left Sunday’s start with shoulder issues. Glasnow and Yarbrough have yet to settle in as expected, and Chirinos has landed on the IL.

Their bats haven’t fared much better. Brandon Lowe has come out firing on all cylinders. He leads the team in hits (19), HR (4), RBI (13), and has the highest batting average, smacking the ball at a .302 clip. Coming into the season most pundits gave the Rays the best shot at taking down the Yankees in the division. This weekend’s series could serve as a preview of what it could look like down the stretch. The Rays took 3 of 4 from the Bombers, including a walk-off win on Sunday. I’m excited to see what the remaining weeks have in store for this rivalry.

New York Yankees

This is perhaps the least surprising news in baseball. The Yankees have been favorites to take this division seemingly forever. The offseason acquisition of Gerrit Cole instantly bolstered their chances. He joined a rotation that includes James Paxton, Masahiro Tanaka, J.A. Happ, and Jordan Montgomery. Cole has delivered as expected thus far, winning all three of his starts so far in 2020. Tanaka, after taking a line drive to the head in “summer camp” has been easing his way back into the swing of things. The other arms have been a bit sluggish thus far, but with the names in the bullpen, there’s rarely any panic in the Bronx. This weekend series that just wrapped up with the Rays marks the first series the team have dropped so far.

Like the pitching staff on this team, the offense is STACKED. Leading the way – Aaron Judge. He has come out ON FIRE. He currently leads the team (and MLB) in home runs with 9 round-trips. He’s tops on the team and AL in runs and RBIs as well. If he were to somehow have an off day, guys like DJ LeMahieu, Gio Urshela, Luke Voit, and Gary Sanchez can usually provide cover. There’s also Giancarlo Stanton, though he’s found himself on the IL yet again. If this team can stay healthy, I find it hard to believe that anyone will be able to stop them.

The Weeks Ahead

Given the unusual setup of this entire season, it’s virtually impossible to feel confident in making any predictions. All of these teams will be seeing a lot of each other in the coming weeks (provided there are no more scheduling surprises caused by everyone’s favorite virus). I’m excited to see how things start to shake out by the time we hit the “halfway point”. See you then!

Joe is an actor who grew up eating, living and breathing sports. He spent many an afternoon on the soccer or baseball field in his youth (and even gave several other sports a shot) before a series of events put him on the path to pursuing a performing career. Subsequently, he's worked almost every other type of job you could imagine while trying to support that endeavor. Whenever he's not working any of those jobs, he can often be found watching, playing or discussing sports in some way. Most of that banter revolves around the Mets, Giants, Rangers or Manchester United. His short term goal is to fully convert his fiance into a rabid sports fan, not someone who leaves the room whenever he turns a game on.

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