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MLB Mid Season Report Card: Part 4 – AL East

Posted on July 16, 2010 by Don Spieles

New York Yankees (56-32): A+

What can you say about the Yankees? They have the best record in all of baseball and look pretty much unstoppable. They are, as usual, chock full of stars – Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeeter, Robinson Cano, and Curtis Granderson have combined for 62 home runs and 255 RBI. The teams on-base percentage is an AL best .353.

New York Yankees players Alex Rodriguez (2nd L), Nick Swisher (33), Andy Pettitte and C.C. Sabathia (R) wear black armbands in honor of Yankees principal owner George Steinbrenner during a tribute before Major League Baseball's All-Star Game in Anaheim, California July 13, 2010. REUTERS/Alex Gallardo  (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT BASEBALL)

The Yankee Machine has been further galvanized with the passing of its owner, George Steinbrenner.

If anything in the Yankee roster can be considered a weak spot, it would have to be pitching, but keep in mind that most teams would kill right now for pitching as “weak” as that of the Yankees. All five starters currently post .500 records or better. They are second in the AL in ERA (3.81). CC Sabathia and Phillip Hughes are other-worldly and their strength more than makes up for an over paid and unpredictable AJ Burnett. Mariano Rivera, although showing sings of age and spending some time sidelined with minor injuries, is doing his usual with 20 saves and a 1.05 ERA. Joba Chamberlain is a serious weak spot in the bull pen, but with all the Yankees have going for them, the fact that they have essentially screwed up what could have been a premier set-up man by insisting on having him start the last couple of season, it is not enough of a drag on things to really matter.

Simply stated, if the Yankees are not in the World Series this year, then divine intervention will have to be blamed. And with George Steinbrenner now in the ethereal plane, acts of God against the Bronx Bombers seem unlikely.

Tampa Bay Rays (54-34): A+

If the Rays were in any other division in baseball they would be leading it. They have risen to striking distance of leading the best division in the sport – again – and have done it sort of under the radar.

Like the Padres, the talk surrounding the Rays in Spring Training was about who players like Carl Crawford and Carlos Pena would be traded to come the July 31st deadline. That really seems unlikely now, in fact the Rays are considered “buyers” at this point, hoping for something to give them that extra push past the Yankees.

The Rays winning ways are a bit out of the ordinary. They are average or below in terms of hits, runs, and batting average, but they lead the AL in stolen bases, walks, and fewest strike outs. They are the only team ahead of the Yankees in terms of ERA (3.59), have given up the fewest runs. You don’t need to be an offensive juggernaut when you mound staff does the job that the Rays pitchers are doing.

The Yankees seem unbeatable, but they consider the Rays a viable threat and so should everyone else.

Boston Red Sox (51-38): A

July 10, 2010 - Toronto, Ontario, Canada - 10 July 2010: Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz.

"Big Papi" David Ortiz has placed the injury riddled Sox on his shoulders to help keep them relevant in the tough AL East.

It may seem odd to give the third place team such a high grade, but think about it. First of all, again, this is the AL East. At third in that division, they would be leading or tied in every other division in baseball with their 51 wins. The AL East is just that good. The bigger story in Boston is the amount of problems that they have overcome thus far. They have had injuries to all of the following: Josh Beckett, Clay Buchholz, Victor Martinez, Jacoby Ellsbury, Mike Cameron, Dustin Pedroia, and Jason Varitek – all of which lead to significant time out of play. They weathered another abysmal season start from DH David Ortiz, who is now carrying the team, tied for the team lead in RBI (57) with workhorse Keven Youkilis. The focus was on run prevention during Spring Training, but they are leading the AL in runs scored and, when JD Drew and Kevin Youkilis each hit their next home run, they Sox will have seven players with 20 or more jacks! Pitching has been hot and cold. Beckett’s .500 record may be attributed to back issues, but Wakefield is rather horrible this season, posting a .273 winning percentage and a 5.65 ERA. John Lackey is looking stronger after a weak start, and Jon Lester is, as usual, money in the bank. Daisuke Matsuzaka, who is certainly not proving to be worth the insane amout the red Sox had to spend on him, iis managing to hold his head above water with a 6-3 record. The good news is that a lot of the injuries are about to start resolving themselves. The bad news is that it is probably too late. The Red Sox need to play near .700 baseball in the second half to have a shot at overtaking the Yankees. But if they can play .573 ball with all these injuries, who knows what a truly healthy squad could acheive.

Toronto Blue Jays (44-45): C-

Toronto is a slave to its weak market and its location. They are sellers this season, already having jettisoned Alex Gonzalez (arguably their best player this season) to the Braves. The reality is there really is no one else to sell. Vernon Wells is working under a large $126 million contract that runs to 2014, so his leaving is unlikely. No one else of any worth for trade bait is on the roster, especially of you look at contracts that end after this season.

It’s hard to really put a label on what it is the Jays are doing. They are not contending, yet they don’t seem to be rebuilding. Can Blue Jays tread water?

Baltimore Orioles (29-59): F

June 29, 2010: Miguel Tejada  for the Baltimore Orioles in action during a game against the visiting Oakland Athletics at Oriole Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore, Maryland. The Athletics beat the Orioles 4 - 2.

Miguel Tejada leads the AL in errors for a downtrodden Orioles team.

Trashing the O’s is simply not appropriate. It leaves you with the same feeling you’d get if you stole a child’s candy or kicked a puppy. The reality is that there is very little about the Orioles that is not very, very bad.

The have the worst ERA in the majors (4.99) and trail the AL in hits allowed, runs allowed, and home runs allowed. Only one pitcher, Jake Arrieta has a record over .500 (he is 3-2 in seven starts.)

Like the Blue jays, Baltimore would be selling if they had anything to sell. There just isn’t any scuttlebutt about anything going on in Baltimore other than wishful thinking.

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