While the old "82 wins just might be enough" prognostication has applied to plenty of divisions over time, the AL East has rarely, if ever, fallen into that category. This could be the year. While we probably won't see that splashed across any marketing slogans for any of these teams, a mediocre division could make for some highly entertaining baseball as the season wears on.
Yankees (11 to six) and Rangers (15 to 10). When the season started, insiders said the Yankees are a team capable of winning 90...or losing 90. A punchy offense and terrific back end of the bullpen has put the Yankees on pace to hit the 90 mark. Is this sustainable? In this division, the answer is a very definitive...maybe.
The Rangers are 23-12 since their 7-14 trudge through April, and entering play on Monday, they find themselves in second place in the AL West, 3 1/2 games behind Houston. You heard that right, folks -- the AL West now features two teams with records above .500. We've been hearing how great that all-Texas rivalry will be once both teams are good at the same time. Has that time come already?
Angels. They were 12th last week, 18th this week. They finished off May on a high, sweeping the Tigers in four games and were seemingly on their way to better times after an uninspired start to the season. But they opened June with sweeps at the hands of the Rays and the Yankees. There's only so much consolation a team can find in losing to two strong teams. After finally climbing over .500, the Angels begin the week back under...and with another three-game set with the Rays, this time on the road.
Our Top 20:
The rotation is producing a sub-3.00 ERA, they're tops in all of MLB in run differential and they're on pace for somewhere in the neighborhood of 107 wins. Even if they come down to earth just a smidge, it'll be a challenge for any team in the strong NL Central to catch them. The Pirates have the best chance of getting close, but unless the St. Louis rotation suddenly forgets how to pitch, it'll be tough for anyone to overtake the top spot in the division.
The continuous cycle of injuries seems to be subsiding, at least on the offensive side. Yasiel Puig is back after spending much of the season on the DL rehabbing a strained hamstring. The lineup could use the boost, considering how much the Dodger offense has stalled. The rotation is still in flux, but that's the been the case for most of the season, and the Dodgers have spent the entire time either at the top of the division or a very close second.
They've won only three of their last 12 games, and for now have been knocked out of the top spot in the AL Central by the sneaky-good Twins. By season's end, this division will either be remembered as the strongest, or the most entertaining. Or both. The upcoming week should be fun: three at Minnesota, and three at St. Louis. Get your popcorn ready.
Was there any doubt the Bucs would eventually find their way into the Top 5? Their slow start was probably the least alarming of all teams who produced poor early returns, mainly because the Pirates have struggled early before and ended the season very, very good. This one looks to be no exception, if their last two weeks are any indication. Winners of 13 of their last 16, the Pirates are exactly where we thought they'd be -- second in a division that features three contending teams.
Their fourth loss in a row in Toronto on Sunday was followed with the Astros announcement that their prized prospect, shortstop Carlos Correa, has been called up to the big leagues. That's one item A.J. Hinch can cross off his wish list. When the Astros obtain another starter -- whether it's Cole Hamels or a second-tier veteran type, the Astros could be in good position to truly take hold of this division. They weren't supposed to be this good this year. But they are, and the Astros seem to be ready to, as they say, go for it.
6. Yankees (11); 7.Giants (5); 8.Nationals (4); 9. Twins (7); 10. Rangers (15); 11. Cubs (10); 12. Tigers (8); 13. Indians (17); 14. Rays (13); 15. Mets (16); 16. Blue Jays (NR); 17. Padres (18); 18. Angels (12); 19. Red Sox (NR); 20. Braves (NR)