A quick check of the tote board this morning finds the Rays in sole possession of 2nd place in the big bad AL East. To get there, all they had to do was get back to .500. That seems to beg the question, is the AL East really as tough as we all think it is or predicted it would be?
Sure it’s easy to point to the money New York and Boston spent this winter as proof that it is a tough division. But Boston scuffled out of the game and New York looks less than invincible. Plus, the “new and improved” Blue Jays looked very pedestrian this weekend and the “new and improved” Orioles haven’t done much of anything since leaving the Trop after opening week.
Looking deeper, the teams in the East are a combined 21-21 against other teams in the division, which is identical to their 17-17 record against the Central but better than their 12-14 record against the West. More importantly, it looks like all the teams in the East are getting fat against bad early season schedules. They are a combined 35-28 against teams under .500 but only a combined 15-24 against teams at or over .500. (Most shocking is that the Rays have played 20 of their 22 games against sub-.500 teams, and their overall record is just 11-11. Yikes!).
In the end, I think Boston is going to get a little better and New York is going to get a little worse. But, looking at the early returns and factoring in the unbalanced schedule (there are still 318 inter-division games to be played — the Rays still have 64 more games against the East) I think it is safe to say this is a pretty average division that is going to hover right around .500 all year.
Maybe that means the eventual AL East champ will only need 85-88 wins instead of the 99 wins the AL East champ has averaged since 2008 (97, 103, 96).