2019 Mid-Season AL East Report

You could make the argument that in a single half season the New York Yankees have managed to disprove their previous decade’s business model. Remember when the club tried to buy titles with big-name, pricy free agents?

Well the biggest name of the current list, Giancarlo Stanton, has been out most of the year and the Yankees have still managed to mash their way to the best record in the east. You can’t argue with the second-best on-base-plus-slugging percentage (.808) in the American League. Sure, you have to give credit for getting longtime Rockie D.J. LaMahieu, who was coming off a somewhat down year for him. Turns out .276 really was just a blip on the screen of a career .304 hitter. Cameron Maybin and Gio Urshela hitting 60 points above their career averages has also helped. The question is, is it sustainable?

Their starting pitching has benefited from the offense. The earned-run average is middle of the road, but when you have that kind of offense, your pitchers are going to throw more strikes. Two have an ERA under 4.00. Masahiro Tanaka has a 7:1 strikeout:walk ratio. Domingo German’s is 4:1. The other three have been good enough not to lose. I don’t know that they can repeat their first-half performance. There has to be a time when 14-11 games don’t go your way. They will still be in the fight at the end but they’re living on borrowed time with a staff that coughed up five runs a game in June.

Tampa Bay has taken the opposite approach to their first-half. They are middling at best offensively —15th in average, 19th in OPS, 18th in runs-scored. This is also an offense by committee with eight guys on pace to have 50 runs-batted-in but none with more than 100.

Starter or opener, they have one of baseball’s best pitching staffs —second in ERA and in batting-average-allowed with runners in scoring position. The old saying goes pitching and defense wins championships but their defense isn’t spectacular. We will see if pitching and average defense wins championships.

Boston is fourth-worst in the majors in keeping runners from scoring. Simply put, that’s a problem. They have done well to rebound from a horrid start. That’s in spite of their pitching (4.73 ERA in June). They are still better on paper than they’ve played. Rafael Devers, Xander Bogaerts and J.D Martinez have held up their ends of the deal. Reigning MVP Mookie Betts has not. If he and the pitching staff gets hot, look out.

Question: Toronto and a feather are dropped in a vacuum, which hits the ground first? 

Answer:Toronto. They suck more than any vacuum.

In June the starting pitchers were dead last in BAA, ERA, and walks allowed. 

The good news: left fielder Lourdes Gurriel  looks like the kind of player you build a franchise around and if Vladimir Guerrero Jr. lives up to the hype, Toronto will get better in a hurry. Just not now. 

As for Baltimore? If Toronto and the Orioles were dropped in a… oh never mind. The O’s certainly don’t seem like they are as bad as last year. So far they’re 23rd in home runs, and 24th in batting average. Bottom third is better than dead last, right?

Right fielder/first baseman Trey Mancini certainly has had something to do with any success. But he needs help. Chris Davis was awesome in the way he handled an epic Ly-poor start to the year. The Orioles obviously could use more. Infielder Hanser Alberto (.315 BA) is playing out of his mind. I hope he keeps it up for the sake of Baltimore fans.

Pitching-wise, maybe I’m an optimist: 21st In BAA, 11th In K:BB. Hmm, okay. Buuuut, first in most pitches thrown per plate appearance and second-worst for inherited runners allowed to score. Bright spot: John Means (7-4, 2.50 ERA). 

Callups? Of the eight best Oriole minor league hitters in AAA, seven have had minimal success in their brief stints with different MLB teams. 

What’s it all mean? It’s still a horse race to the end for the big three. The bottom two won’t be heard from in awhile.

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