Checking In On The AL East

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With the month of April in the books, it is a good time to glance around the rest of the division and see how things are coming along. In case you haven't noticed, the standings are quite out of the ordinary right now, with the Rays and Orioles coming in at first and second while Boston is floundering at the bottom.

Below the jump is a quick look at some of the top performers (and their counterparts) for each team, and a look at the projected final standings using the pre-season Pecota projections.

Baltimore Orioles

Top Performers:

Matt Wieters: .303/.391/.618, 177 wRC+, 1.4 WAR. It looks like Wieters is finally emerging as the player everyone thought he would be a few years back when he was a top prospect. With a .296 BABIP and a solid K%, nothing screams "fluke." He will cool down eventually, but it appears that Wieters is establishing himself as the best catcher in baseball and is headed for stardom.

Adam Jones: .316/.362/.582, 156 wRC+, 1.2 WAR. Jones has gotten off to a hot start by cutting his strikeout rate and hitting for more power. However, the extremely low walk rate and his previous performances make this start look unsustainable. Only time will tell, but don't book on Adam Jones slugging .582 over a full year (career .443 slugging).

Chris Davis: .316/.368/.595, 155 wRC+, .8 WAR. After struggling to succeed in the major leagues with the Rangers for several years, Davis is finally hitting. While the strikeout percentage has dropped, a .364 BABIP is unsustainable, right? I ask, because in 210 PAs last year, his BABIP was .366.

The Starting Rotation: Instead of looking at each guy, why not just note how good the rotation has been as a whole. While Matusz and Hunter have floundered, Jason Hammel (1.97 ERA, 2.85 ERA), Jake Arrieta (3.52 ERA, 3.39 FIP), and Wei-Yin Chen (2.22 ERA, 3.59 FIP) have all been pitching out of their minds. Heck, the whole team is playing out of their minds. Their rotation, which was projected to be one of the worst in the majors, is currently sporting a 3.35 ERA. The bullpen? A 1.73 ERA. We'll wait and see how long this lasts (Yes, it will end, and the O's will return to being bad or mediocre) but the Orioles are giving their fans a treat right now.

Poor Performers:

J.J. Hardy: .196/.252/.361, 64 wRC+, 0.0 WAR. It hasn't been a good season for Hardy, as he struggled to hit. His .188 BABIP hints that success may be just around the corner though.

Mark Reynolds: .136/.260/.197, 27 wRC+, -.5 WAR. Power hitters tend to be streaky, and that may be the case with Reynolds right now. Still, it is an awful month-long streak he has been enduring.

Tommy Hunter: 31.2 IP, 4.26 ERA, 6.35 FIP, -.3 WAR.


Boston Red Sox

Top Performers:

David Ortiz: 102 PAs, .391/.441/.707, 206 wRC+, 1.3 WAR. After a mediocre 2009, David Ortiz has stormed back, signifying the type of hitter envisioned in a DH. With a great start this year, Ortiz, even at the age of 36, is showing no signs of fading.

Mike Aviles: 103 PAs, .281/.317/.500, 122 wRC+, 1 WAR. When the Red Sox traded Jed Lowrie and Marcos Scutaro, many experts were perplexed as to why. Mike Aviles is answering that question, demonstrating prowess with the bat, and even the glove.

Ryan Sweeney: .361/.397/.556, 158 wRC+, .8 WAR. While the unexpected production from Sweeney is nice for Red Sox fans, the bad K/BB rate and .448 BABIP suggest that the hot streak won't last.

Poor Performers:

The Top Three Pitchers: Entering the 2012 season, Lester, Beckett, and Buchholz were expected to anchor the Sox rotation. So far, they have failed to do that, posting ERAs of 4.65 (3.68 FIP), 4.45 (5.14 FIP), and 8.69 (6.77 FIP) respectively.

Mark Melancon: 2 IP, 49.50 ERA, 37.47 FIP, -.7 WAR. Yes, those numbers are correct. When you post a -.7 WAR in two innings and retire only 6 out of the 18 batters you face, you get demoted to the minors, even when you were supposed to be the set-up man.

Adrian Gonzalez: 107 PAs, .250/.327/.370, 87 wRC+, .1 WAR. So far, the Red Sox best hitter hasn't been living up to his reputation. It will get better, but that doesn't make April fine.

Injuries: Like the Rays, the Red Sox have been plagued with injuries, including those to Carl Crawford, Andrew Bailey, and Jacoby Ellsbury.


New York Yankees

Top Performers:

Derek Jeter: 114 PAs, .385/.425/.567, 172 wRC+. 1.1 WAR. Ever since getting his 3,000th hit against David Price, Jeter's bat has come alive. The .414 BABIP insinuates that his numbers will come back to earth, but it looks as if Derek Jeter still has gas left in the tank.

Curtis Granderson: 109 PAs, .275/.389/.615, 163 wRC+, .6 WAR. I admit I was among those who thought Granderson's 2011 season was an outlier. It is too early to definitively pronounce me wrong, but it certainly looks that way.

Nick Swisher: 93 PAs, .284/.355/.617, 159 wRC+, .5 WAR. For all the talk and hype Jeter, Rodriguez, Cano, etc.. receive, Swisher manages to always fly under the radar despite quality performance.

David Robertson: 11 IP, 0.00 ERA, 0.52 FIP, .6 WAR.

Poor Performers:

Freddy Garcia: 15.2 IP, 10.91 ERA, 5.40 FIP, 0 WAR. I, admittedly, think that Cashman is underrated (relatively). However, I'm still trying to wrap my head around this signing.

Phil Hughes: 21.2 IP, 7.48 ERA, 6.44 FIP, -.2 WAR. Hughes is actually sporting a good K/BB ratio, striking out over a better per inning while walking 2.91 per nine innings. The cause of his struggles resides in his component stats. Even though 19.4% of his flyballs are going for homeruns, the positive regression will be limited if he continues to only get groundballs at 31.4% clip.

Mark Teixeira: 100 PAs, .226/.270/.366, 72 wRC+, 0.0 WAR. There was optimism for Tex heading into 2012, as he came into spring training in shape, dropping some extra weight. But like most "best shape of my life" stories, the results have not been there for Teixeira.


Tampa Bay Rays

Top Performers:

David Price: 30.1 IP, 2.67 ERA, 3.07 FIP, .7 WAR. Price has modified his approach recently, becoming more reliant upon offspeed pitches. The returns are positive, and he should be able to pitch more efficiently with this approach.

Evan Longoria: 97 PAs, .329/.433/.561, 169 wRC+, 1.0 WAR. The loss of Longoria will hurt the Rays given his hot start which might have finally been the sign of an MVP year.

Matt Joyce: 85 PAs, .293/.369/.653, 181 wRC+, 1.2 WAR. Is it time to shed the MOM (Month of May) moniker? Joyce seems to have taken a likening to April. With Longoria out, he finally has a chance to prove himself versus LHP.

Fernando Rodney: 11.1 IP, 0.79 ERA, 1.65 FIP, .8 SV, .4 WAR. The bullpen is finally taking shape, and no pitcher has more to do with it than Rodney, whose sudden emergence is a huge shocker.

Poor Performers:

Sean Rodriguez: 82 PAs, .188/.266/.275, 56 wRC+, 0.0 WAR. Is it time to start getting worried about Rodriguez? Since being given the full-time starting SS position around the start of July, 2011, his batting line is .216/.316/.313. Rodriguez isn't a good hitter, but that is less that what we have come to expect from him.

Jose Molina: 51 PAs, .213/.275/.298, 64 wRC+, .1 WAR. Molina wasn't signed for his bat, but he is still hitting worse than what the pessimistic Zips projections projected him for.

Burke Badenhop: 12 IP, 6.00 ERA, 5.89 FIP, -.3 WAR. Even though "The Hopper's" last performance brought subtle encouragement, his overall line is poor. On the positive side, his 3.90 xFIP shows that he may get better.

Injuries: B.J. Upton, Evan Longoria, Luke Scott, Kyle Farnsworth, and Sam Fuld are all missing time with injuries, causing role players to be put in situations that don't give them a good chance of succeeding.


Toronto Blue Jays

Top Performers:

Edwin Encarnacion: 109 PAs, .320/.376/.680, 187 wRC+, 1.1 WAR. Encarnacion is on fire right now, already hitting 9 homeruns. Whether something has just clicked for him is debatable, but it is certainly something to keep an eye on as the year progresses.

Kelly Johnson: 106 PAs, .250/.377/.466, 136 wRC+, 1.1 WAR.

Luis Perez: 15 IP, 2.40 ERA, 3.24 FIP, .2 WAR. Perez is emerging as a reliable relief option for the Jays' weak bullpen.

Poor Performers:

FIP: This can actually be put in the "Top Performers" section, yet it seems more fitting here. Glancing at the Jays pitching numbers, the ERAs are far below their FIP brethren. For example, here are the Blue Jay's starters with their ERA and FIP: Ricky Romero (3.64 ERA, 4.05 FIP), Kyle Drabek (2.40 ERA, 4.47 FIP), Brandon Morrow (3.03 ERA, 5.21 FIP), and Henderson Alvarez (3.62 ERA, 5.94 FIP). In other words, don't count on the Blue Jay's starters to put up these shiny ERAs for a full season.

Jose Bautista: 112 PAs, .180/.321/.337, 86 wRC+, .1 WAR. Bautista isn't hitting for as much power this year, with only a .157 ISO. However, his K% is down and his BABIP is at .162.

Yunel Escobar: 119 PAs, .234/.271/.315, 60 wRC+, .4 WAR. A normally consistent performer, Escobar's statistics have been relatively lackluster so far.

All stats were through May 2nd.


Projecting The AL East

By revisiting the Pecota projections, we can reconfigure the projections for the AL East. Since around a month of play is in the books, April's records are unaffected by the projections. The wins and losses occurred, so using projections to evaluate them is useless. The projections can be used to fill in the holes of the schedule though, which, in this case, is the rest of the 2012 season.

Think of it this way: You have a quarter to flip, and you project the odds of getting heads up twice in two opportunities. The odds in this case would be 25%. If the first flip results in a heads up, the odds then improve to 75%. Why did this happen? For each flip, the odds of a heads up were 50% out of 100%, or one half. So these two flips were independent of each other. The first flip resulted in a heads, so the odds of a heads in that case is now 100% (it happened). For the next flip, the odds are once again 50%, since the flip is independent of the other. One hundred and fifty out of two hundred equals 75% (reduced).

Easy enough? Below are the projected final standings (through May 2):

1. Yankees: 93-69 (Pre-season projection: 94-68)
2. Rays: 91-71 (Pre-season projection: 87-75)
3. Red Sox: 89-73 (Pre-season projection: 91-71)
4. Blue Jays: 80-82 (Pre-season projection: 78-84)
5. Orioles: 77-85 (Pre-season projection: 72-90)

Given the injuries you could reduce around 2-3 wins for the Rays (Longoria, Farnsworth, and Fuld), 3-4 for the Yankees (Pineda and Rivera), 5-6 for the Red Sox (Crawford, Ellsbury, Bailey), 2 for the Orioles (Britton, Roberts, Wada), and maybe one for the Blue Jays (Santos and others).

The Rays are in a good position right now thanks to their hot streak to start the year off. The next month will be telling as they try to maintain their success despite missing Longoria and Farnsworth. The AL East is stacked this year, but the Rays are in position to threaten for the AL East title.

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