Red Sox: Grading the first 50 games
By Rick McNair
WHO DO YOU FEAR?
The AL East is – at least to the fans of the teams – the premier division in baseball. A certain baseball xenophobia or just plain divisional snobbery. One item of note is the New York Yankees are the only divisional team with a winning road record.
Who do you fear?
I continue to keep a watchful eye on the Toronto Blue Jays, who are nearing full strength on offense. The Jays are a surprising 14th in AL offense, but is it a surprise when your core players are on the disabled list (DL)? This is a team that can hit and they will. Warning sign – right now the offense is negative in run differential.
The Jays pitching staff is among the best in the AL despite some dings and dents. The staff has had to endure an offense that has not supplied the usually covering fire that makes the Jays a formidable opponent. A warning sign is the Jays bullpen leads the AL in innings pitched. Fear factor points are that this is the team that will be in it at the end.
The Yankees are great to have back in the hunt after a few seasons rebuilding. Brian Cashman made all the right moves are has created a nice blend of youth and veteran experience, but much hinges on the development of pitching. That – like with most teams – is a big question mark. Reliance on young arms and veterans who have been inconsistent can nullify a juiced offense.
New York will finish above .500 and the big question is just how far above .500? The offense is starting to return from a rather explosive six weeks and does anyone expect Aaron Hicks to hit .300? The next 50 games will give an insight into the Yankees season – can they sustain .600 baseball? I doubt it. A warning sign is the arms of the vets.
The Orioles will fall short simply over pitching. A huge hole in the bullpen and a starting rotation that puts too much pressure on the bullpen. This is simply not a very good staff and a staff that can be awful at times.
The Orioles offense has scored far fewer runs than Boston’s. The O’s have created a mindset for me where they simply beat to death other teams, but that seems to be the O’s of last season. Manny Machado and Chris Davis – have you seen their batting averages?
Every game with the Rays appears to be a trap game. The Rays are actually hitting! They are second in the AL in batting and first in home runs. They are also first in K%. How long will this last? After 50 games – give or take – it has to be considered a trend, but then comes the pitching.
The Rays are seventh in team pitching, but also seventh at home in that category. No ballpark skewering the statistical line. What will happen is that any pitcher of value – say a Chris Archer – may soon reside elsewhere as the Rays do what has become standard practice – trade away players. A warning sign is just that – the offense and pitching could be minimized by trades.