LOS ANGELES, June 21, 2013 — The beasts in the east are the Atlanta Braves and the Boston Red Sox so far this year. The Braves were expected to be good, but the Red Sox are somewhat of a surprise. The rest of the eastern divisions is a hodgepodge of both disappointment and surprise.
Atlanta is currently enjoying a six game lead over the disappointing Washington Nationals. The Braves are the only team in baseball to be the only team in its division with a positive run differential on the season. It does not take a genius to do the math that if you score more runs than you give up, you will end up winning baseball games.
Though the Braves have been successful at winning games this year, it has not always been pretty. Atlanta’s offense is second in the majors in strikeouts and rank just 13th in runs scored. One of their big off-season acquisitions, B.J. Upton, has been a complete bust. His brother, Justin, got off to a great start, but has cooled severely since.
Former wandering traveler, Evan Gattis, provided a huge boost of power for the Braves as a replacement for the injured Brian McCann and also off the bench and in left field after McCann’s return from the DL.
A major reason for the Braves’ success has been pitching. They are second in the majors in team ERA. Their starting rotation is third in ERA, as is their bullpen. The Braves also boast one of the best closers in the game in Craig Kimbrel. Unless the Nats get their act together, the Braves should be able to stroll into the playoffs without much stress.
Speaking of the Nationals, if it were not for the Dodgers and Angels, they might be the most disappointing team of 2013. Yes, they have had their share of injuries to prominent stars, Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg, but all team are dealing with injuries. Welcome to the post HGH days of baseball.
Jordan Zimmerman is looking like a solid Cy Young candidate with a 10-3 record. Zimmerman has struck out 76 batters, while walking only 15 in 107 2/3 innings. He sports a 2.26 ERA with a 0.93 WHIP. Other than Dan Haren, the rest of the starting five have been solid for Washington.
A real concern is Drew Storen. Normally a lock down reliever who saved 43 games in 2011, Storen has allowed opposing hitters to bat .302 against him, which is a career high. His bloated ERA of 4.34 is the product of a horrendous 1.45 WHIP, both also career highs.
Philadelphia is still without Roy Halladay, but overall they have just sort of been there. Not too disappointing, but definitely not good. One bright spot in Philadelphia is the emergence of Dominic Brown. Over the last 30 days, Brown has been one of the best hitters in all of baseball, compiling 11 homeruns to go with a .307 average and 26 RBIs.
The New York Mets and Miami Marlins have been expectedly bad this year. There really is not much good that can be said about Miami. They are just a bad team, but they are young and their future has potential.
The Mets, whose future looks more bleak than bright, have already debuted the guy they hope to be their future ace, Zack Wheeler. He earned a victory in his major league debut on June 18 against the Braves.
This year appeared to be a changing of the guard in the AL East. That has not been the case thus far. The Red Sox have bounced back in 2013, after enduring their worst season since 1965 in 2012, to put up the third best run differential in all of baseball and are currently in first place in the division. This can largely be attributed to their starting pitching reemerging.
Clay Buchholz, while currently on the DL, has nine wins and a MLB low 1.71 ERA. John Lackey has posted a 3.03 ERA while providing his most effective starts since signing with the Red Sox prior to 2010.
The Baltimore Orioles trail the Red Sox by one game in the standings and appear to be better than the 2012 team that made the playoffs. The emergence of Chris Davis as a star has been huge. Davis already has 26 HRs, which puts him seven off his career high he established last year with a slash line of .337/.413/.720. Davis appears to be the main obstacle in Miguel Cabrera’s attempt to win back to back Triple Crowns.
The Yankees are currently in 3rd place in the division which should put Joe Girardi in the conversation for AL Manager of the Year as the Yankees have been ravaged by injuries to Mark Teixeira, Curtis Granderson, and have yet to see Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter play an inning of baseball in 2013.
The Yankees have seen contributions from Vernon Wells, Lyle Overbay and Travis Hafner far in excess of what even the most optimistic Yankee fan could have expected. This combined with a typically great year from Robinson Cano should help stay within striking distance as the await the return of their injured stars. Granderson recently had the pin removed from his pinky and expects a return soon after the all-star break.
The Tampa Bay Rays have not met many people’s expectations after years of seemingly surpassing them. Evan Longoria is having a tremendous year with 16 HRs and a slash line of .307/.366/.562. The Rays have recently called up heralded prospect Wil Myers, who they acquired in the offseason James Shields trade. They are awaiting the return of their ace, David Price, who is making his first rehab start from a triceps injury today in High A Charlotte.
In last place are most people’s preseason favorites for the division, the Toronto Blue Jays. The Jays, like the Yankees, have suffered their fair share of injuries to the likes of Jose Reyes and Brett Lawrie. In addition, Mark Buerhle and RA Dickey both suffered through an adjustment period after being traded from the Marlins and Mets, respectively, in the offseason along with Reyes. Things appear to be turning around, however, as the Jays have won 11 of their last 13 to pull within a game of .500.
This article was co-written by Dr. Steven L. Adler of the Wells On Baseball think tank. Follow him on Twitter @TheyCallMeAdler
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