American League East: All-Star Break Reality Check and Predictions
Having taken a brutal beating from the National League in the 2012 All Star Game (an 8-0 shutout), the American League sits shocked wondering how it all went wrong. Barring the loss of home field advantage, A.L. teams must steel themselves for the next 81 games, and potentially thereafter.
American League East
Overview: If you took a look at the standings as of the All Star break, you would see some peculiarities. So many questions lie within the 2012 second half, and that is what will make this year a very exciting year to call one’s self a baseball fan.
Aside from the Yankees being at the top of the division, nothing looks as it did the for the past half-decade. The Orioles, currently in second, had the A.L. East lead on lock down for almost all of the first half. The next few weeks will be the deciding factor on whether or not they will attain playoff status (their last time this occurred was in 1997). They need help at 3B and with their rotation. Will they land an ace in Wandy Rodriguez (HOU) or Zack Greinke (MIL)? Who would they be willing to give up? Young’uns like Manny Machado, an elite young SS, and top pitching prospect 19 year-old Dylan Bundy? Or are they looking to give away high potential starting pitchers, Jake Arrieta and Brian Matsuz, who have been major letdowns at the major league level? Gut feeling tells me they realize that they actually can field a playoff team and will do whatever it takes to get that; the Orioles have grit.
Boston has some serious mirror-gazing to do before the second half begins. Will they be able to find an ace in an otherwise stacked pitching staff? Will Lester or Beckett find their groove? Or will they have to wait till the rest of their true pitching core (Buccholz, Lackey, Carpenter, Matsuzaka and Bailey) comes off the DL? The offense is also the reason their sitting 9.5 games back. David Ortiz cannot do it all alone (some would think so) Their OF needs an upgrade, and Carl Crawford /Jacoby Ellsbury should be immediately helpful off the DL. Will Pedroia be able to step up his game to make them a contender? These issues, along with a severe attitude check are what is keeping them in last place. I believe they will heat up in August and September and give the A.L. East leader a run for their money.
The Rays are another surprise this year. Upon fielding a playoff team 4 out of 5 times in the past 5 years, they are staring gloomily 7.5 games back from the Yankees. Like the Red Sox, the Rays are reeling from injuries to two of their premier players: Evan Longoria (3B), and Matt Joyce (OF). Also like the Red Sox, the talent is there to succeed. Their pitching staff and bullpen are rock solid, and so is there All-Star closer, Fernando Rodney. Tampa Bay may look for a top hitter to give that offense the kick-start it needs to get going. The infield’s bats in particular need that push. Their defense is a major reason they have lost as many games as they have. Their 71 errors is second most in the MLB; not a category you want to be leading. If they get that offense going, they will be once again a force to be reckoned with.
Toronto is once again at the bottom of the pack. They showed flash at the beginning of the season, but it quickly faded and all was normal. Tied with Boston at 9.5 games back, you have to wonder: What happened to them? I will tell you. Three pitchers from their rotation, Kyle Drabek, Brandon Morrow, and Drew Hutchison, succumbed to long-term injuries. While their need for backup was immediate, the sense of urgency from the team’s front office was missing. You have got to be aggressive if you want to win the most competitive division in baseball. Toronto needs to fix that pitching void, and they need to do it now. Not in 5 years, NOW. Their offensive bright spots fill up the stat sheet. Edwin Encarnacion, Jose Bautista, Colby Rasmus, and Brett Lawrie, are all impact players and can be very threatening to opposing pitchers. With Adam Lind recharged and back (no pun intended), the Blue Jays offense can make a run for the crown.
The Yankees have the best record in baseball right now at 52-33. For most of the first half, things were not looking this good. Their rotation was floundering and their offense could not supply runs. Though after heating up, they quickly found their niche and stuck with it. They simply manage to make plays when they need it. Ivan Nova (SP) has become a superstar from the back-end of the rotation. Their bullpen has went beyond expectations. Cano, Jeter, Texeira, Granderson, and Swisher have been performing. The veteran bench players, Andruw Jones, Raul Ibanez, and Eric Chavez, have been coming up big time. So what is left? A-Rod needs to figure out what is wrong and figure it out quick. If he plans to beat the Babe’s HR record, he needs to get it going now. Michael Pineda also needs to figure out why his control and velocity are down. He needs to either find a way to compensate his lack of velocity, or bring up his control (or both!). Mariano Rivera would be nice to have, and if the Yankees can get him back before season’s end, closing out games would be almost a sure thing. The last piece to the puzzle is the catching situation. Of the three catchers, Russell Martin is still most likely their best option in the short term. He is a defensive stud, but his bat needs to get going as well.
American League East Winner Prediction: New York Yankees
Reason: They have the best team in baseball right now. The Yankees have a high octane offense, a winnable pitching staff, and a veteran core on the bench in case any injuries occur. They will need C.C. to get back and play in true form, especially for the upcoming games against Boston. In the end though, it will be New York. They have a September clutch that no other team in the East has shown. I believe the Red Sox will come back and give them a run for their money, but if it takes them a month and a half to heat up, New York may already be too far ahead. Baltimore might come back to nip them, but I don’t believe they will be willing to move their top prospects to get their hands on a veteran ace. While they want to win now, it may be foolish to let go of their blue chip prospects. Toronto will need to hit a hot streak, and they also will need immediate pitching help to gain ground in the East. The Rays can sneak in and bump them out, but it seems highly unlikely. The offense does not lie with one player, and they will need more than Longoria to get runs on the board. However, Longoria’s return will assuage most of their defensive woes (The majority of their errors come from 3B), which in turn will lead them to more victories, and possibly reward them one of the now two Wild Card spots.
Who do you think will win the A.L. East? Leave your thoughts with us in a comment.
Stay tuned for the next part of the Predictions series: American League West: All-Star Break Reality Check and Predictions
Posted on July 12, 2012, in 2012 Predictions and tagged baseball, Blue Jays, home field advantage, jacoby ellsbury, Orioles, Rays, Red Sox, sports, wandy rodriguez, Yankees, zack greinke. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.