Highlighting interesting points about the first month of the season with the Yankees’ division rivals
The first week of May is behind us, and while 30 games doesn’t make a season, there’s plenty to watch, and it’s a great time to learn about the New York Yankees’ divisional rivals in the AL East. . One of, if not the toughest split in the sport, has shown no signs of slowing down, and there’s plenty to discuss with each team, both positively and negatively.
The Yankees lead the way with 18 wins and seven losses, however, there is little to no cushion between them and second place:
It has become common knowledge that the Rays will be top of the list when it comes to surpassing their projections. It’s one of the savviest organizations in the sport, and if anyone can find quality pitching where it’s not clear, it’s the Rays. However, even with this knowledge, there was a level of concern about their pitching depth heading into 2022.
Interestingly, the Rays operate on what can best be described as a three-man rotation with Shane McClanahan, Drew Rasmussen and Corey Kluber. There are two questions that come with this statement: why and how?
For starters, Shane Baz, who was scheduled to be part of the rotation this year, had to have surgery to remove bone chips in his elbow and missed the start of the season. Baz is expected to be out for a significant amount of time, and at the same time Luis Patiño is out with an oblique stump. Padre’s former prospect was another designated pitcher to have a rotational spot, but is now out indefinitely.
With only three starters built, there are still two spots left to fill for proper rotation, and right now the Rays are using bullpen plays in those spots. Ryan Yarbrough is capable of being a regular starter, but he started the year on the shelf with a groin injury, and the Rays still have to plan for a major bullpen night when he leaves. Josh Fleming has been the main loose guy in those starts with 18.1 IP in six appearances.
Offense bearing the charge
Although the pitching staff has been strong, it’s the offense that bears the brunt in those first 28 games. Remember the Austin Meadows business? His replacement Harold Ramirez is one of those complementary bats taking over while stars like Randy Arozarena and Brandon Lowe remain cold. Alongside Ramirez, the likes of Taylor Walls, Francisco Mejia, Manuel Margot and Yandy Diaz are producing well above the combined average.
The Blue Jays were a playoff team a year ago. With a towering offense, AL winner Cy Young and company bolstered one of the best Pythagorean win-loss records in sports, but a mediocre showing in close games put Toronto out of the playoffs and opened up to the Yankees.Red Sox Wild card game.
It’s definitely too early to spot a trend, but so far Toronto has been absolutely profitable in one-point games. The Jays were outclassed by their opponents (102 points scored and 110 points allowed), but still have a very good record of 16-11. The attack manages on the back of Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and George Springer, but should be strengthened with the return of Teoscar Hernandéz this weekend and Bo Bichette finding his rhythm.
Losing Robbie Ray, no problem?
Many feared what a return to the AL East would do for Kevin Gausman, but after a few starts, he’s proven that the pitcher last seen in those parts with the Orioles is no more. Gausman’s new form continued, and the Jays ace was arguably the most dominant pitcher in the sport in his first six starts. Meanwhile, Jordan Romano already has 12 saves on the young season and looks set for a masterful season as he closes out Toronto’s games.
Are you glass half full or glass half empty? This question poses an interesting dilemma for Orioles fans.
On the one hand, you can look at the John Means injury that will keep the Orioles out of next season, alongside the struggles of Ryan Mountcastle and Trey Mancini, and be somewhat concerned about this lengthy rebuild. However, last year’s standout Cedric Mullins seems not to have skipped a beat, and his fellow outfielders are catching him. Austin Hays and Anthony Santander both bolster a significant improvement in their offensive output, posting 141 and 138 wRC+ respectively.
Adley Rutschman and Grayson Rodriguez, the two gems of this agricultural system, should be operational as soon as possible. The pair are among the top 10 prospects in baseball, and Rodriguez is arguably the league’s best pitching prospect.
Who saw this enclosure coming?
The likes of Jorge Lopez, Dillon Tate, Felix Bautista and Keegan Akin all produced way above what was expected heading into 2022. It’s hard to say, but it looks like the time when the bullpen of the Orioles was the punch bag of the sport are over.
Fifth – Boston Red Sox (10-17)
The Red Sox have always had an uphill battle ahead – they have a talented roster, but play in a tough division with three other legitimate contenders. Another trip in the middle of October would not come naturally.
The biggest question mark surrounding this Red Sox team was the pitching staff, specifically their bullpen. Between injuries to Chris Sale and Tanner Houck’s inability to pitch in Toronto, the Sox moved Garrett Whitlock into the rotation. That’s not to say they wouldn’t have done this regardless of status with Sale and Houck, but it certainly didn’t help the depth of the rotation. It also puts additional stress on a bullpen that has the second-worst ERA in the American League at 4.42, and that’s with Whitlock in the equation.
A total power outage
Acquiring big bucks in Trevor Story has struggled during his first month in Boston, and while there’s always some level of concern, the former Rockie has enough track record where he doesn’t. It’s not time to press the panic button yet. However, the roster as a whole has seemingly forgotten how to hit home runs. The Sox rank 27th in the league with 16 long balls coming into play Saturday, a disastrous level of production for a slugger-strewn roster. They will need to turn the offense around quickly if they are to avoid vying with Baltimore for the division’s last spot.