Where the Yanks stand in the AL East, Part 2

2010 Draft: Yankees' First Round Pick
2010 Draft: Day Two Links

An off-day is a good time to reflect on where the Yankees stand. We can see in the standings that they’re 35-22, second place by two games in the AL East. But plenty has changed since the last off-day. Here’s where the Yankees stand among their peers during this break in the action.

1st Place: Tampa Bay Rays

Photo credit: Tony Gutierrez/AP

Their place in the standings hasn’t changed, but their pace has. Last time we checked in the Rays were 32-13 and running away with the AL East. They’re now 37-20, meaning they went 5-7 in their last 12 games. They have slowed from a 115-win pace to a more reasonable 105-win pace. The biggest difference, unsurprisingly, has been their pitching.

Last time we looked at the Rays they had three starters with an ERA under 3.00, and two not far above. Still have two starters under that 3.00 mark, David Price and Jeff Niemann, but the other three starters have seen their ERAs balloon in the past two weeks. Matt Garza is up to 3.31, James Shields is up to 3.64, and Wade Davis has launched into orbit, hitting 5.03 after being at 3.35 last time we checked. It’s the same as it ever was; pitching has determined the Rays’ fate.

On the offensive side, the Rays have seen a few contributors step up. Ben Zobrist was already on his way back up after a slow start, at least power-wise, last time we checked in, and he’s been as good as ever during the past few weeks. John Jaso has maintained excellent production and has even moved into the leadoff spot. He has all but assured that Dioner Navarro will hit the waiver wire, via designation for assignment. I can’t see the Rays carrying three catchers once Jason Bartlett returns, and it’s tough to find any way to justify Navarro over Jaso.

Contributions from a few unexpected players, including Jaso and infielder Ben Zobrist, have help offset disappointing production from Carlos Pena (.646 OPS) and B.J. Upton (.229 BA and .318 OBP, though he’s hitting for power). They could use a bit more from those guys, but as long as Zobrist and Jaso keep producing the Rays offense will keep rolling. Especially because their anchor, Evan Longoria, continues to smash the league.

2nd Place: New York Yankees

Again, we’re not here to talk about the Yankees. They were 26-18 at the last check-in, and have moved that to 35-22 after Sunday’s win, so they went 9-4 after dropping two of three to the Mets. The difference, as with the Rays, has been starting pitching. Their guys have, for the most part, turned in quality performances and it has shown up in the win column.

3rd Place: Boston Red Sox

Photo credit: Rob Carr/AP

The Sox are actually tied with the Jays, but since the Sox are more likely to occupy this spot in the future they’ll fit here for now. They were 25-21 at last check-in, and have gone 8-4 since. They also played the Indians last night, but that game was completed after I wrote this. In any case, they’re playing far better than they did earlier in the season, but they’re still behind because the teams ahead of them have continued to play well.

On offense the Sox are up and down. Dustin Pedroia and J.D. Drew have fallen short of expectations so far. Jacoby Ellsbury still hasn’t recovered from his rib injury, and Darnell McDonald has finally crashed back to earth. On the upswing Victor Martinez has recovered from a slow start, Adrian Beltre continues to show he’s one of the off-season’s top signings, and Kevin Youkilis continues to punish baseballs. Yet even on the upside the Sox are down in ways. Mike Cameron isn’t 100 percent, and David Ortiz’s wrist is again acting up.

It’s pitching where the Sox have shined. After a slow first few starts Jon Lester has been perhaps the AL’s most dominant starter. Clay Buchholz actually has a lower ERA, 2.39, and has allowed just four runs in 36.1 innings during his past five starts. He and Phil Hughes appear to be two hyped prospects fulfilling their promise. Fun fact: Buchholz has recorded a decision in each of his 11 starts.

If we can say anything about John Lackey, it’s that he’s been consistent. It has been consistently mediocre, but consistent indeed. Both he and Josh Beckett have disappointed after receiving large contracts, though there’s almost certainly no causal relationship there. To counterbalance Lackey’s consistency is Daisuke Matsuzaka’s inconsistency. Add to that a mediocre bullpen outside of Dan Bard and it makes for a rough ride. The Sox have handled their troubles relatively well.

4th Place: Toronto Blue Jays

Photo credit: Ralph Freso/AP

After play on May 24 the Blue Jays were 27-20, just a half game back of the Yankees. They also just took two of three from the Yanks. Normally that would portend a standings change. It did, but not in the direction that the above sentences would indicate. Instead the Jays have dropped, falling even with the Red Sox. They have gone 6-5 in their last 11 games.

The Yanks got a look at the Jays pitching over the weekend, but they didn’t even see the top performer of the lot, Shaun Marcum. He has pitched incredibly this year and has given the Jays’ rotation the stability it needs. Their bullpen hasn’t been quite as impressive as the rotation, but with the starters sopping up so many innings it hasn’t been as big a deal.

As I noted in the series preview, the Jays offense has been a strange one. As we saw on Friday they can hit the ball a ton. But as we saw in the next two games, they don’t get on base at a good clip. Their team OBP dropped from .318 to .312 last weekend. To my eye it looks like they’re all trained to pull the crap out of the ball, but that will take far more rigorous study to confirm.

5th Place: Baltimore Orioles

Photo credit: Andy King/AP

There’s not much left to say about the Orioles. The Yankees swept them last week, and it took a blown lead followed by an extra-innings comeback for them to salvage one game from the Red Sox over the weekend. They were 14-31 at last check-in. After their walk-off win on Sunday they improved to 16-41. No, just is not the Orioles season.

There’s plenty of blame to go around. The young pitchers — Brian Matusz, Brad Bergesen, David Hernandez, and Chris Tillman — haven’t come close to expectations. But they’re young and, as we saw with the Yanks’ young arms, could take more time to develop. The bullpen has been beyond atrocious, to the point that Will Ohman has been taking reps as closer. The offense features just three hitters with numbers that approach respectability.

Again, this didn’t come out of nowhere. The Orioles feature tons of young talent who are still developing. Nolan Reimold hit poorly to start the season and is back in AAA. Felix Pie hit the DL. Matt Wieters hasn’t come close to the myth. Adam Jones has taken an enormous step backward, walking just seven times all season. Miguel Tejada might be a veteran presence, but he hasn’t produced a lick. The Orioles have actually been reduced to starting Corey Patterson in left field, and he isn’t their worst hitter. That should say plenty about the offense.

The team could get even worse as the trade deadline approaches. Ty Wigginton has started hot, hitting .274/.364/.521 through 221 PA. Surely a contending team can find a use for him. Anything the Orioles get back is a bonus. That takes away one big contributor. Luke Scott, who has come on strong of late, could also find a home elsewhere. There are plenty of contending teams that could use another outfield bat.

One place the blame shouldn’t go, however, is the manager. The Orioles fired Dave Trembley for a number of reasons I’m sure. But he was never their guy in the first place. The Orioles haven’t had a real shot in years. He was just keeping the seat warm for the next guy. That happens to be Juan Samuel right now, but I doubt he’s the answer either.

2010 Draft: Yankees' First Round Pick
2010 Draft: Day Two Links
  • Tampa Yankee

    I’ve thought all season that the Jays would go away eventually it seems like everything is falling just right for them. Their staff has been good and they are getting career years/rebirths from several players. I think the staff is good enough to keep them competitive, I still wonder about a team that relies on the HR as much as they do. I still think the Yanks take the division and the Rays the WC but I can definitely see it being a 4 team race into July early August.

    • Tampa Yankee

      I’ve thought all season that the Jays would go away eventually but it seems like everything is falling just right for them.


      • http://mystiqueandaura.com Steve H

        Last year on June 8th they were 33-27 and in 3rd. This year 33-25. I’m still not buying it, especially since they had Halladay last year.

        • http://www.bomberbanter.com/ BomberBanter.com

          I agree with Steve.
          in 08, the Jays finished the year poorly and were rewarded in 09 with an easier opening schedule than their AL East counterparts, and the same is true this year. I dont see them still being in the hunt come Aug 1

  • Ivan

    Hey this scenerio would make Peter Angelos stomach turn:

    Yankees clobber O’s like 12-1 and their only like 5,000 in the stadium and then he looks on the other side and Strasburg throws like 7 shutout innings in his debut…omg Angelos would have a hard time eating that day…

    • Andy in Sunny Daytona

      That’s why Angelos is going to order his troops to draft Bryce Harper’s brother.

  • http://mystiqueandaura.com Steve H

    He and Phil Hughes appear to be two hyped prospects fulfilling their promise.

    Hughes is just two years ahead of the schedule. Lackey has been consistent, but pretty terrible. He simply cannot make batters miss. His FIP is 4.89 and his xFIP is 5.31. Since the beginning of May, in 7 starts and 44.1 innings, he has garnered just 42 swinging strikes.

    • A.D.

      So far the Angles are looking pretty smart letting Figgins and Lackey go.

      • Ivan

        Especially Figgins…

  • A.D.

    Wonder if anyone grabs Navarro at this point? I suppose at 26 still hope.

    • Andy in Sunny Daytona

      Also, he has a high grit level for a Dominican.

      • nsalem

        Your comment sounds like Alvin Dark circa 1964.

      • Kiko Jones

        If you’re gonna go for the “lazy Dominican” meme at least make sure the player is Dominican; Navarro is from Venezuela.

        • nsalem

          Kiko I think he was making an all-inclusive comment.
          Hopefully “Andy in Sunny Daytona” is a child and will
          soon learn right from wrong.

          • http://www.secondavenuesagas.com Benjamin Kabak

            You clearly have no concept of what qualifies as a joke or meme around here. Please read some old threads, review the commenting guidelines, and chill out.

            • nsalem

              I have read plenty of threads, Have not seen any other comments insulting someones race or nationality. Just reviewed commenting guidelines the only thing I saw pertaining to statement was this “personal attacks and insults will not be tolerated. Any comments that we deem libelous, defamatory, abusive, harassing or threatening will not be tolerated”.
              I now clearly have a concept of what you find appropriate in a public forum. So be it!!!!

    • Templeton “Brendog” Peck

      he’d be better than chad moeller no?

      • Tampa Yankee

        I don’t know. He signed a $2.1M salary so the Rays would be on the hook for a good part of that right? If so, then maybe. The next thing to consider is, does he have options? My guess is no since the Rays could just do that. So since it doesn’t make sense to keep 3 catchers after Posada is ok to catch and he doesn’t have options, then no.

  • Andy in Sunny Daytona

    BJ Upton is hitting for power?

    • Jose the Satirist

      He has a .188 ISO this season. That is above his career line, so I guess he is hitting more for power this year?

  • Guest

    On the Jays, it does look like it they try to pull the crap out of fastaballs. It’s why Javy’s changeup was so devestating.

    They are a scary lineup because of all of the homeruns they’ve hit, but they are very pitch-to-able. I think Andy and Javy gave the league the blue print for how to get them out (junk, junk, show me fastball out of zone, more junk). I wonder how they will adjust if the rest of the league starts throwing them more off-speed pitches.