It’s the All-Star Break and time to grade MLB squads based on their preseason expectations. This time, it’s the AL East. Let’s take a look at who the best team to bet online on moving into the second half is.
The AL East has turned into a two-team race, but it’s not the teams that were expected to be at the top. The Boston Red Sox currently have a 1.5 game lead over the Tampa Bay Rays, with the New York Yankees and Toronto Blue Jays struggling to keep up.
New York Yankees
- 2021 Expected Wins: 95.5
- Record (as of July 12): 46-42
The New York Yankees entered the 2021 season as one of the betting favorites to win the World Series. An American League East Division title seemed like almost a certainty, but this team has fallen well short of expectations.
The Yankees head into the All-Star Break eight games out of first place in the division, and a Wild-Card berth might be their only playoff option. This is a team that still can get hot in a hurry, but they have dug themselves a monster hole.
Injuries continue to plague the Yankees, especially when it comes to some of their biggest bats in the lineup. This alone cannot be attributed to their bad season, though, as several players have failed to perform.
Recently the backend of the bullpen has started to let the team down, and that was always considered one of the biggest strengths of this team. Manager Aaron Boone has failed to push the right buttons.
There are just four Yankees players with at least 10 home runs, and Aaron Judge leads the way with 21 long balls. This lineup was supposed to be one of the most feared in baseball, but it just hasn’t played out that way.
The pitching staff is still top-10 with a 3.90 earned run average, but they have blown some big leads late in games. Gerrit Cole is 9-4 with a 2.68 ERA, but this team is still missing a dominant No. 2 starter.
Another issue is that they can’t beat the Boston Red Sox, and those games are extremely important. More games against their biggest rival are coming, and they must find a way to end this trend.
The Yankees are projected to win 84.7 games at their current record, which would put them well short of their regular-season win total. Even if the Yankees play extremely well in the second half of the season, they aren’t going to get to 95 or 96 wins.
Toronto Blue Jays
- 2021 Expected Wins: 86.5
- Record (as of July 12): 44-42
The Toronto Blue Jays were a popular pick to take the next step as a franchise and compete in the American League this season. Toronto has a roster that is loaded with young talent, but they have faced some adversity this season.
The biggest disadvantage facing the Blue Jays this season is that they don’t get to play their home games up in Toronto. COVID-19 has kept them from making the trip back to Canada, and every single game has felt like a road matchup.
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. has emerged as one of the best players in baseball. Guerrero is sporting a .332 batting average to go along with 28 home runs and 73 runs batted in.
Hyun Jin Ryu, Robbie Ray, and Steven Matz have combined for a 22-13 record but the Blue Jays don’t have much outside of these three pitchers. Toronto gives up a ton of runs when these three aren’t on the mound.
Toronto was projected at 86.5 wins to begin the season, which would have put it in the playoff race. The Blue Jays are two games over the .500 mark, and they are going to have to get hot in a hurry.
Currently, the Blue Jays are projected to end the season with 82.9 wins. That would put them close to their preseason mark, but it’s tough to see this team getting to the mark of 86.5 wins.
The Blue Jays have to face three extremely good teams in the AL East Division, and they aren’t going to be able to keep pace. Look for the Blue Jays to finish right around the .500 mark, and it will be another disappointing ending to the season.
Tampa Bay Rays
- 2021 Expected Wins: 85.5
- Record (as of July 12): 53-36
Despite winning the American League a season ago, expectations weren’t that high for the Tampa Bay Rays. Tampa Bay was expected to finish in third place in the division based on preseason win totals, but they are just 1.5 games out of first at the break.
Tampa Bay continues to win games without having a true superstar in its lineup, but this is a formula that has been working for years. The Rays continue to feature a dominant bullpen and always seem to come up with a clutch hit when needed.
Tampa Bay has scored 440 runs, which is the seventh-highest total. They are also seventh in the league with a terrific 3.50 team ERA, and the bullpen doesn’t give up many late leads.
Brandon Lowe and Mike Zunino have combined for 40 home runs, and they provide plenty of power for Tampa Bay. Manuel Margot leads the team with a .252 batting average, but all of the Rays are solid at the plate.
Tampa Bay doesn’t have a truly dominant starting pitcher, but they have a full roster of pitchers that can get people out. Teams don’t want to fall behind early against the Rays as there are some hard-throwing pitchers in that bullpen.
The Rays are currently projected to finish the season with 96.5 wins, and that would smash the preseason mark that was set. Tampa Bay is going to accomplish this feat, but it still might not be enough to win the AL East Division title.
Boston Red Sox
- 2021 Expected Wins: 80.5
- Record (as of July 12): 55-35
Many experts thought that the Boston Red Sox would be competitive once again in the AL East, but few saw this coming. Boston heads into the break with a 55-35 record, and looks like a team that isn’t slowing.
The Red Sox were projected to win just 80.5 games this season, but that number has been bumped to 99 based on their current record. Ninety-nine wins would likely give the Red Sox the No. 1 seed in the American League Playoffs.
Boston has built up this great record by becoming one of the most explosive offensive teams. The Red Sox have scored 464 runs, the third-highest total in baseball.
Xander Bogaerts leadswith a .321 batting average, and sets the tone. Rafael Devers has belted 22 home runs and driven in 72 runs to provide much of the power for Boston.
The Red Sox do have a team ERA of just 4.09, and that will need to improve. There are some terrific starters, and that should keep the bullpen fresh for the stretch run.
It’s pretty obvious that Boston is going to smash the preseason win total, and it might happen at some point in August. The Red Sox still have work to do to win this division, but they have far exceeded preseason expectations that were placed on them.
- 2021 Expected Wins: 64.5
- Record (as of July 12): 28-60
The Baltimore Orioles were expected to finish in last place in the American League East, and that is exactly where they are headed. This was a team that was expected to show some growth and progress in 2021, and that has not been the case at all.
Projecting the Orioles at 64.5 wins means that this team would at least be somewhat competitive against the other AL East Division rivals. Instead, Baltimore has allowed AL East teams to beat up on them all season long and help boost their records.
The Orioles don’t really have injuries to blame for the poor start to the season, but several keys players are simply underperforming. This lineup has put up some big numbers at times, but the pitching staff usually gives up just as many to the other teams.
Baltimore has a team ERA of 5.60, which is easily the worst mark in baseball. Giving up more than 5.5 runs per nine innings just won’t work, especially in a division as good as the AL East.
The Orioles do sport a team batting average of .237, which is right around league average. Trying to outscore opponents simply isn’t going to work in this division, but it’s all the Orioles can hope for.
Trey Mancini leads the team with 16 home runs and 55 RBIs and is one of the best stories in baseball. Cedric Mullins looks like a future star in this league as he is sporting a .314 batting average.
The Orioles are currently projected to finish the 2021 season with just 51.5 wins, and that would be a massive disappointment. Baltimore is going to finish the season better than it began, but they are still going to fall under the 64.5 win mark.