Catching Up In The American League
DAY OFF FROM BASKETBALL ALLOWS US TO GET CAUGHT UP IN THE AMERICAN LEAGUE
Last week we used a day off from the NBA Playoffs to get caught up in the National League...with the promise that we would do the same thing in the American League when the schedule permitted. Well...the San Antonio Spurs SWEEP of the Memphis Grizzlies has given us that opportunity!
Let's touch on all 15 American League teams today as you continue to handicap the exciting Interleague Rivalry schedule that's finishing up tonight and Thursday. The most important thing to remember is that the AL East is once again the power division of the circuit. Even though there was supposed to be turmoil all over the division...the quality is clearly still there...
We all know the New York Yankees were supposed to fall apart without Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez in the lineup. Instead, the team has thrived without those old guys bringing them down! Well, that's not exactly the case. Pitching has been fantastic. Several hitters have risen to the occasion to score more than what the solid pitching is allowing. The Yanks are still a contender, because they were never just a two-man team (two overhyped men at that).
The Boston Red Sox were supposed to be in a rebuilding year after last year's collapse. New manager. New faces. And, a request for patience as the team built some chemistry. So much for that! The Red Sox are in first place in the toughest division in the league, getting contributions from a variety of smart acquisitions.
The Baltimore Orioles were supposed to collapse this year because their 2012 playoff run was supposedly 90% luck and 10% managing. That's the way the sabermetric community was telling the story. Well, the Orioles are winning once again...even though pitching has been in shambles. They are a clear Wildcard contender...and will contend for the division if they can ever find some arms who can get people out.
We're not even to the Tampa Bay Rays yet. This perennial contender is barely over .500, but part of that is because they play in a killer division. The Rays are 17-12 this year when not playing Boston, NYY, or Baltimore...which means they're still very good. Some usually reliable arms have faltered. But, the usually disappointing offense has been getting more production than expected.
Only the Toronto Blue Jays have been a real disappointment. Too many pundits picked them to win the division because of offseason acquisitions. We've been warning you for years about the differences between the two leagues. AL teams don't improve by bringing over NL talent!
Good luck for the AL East in Interleague action this week...because they face the very disappointing AL East head to head. Toronto drew the short straw and had to play Atlanta four times. Everyone else gets to face a struggling team, three of whom are very overmatched (Phils, Mets, Marlins).
At this point, it looks like the Detroit Tigers are going to coast to the divisional crown. Even if they're not getting Cy Young stuff from their starting rotation, the loaded offenses puts them in position to win almost every time out.
There's been a lot of excitement about the Cleveland Indians in early days. That was before they struggled in Boston when they had to step up in class. The Indians were 9-15 against teams at .500 or better heading into Tuesday Night's game in Cincinnati. They're 11-4 in one-run games, which is a sign of good fortune. It's a nice story...but the Indians wouldn't strike you as a playoff contender if they played in the AL East, against an AL East heavy schedule.
It's gotten ugly for the Kansas City Royals, who's poor offense has been abused in a recent slump. Nobody on the team draws walks...which means there aren't enough people on base. That eventually spanks you when you face quality opposition. The Royals are 9-14 against teams with a winning record.
It's hard to like what's going on with the Chicago White Sox and Minnesota Twins too. The White Sox have the worst offense in the American League even though they play their home games in a good home run park. The Twins have a bunch of "pitch to contact" hurlers, which means every game is a time bomb waiting to go off. Maybe Chicago has enough pitching to hang around .500 for the year. A friendly schedule (relatively few games vs. 500 or better) has helped hide various weaknesses.
Mixed draw in Interleague, because the NL Central is a mixed bag! Tough luck for Indians and Royals who ran into Cincinnati and St. Louis. Friendlier weeks for the rest.
The biggest surprise in the AL this season has been the dominant play of the Texas Rangers. Sure, they were supposed to be good. But, they weren't supposed to have the best record in the AL in late May (which was the case before the doubleheader loss Monday in a tough travel spot at Arizona). Their pitching has been stellar. The offense is still overrated because of their home park, but has enough pop to outscore what their pitchers are allowing.
The Oakland A's had to get hot last week just to stay in the race. They had fallen way behind Texas before a much needed surge. We're skeptical about their true overall quality given a 9-18 record vs. teams with a winning record entering Tuesday's late game with the Giants. They sure know how to bully bad teams.
Which brings us to the Los Angeles Angels. Are they a good team or a bad team? They started the season horribly, once again. But, the bats warmed up last week...and the team went on a tear before losing a high scoring shootout to the Dodgers Monday Night. Right now, the Angels are playing like a Wildcard contender at the very least. Will they get enough pitching to maintain that, or make a strong second half run? Possibly the most fascinating team in the AL because they're so erratic even with all that talent.
No reason to take the Seattle Mariners and Houston Astros seriously at this point. Houston's worse in the standings, but actually owns a 4-2 heads up record with the Mariners...and they've been playing competitive ball of late thanks to a feisty offense and a few decent outings from starting pitchers.
Handicappers should be very interested in the Interleague matchups featuring Texas/Arizona and Oakland/San Francisco. Contenders vs. contenders matchups tell you a lot about teams and divisions.
JIM HURLEY is on top of all the storylines right now in Major League Baseball. You can purchase daily selections right here at the website with your credit card. If you have any questions about baseball or basketball, call us in the office at 1-800-323-4453.
Back Thursday to talk about Game Five of the Indiana Pacers/Miami Heat NBA Playoff series. You know the Western Conference champion San Antonio Spurs are happy to rest up while watching those two teams beat each other senseless! Why not beat up the Vegas line with WORLD HANDICAPPING CHAMPION JIM HURLEY!
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