Two and a half weeks into the season, the American League East standings don't have much resemblance to how many people predicted them to look come the end of the season. That's expected of course, because a 15-game sample isn't nearly enough time for the creme to rise to the top. If it were, then Mark Trumbo would be in the MVP discussion and the Yankees would be in big trouble.
Regardless, it's always good to take stock of your competition and for the Blue Jays it's going fairly well in their quest to repeat as AL East champions. They haven't set the world on fire, but they've played some strong games against their rivals and have shown they stack up pretty well. Despite having some holes, their opposition has just as many if not more, which bodes well for the rest of the season. Let's take a quick look at each of the four other East teams after two and a half weeks.
The team the Blue Jays are currently locked in a series with have been one of the big surprises so far this season. They tore out to a 7-0 start helped by massive starts from Manny Machado and Mark Trumbo. As expected, they've hit a ton of home runs and have three guys tied for second in the American League behind Josh Donaldson.
The season wasn't supposed to be a very successful one for the O's, but they've played well to start and will look to keep it going despite picking up some L's recently. In the early part of the season the team was forced to deal with new signing Hyun-soo Kim refusing to be demoted thanks to a clause in his contract, as well as early changes to the rotation when Miguel Gonzalez was released and Kevin Gausman ended up on the DL. The offence has overcome it all though, which has been fun for O's fans to watch, despite the inevitable fact that they won't be able to outscore teams all year long.
On the pitching side, the rotation has been poor as projected with four of the five starters sporting an ERA north of 5.00. The bullpen has helped them out though which is a big reason why they have as many wins as they do. Going forward, unless the starters pick it up a notch the Orioles are going to see their winning percentage drop a bit and likely struggle to stay atop the division like they are right now.
Tampa Bay Rays
The team the Blue Jays started the season against have been streaky to start the year, rotating between winning a few and losing a few in succession. As we saw a few weeks ago, the team isn't that great despite being solid in all facets. They'll probably win more games than people expected this year, but it won't be in particularly flashy fashion.
The offence, led by Evan Longoria in his decline phase, doesn't have enough to compete against the strong pitchers of the American League which will probably be their downfall when it's all said and done. The rotation has been quite strong so far, which is even more impressive considering their ace in Chris Archer has not been good at all.
The team could probably put itself in a position to compete if they made a move for an offensive guy who can help out on defence, but with their tight budget it seems more likely they'll wallow away this season in complete mediocrity.
Boston Red Sox
The Red Sox have played exactly half of their games this season against the Blue Jays, giving fans a glimpse at the two teams likely to battle it out for the division title in September. The Blue Jays have won 4 of the 7 at this point, but the battle is obviously still far from over.
The Sox have been surrounded by all the early-season drama that came with Pablo Sandoval completely falling apart as a baseball player, made even more obvious by the fact that Travis Shaw has come in and completely stolen his job. Despite this fact, the offence has been pretty strong thanks to David Ortiz and the aforementioned Shaw hitting the cover off the ball. Jackie Bradley Jr., Xander Bogaerts, and Mookie Betts have all been disappointments thus far but the season is still young and I'd be shocked to see them hit this badly all season.
As was the story last season, Boston's pitching has been HORRIBLE. With even average pitching, the team would probably be close to first in the division, but instead they've blown a bunch of games and find themselves middle of the pack. The team sits with a conundrum that has been two years running, as a rotation filled with guys like Buchholz, Kelly, and Porcello probably isn't going to get it done despite all the money they're being paid. The bright spot is that David Price will be just fine this season and should be almost a sure thing every fifth day as we saw last season.
It would be mighty disappointing as a Red Sox fan to potentially see this season slip away with such an abundance of talent on the roster due to the rotation once again. You'd have to think Dave Dombrowski and crew won't let the team sink too far before they start looking for ways to keep their heads above water.
New York Yankees
The Yankees have been hard to get a read on this season and their 5-8 record still seems like a bit of a misleading mark. They've lost six of their last seven, thanks in part to running into stud pitchers like Marcus Stroman and Felix Hernandez but haven't looked too terrible to start the year. The older offensive players who are expected to eventually stop contributing have yet to show that they got the memo as Carlos Beltran, Brian McCann, and Mark Texeira are all still producing at a solid clip. Alex Rodriguez on the other hand is struggling to do much of anything, although he does have a BABIP of .192 to be fair to him.
On the pitching side of things, the last run of games has been pretty awful for the starters. Aside from Masahiro Tanaka still doing his thing despite reduced velocity, the rest of the rotation has struggled to put strong outings together and similarl to the Red Sox situation will have to get back on track to avoid losing too much ground in the division. You would expect guys like Michael Pineda and Luis Severino to stop allowing so many runs, especially when you consider their high BABIPs that are holding them back.
The backend of the bullpen is still as dominant as it ever was, so I don't think we've seen the last of the Yankees just yet. In fact the way the standings look right now probably isn't very representative of how they'll look in a month or two, with the Yankees and Red Sox making an inevitable charge out of the basement.
What are your thoughts on how the division is shaping up?