2013 Division Preview – American League East

AL East

This division was thrown into turmoil last season with the improbable rise of the Orioles and the collapse of the Red Sox.  Now, there is real potential for further turmoil in 2013.  The Blue Jays were the darlings of the winter with a few mega-trades, and the Yankees are both aging and dropping like flies.  For the first time in a long, long time, the AL East is wide open.

Today 500 Level Fan concludes the 2013 Divisional preview series with a look at the AL East.

Defending Champion

New York Yankees

Past Five Champions

2012 – New York

2011 – New York

2010 – Tampa Bay

2009 – New York

2008 – Tampa Bay

Average Wins of Past Five Champions: 97.6

Best Player

Robinson Cano, Yankees

Age (A-Rod, Jeter, Ortiz), injury (Longoria, Bautista), and trades (Adrian Gonzalez, Crawford) sapped this division of a lot of its star power last year.  But you really can’t argue with Robinson Cano being anointed the division’s best.  He reached the .300 average, .870 OPS, 25 HR, 85 RBI, and 100 R plateaus for the fourth straight season.  His 8.2 WAR was second in the AL to Mike Trout.  He won a Gold Glove and Silver Slugger Award, finished in the top-6 of MVP voting for the third straight year, and made his third straight All-Star team.  He’s great with the glove (1.9 dWAR ranked 9th in the AL), and he’s dependable, missing a total of seven games in the past four years.  Now, with the Yankees banged up and old, he’s even more important than ever.  

Honourable Mention: Jose Bautista, Blue Jays; Evan Longoria, Rays

Best Pitcher

David Price, Rays

I don’t have the exact answer, but I’m sure this scenario doesn’t happen very often: BOTH Cy Young award winners wind up in the same division the following year . With the Jays acquisition of R.A. Dickey, that is exactly what happened to the 2013 AL East.  Though Dickey had a great year, the nod for best pitcher goes to defending AL Cy winner David Price.  Price was outstanding for the Rays in 2012: 20-5, 2.56 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 205 strikeouts, and 211 IP.  He finished in the AL top-10 in a wide variety of categories, including wins, strikeouts, WHIP, IP, hits / 9 innings, WAR, K/9, complete games, and adjusted ERA+.  With the loss of James Shields, Price will be worth even more to Tampa Bay in 2013.  Expect another big year.

Honourable Mention: CC Sabathia, Yankees; R.A. Dickey, Blue Jays

Three Storylines For 2013

1. Brand New Blue Jays

Enough has been written about it, especially on this site, but there is no denying that the Toronto Blue Jays are the team to watch in 2013.  After the disastrous 2012 came to an end, it was obvious that Toronto had massive holes up and down the lineup, especially in the starting rotation, left field, shortstop, second base, and manager.  Through a series of shrewd moves by GM Alex Anthopoulos, those holes have been filled, and for the most part filled with All-Stars: R.A. Dickey, Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle, Melky Cabrera, Jose Reyes, Emilio Bonifacio, Maicer Izturis, and John Gibbons.  Add those players to a core that includes a now-healthy Jose Bautista and Sergio Santos, along with Edwin Encarnacion, Brandon Morrow, Brett Lawrie, and Casey Janssen, and the Jays look stacked.  There are still a lot question marks (CF, 1B, 5th starter), but for the first time in a long time the positives outweigh the negatives.  Could this be a playoff season?   

2. A-Rod (or A-Fraud)

There is no denying that Alex Rodriguez has been one of the greatest players in the history of baseball.  There is also no denying that he has been a distraction wherever he has been, whether it be his fault or the media’s fault.  In the past, his production always outweighed his distraction.  But that is no longer the case.  Coming off a 2012 in which he missed 40 games and posted fewer than 20 HR and a sub .800 OPS, A-Rod has a lot to prove in 2013.  The only problem is that he won’t be able to prove anything for a long time, with a bum hip set to keep him out of the lineup for possibly half the season – maybe more.  If that wasn’t bad enough for A-Rod and the Yankees, along comes stories linking Rodriguez with Biogenesis, a South Florida clinic with ties to performance enhancing drugs.  With the cloud of scandal seemingly surrounding him at every turn, it will be interesting to see what happens with the former MVP.  Will he play?  Will he be suspended?  Will he be released?  Stay tuned.

3. Division in Transition

It used to be easy to predict the AL East.  New York, Boston, Toronto, Tampa Bay, Baltimore.  Done.  Those days are gone.  Tampa’s rise in 2008 made the division a three-horse race, and now two of those horses appear to be on their way out.  Boston is coming off a last place finish and doesn’t look like a contender this season, and the Yankees are a mess.  They lost Russell Martin in the offseason and will go with a collection of scrubs at catcher . Both Jeter and Rivera are trying to come back from major injuries.  Sabathia is coming off shoulder soreness and has only thrown 5 innings in the spring.  A-Rod will miss half the season.  And thus far in the spring they have lost both Curtis Granderson and Mark Teixeira for an undisclosed length of time.  The Yankees will be led by Robinson Cano, 40-year old Andy Pettitte, and former Boston star Kevin  Youkilis, who is a shell of his former shelf.  With last year’s rise of the Orioles, and the turnaround by Toronto, it’s not inconceivable that the former powers will become bottom feeders. 

Interesting Stat

There are a variety of stats that show just bad 2012 was for the Blue Jays starting rotation.  In terms of starters ERA, they were 10th at 4.82.  They also finished 11th in the AL in innings pitched with 916, 5th in HR allowed (134), dead last in walks (368), third last in K/9 (6.3), and dead last in K/BB (1.74).  In other words, Toronto’s starters didn’t pitch very deep into games, yet still walked more batters than any other team – by a wide margin.  Then there is this stat: 36 pitchers in the American League qualified for the ERA title (minimum 162 IP), and only two were Blue Jays: Henderson Alvarez finished 29th on the ERA leaderboard (4.85) and Ricky Romero, who finished dead last (5.77).  Romero also finished dead last with a -1.7 WAR.  Or, finally, this stat: due to injury and ineffectiveness, 12 different pitchers started a game for the Jays last year.  There was no secret what part of the team had to improve for Toronto to become a contender, and also no surprise that Dickey, Johnson, and Buehrle were brought in to right the ship.

Who Should Win

Tanpa Bay

Who Will Win

Find out in my season prediction column on March 25th

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