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Tom Jones' Two Cents

Sports analysis, perspective and more.

Who will win the AL East?



The AL East is normally a two-team race between the Red Sox and Yankees. This year, add the Rays. You could make a case for all three teams winning  (or losing) the division. Here's a look:

Rays Tampa Bay Rays (55-36)
Why they will win
They're bound to hit. With the exception of Dioner Navarro, most of the Rays are hitting below normal, especially Carlos Pena, Carl Crawford and B.J. Upton. Eventually, they will hit, won't they?
Pitching. Of the three teams, the Rays have the best pitching with a 3.59 ERA, compared to the Red Sox (3.83) and the Yankees (4.10). The Rays' starting rotation seems too good to let them fall into extended slumps.
Young and athletic. They can catch and run, and those things don't go into slumps. And you have to think these lads won't get tired even in September.
Why they won't
Never been here before. Each day, the Rays go into uncharted territory. What's worse is, starting with tonight, they will play 40 road games and only 31 home games. The Rays are 36-14 at home, but under .500 on the road.
No closer. Troy Percival is almost 39 with a bad hamstring, and it's foolish to rely on him. Unless the Rays acquire a closer, they'll either have to cross their fingers with Percival, give the job to an unproven or have the dicey "bullpen-by-committee.''
Maybe no one will get hot. The Rays keep waiting on Pena, but you know, if you look at his career, the season he is having is more typical of Pena than last year's incredible season.

Sox Boston Red Sox (55-39)
Why they will win

Best lineup. The Red Sox still put out the best everyday lineup in the majors. They're first in the AL in batting average, second in slugging and OPS, and second in runs. And they've done most of that without David Ortiz.
Been there, done that. They're the defending champs. That counts for something.
Best starting rotation. The Rays staff has been good, but the Red Sox top four of Josh Beckett, Dice-K Matsuzaka, Tim Wakefield and Jon Lester are 30-15 and appear the most reliable of the three teams.
Why they won't
Shaky bullpen. The Red Sox are second in AL with 16 blown saves and the pen's 3.95 ERA is 10th in the AL.
J.D. Drew's health. Drew is having a monster season, but only once in his nine-year career has his body allowed him to get 500 at-bats. And, oh, did you hear? His back acted up and he missed Wednesday night's game.
David Ortiz's injury. He's due back soon, but wrist injuries typically cut into a player's power numbers long after he returns. And with Ortiz limited and/or out, Manny Ramirez has not had a typical Manny season. He's on pace for 30 homers and 105 RBIs, well below his career average of 40 and 132.

Yankees New York Yankees (49-43)
Why they will win

Experience. Just consider this: Since 2001, the Yankees record after August 1 is 250-148. Simply put, they win big when the games count the most. Last time they had a losing record in the second half? 1992!
Defense. Yep, believe it or not, for all the talk about the Rays and Red Sox defense, the Yankees have a better field percentage than both teams and have committed fewer errors.
The bullpen. New York's bullpen has a 3.23 ERA, third best in the AL. And they still have Mariano Rivera, the most dominant closer in the history of baseball.
Why they won't
Starting pitching. With ace Chien-Ming Wang out until maybe September, they'll have to rely on 39-year-old Mike Mussina, 36-year-old Andy Pettitte and journeyman Sidney Ponson.
The schedule. The Yanks have not one, but two 10-game road trips in the second half and finish with six consecutive road games, including the final three at Fenway Park.
They're old. Not only is the staff aging, but so are key players Derek Jeter, Jason Giambi, Johnny Damon. Even Alex Rodriguez is about to turn 33. Old means injuries or, at least, wearing down over a long season.

[Last modified: Monday, June 14, 2010 2:42pm]


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