Players to Watch: A.L. East

NL West-AL Central can be found here

At long last, I’ll be done with this series of posts. And, fittingly, we end it with the Yankees’ division: The American League East. Without question, this is the best division in baseball. The Yankees, Rays, and Red Sox are three of the top teams in either league. The Blue Jays would appear much better if they weren’t in this hellacious division, and I’m sure rebuilding would’ve been easier for the Orioles. Anyway, let’s get to it.

Tampa Bay Rays: Jeremy Hellickson. Rated the #18 prospect before 2010, Hellickson has put together a great minor league career and had a successful cup of coffee with the big club in 2010. He’ll be a big part of Tampa’s rotation this year and we could have a budding pitching star on our hands. Good luck in your Major League career, dude. I hope you kick ass against everyone else (especially Boston) and suck against the Yankees.… Click here to read the rest

Checking In On The Competition

With Spring Training a few weeks old, I thought it would be useful to check in on the other 4 AL East teams and see which story lines have dominated their camps thus far.

Boston Red Sox

Prospects Opening Eyes: A number of prospects who play the middle infield have been quite impressive, with 2B Oscar Tejada, SS Jose Iglesias, and UTI Yamaico Navarro all getting off to strong starts at the plate. Iglesias has apparently been dropping jaws with his defense as well, which is supposedly otherworldly and has been drawing raves from players and writers alike.

Struggling Regular: Daisuke Matsuzaka has been battered to the tune of a 11.42 ERA, which by itself would not be that big a deal at this point of the spring. But his velocity is reportedly at 87-90 MPH on his fastball, and it seems that there is at least some concern about the health of his arm. With his performance already one of the few question marks on a stacked team, an injury to Dice-K could erode at least some of the advantage the Sox have over the Rays and Yankees.… Click here to read the rest

A look at the 2011 Toronto Blue Jays

In 2010 the Toronto Blue Jays did not actually hit 397 home runs against the Yankees, while using a starting rotation composed entirely of lefthanded junk-ballers to hold the Bombers to only 4 runs en-route to a record of 114-2 against a division rival. It just seemed that way.

Instead, the 2010 Blue Jays hit 209 home runs versus all of their opponents, and compiled a 10-8 record against the Yankees. This was, believe it or not, the first time the Yankees managed a losing record against Toronto in the Unbalanced Schedule Era. The Jays’ overall 85-77 record can only be considered less than a success in the hyper-competitive AL East. Anywhere else last season’s Blue Jays would have been contenders.

The 2010 Blue Jays used an unusual recipe for success. On offense, the Jays sacrificed on-base percentage for the long ball. Of the nine players who led the team in PA’s, according to Baseball Reference, eight of them hit at least 17 bombs.… Click here to read the rest

Jays jettison Yankee Killer Vernon Wells while Tampa Bay goes all 2004 Red Sox and signs both Manny Ramirez and Johnny Damon

I step away from the Internet for two hours only to come back and find that two of the Yankees’ AL East rivals have made a handful of notable moves.

First up, the Toronto Blue Jays apparently traded Vernon Wells to the Angels for Mike Napoli and Juan Rivera. I’m having a hard time figuring this deal out from the Angels’ perspective — the Jays are undoubtedly thrilled to be free of Wells’ contract, and they’re getting not one but two pretty serviceable players in return. Wells started last season out on fire before cooling off some and finishing with a .362 wOBA — his highest mark since 2006. Bill James has Wells falling to a .345 wOBA in 2011 (as do the Fans). Despite occasionally showing flashes of brilliance, Wells has had a fairly disappointing MLB career, with a .346 wOBA and 108 OPS+ — basically slightly above above-average.

Napoli’s one of the better-hitting catchers in the league, although his .340 wOBA was the lowest of his five-year career and has been trending downward the last three seasons.… Click here to read the rest

Brett Cecil becomes Majors' winningest pitcher against 2010 Yankees in Blue Jay rout; A-Rod hits 30-HR plateau for 13th straight season

It may say Managing General Partner next to Hal Steinbrenner’s name, but it is in fact 24-year-old Brett Cecil who actually owns the New York Yankees. Cecil led the Blue Jays to a 8-3 romp of New York, picking up his Major League-leading fourth win against the Yankees in 2010 and improving to 4-0 in five starts against the Bombers this season. The win was no surprise whatsoever considering the Yankees haven’t been able to do anything of note against Cecil all year and have done nothing but struggle against slow-throwing pitchers of his ilk.

It obviously didn’t help the Yankees’ cause that they were starting soon-to-be-former-Yankee Javier Vazquez, who did his best A.J. Burnett impression in giving up seven runs over 4 2/3 innings. The more you think about it, it’s actually pretty incredible that the Yankees ended up making it to the postseason with 40% of their Opening Day five-man rotation pitching to a 5.00-plus ERA in more than 350 innings.… Click here to read the rest

And exhale

Needing one more victory to clinch a playoff spot, the Yankees turned to ace CC Sabathia to finally restore some order to the proceedings (since Friday, August 6, the Yankees have gone 26-24 over their last 50 games with a 4.25 team ERA. In the 107 games prior they posted a 3.82 team ERA) and Sabathia responded in kind, hurling one of his best outings of the year. Sabathia tossed 8 1/3 innings of three-hit, one-run ball, giving him his 21st victory of the season and helping the Yankees beat the Blue Jays 6-1 to clinch at the very least the American League Wild Card postseason berth.

A few hours after I noted that the other teams in the AL postseason field were significantly better than the Yankees at manufacturing runs (not that I feel the Yankees need to be highly proficient at this per se, mind you), the team went out and basically small-balled its way to all six runs last night.… Click here to read the rest

Dual overarching 2010 storylines of A.J. Burnett being terrible and Blue Jays (and Vernon Wells) positively owning Yankees collide in 7-5 laugher

The Blue Jays beat the Yankees 7-5 Monday night, continuing what has been a season-long stretch of dominance over New York. The win improved the Jays’ season record against the Yankees to 9-7 (only the Rays have beaten the Yankees more times, with 10 victories), a mark that includes a 5-2 record at Rogers Centre. Unless the Yankees can win the next two games they will set a new record for futility on the road at Toronto in the Unbalanced Schedule Era, as they’d never previously won less than four games at Skydome since 2001.

Here’s some startling news: The only other time the Yankees won only two games in a season at an AL East rival’s home field since the implementation of the Unbalanced Schedule 10 years ago was last season against the Red Sox at Fenway. Let’s hope they don’t tie that particular ignominious record, although given the way the Yankees have served as Toronto’s punching bag this season (the Jays have scored 80 runs in 16 games against the Yankees this year, or 5.0 runs per game), combined with continued uninspiring play from the Bombers (who are now 11-14 in September, their highest loss total of any month of the season) I’m not sure how hopeful I am.… Click here to read the rest

Yankees vs. Blue Jays VI: Oh, it's you again

The Yankees and Blue Jays meet in Toronto for what feels like the 300,000th time this season though in actuality will be the sixth and final match-up between the two. I was already sick of Toronto in the last Series Preview, and I can’t say I’m exactly thrilled to see Mr. Newest-Member-of-the-50-Home-Run-Club yet again. The Blue Jays have been a thorn in the Yankees’ side all season, and at 8-7 (4- 2 at Rogers Centre) are one of only three teams with a winning record against the Yankees this season — the others being the Rays and Phillies. As I’ve written numerous times, it seems like the Jays should be a way better team than their record would indicate, but as we’ve also discussed several times before the team’s biggest issue has been its OBP — while they slug a prodigious amount of home runs, apparently no one’s ever on base.

Assuming the majority of this team will be back next season, Toronto GM Alex Anthopoulos has to go out and sign players that can get on-base at above a league-average rate, which is around .328 this season.… Click here to read the rest

The starting pitching depth in the AL East

Given the success of the young starting pitchers on our divisional rivals who have made the Yankees look silly for the last three games, I wanted to take a quick look at how the starting pitchers on all five teams in the AL East have fared this season to see if there were any interesting conclusions to be drawn. I included almost every pitcher who has started a game for the Orioles, Red Sox, Yankees, Rays and Blue Jays, with the exception of starters I assumed aren’t going to figure into their teams’ respective starting mixes after this season (i.e. Dustin Moseley, etc.)

Feel free to click here for a more comprehensive data table.

AL East Starter Team IP ERA FIP xFIP fWAR
Jon Lester BOS 182.0 3.26 3.09 3.26 5.0
CC Sabathia NYY 209.0 3.14 3.63 3.86 4.0
Ricky Romero TOR 187.0 3.51 3.59 3.75 3.7
David Price TBR 178.2 2.87 3.50 4.02 3.7
Brandon Morrow TOR 146.1 4.49 3.19 3.65 3.6
Clay Buchholz BOS 151.2 2.25 3.62 4.19 3.2
John Lackey BOS 183.0 4.48 4.02 4.48 3.0
Shaun Marcum TOR 170.0 3.55 3.86 3.87 2.8
Brett Cecil TOR 153.0 3.76 3.93 4.21 2.4
Matt Garza TBR 176.2 3.48 4.17 4.42 2.2
Daisuke Matsuzaka BOS 128.1 4.70 4.05 4.64 2.1
Brian Matusz BAL 156.2 4.71 4.24 4.64 2.0
James Shields TBR 175.2 4.95 4.25 3.69 2.0
Phil Hughes NYY 155.2 4.29 5.55 4.36 1.9
Andy Pettitte NYY 115.2 2.88 3.96 4.05 1.8
Jeremy Guthrie BAL 183.0 3.89 4.48 4.93 1.8
Josh Beckett BOS 102.0 5.91 4.17 3.87 1.5
Click here to read the rest