With a little more than a month left in the season, we are getting closer and closer to that final stretch in September. Each division leader has less than a 6.5 game lead and some of those leaders might surprise you.
American League East:
- Baltimore Orioles - 68-50, GB(-)
- Toronto Blue Jays - 63-57, GB(6)
- New York Yankees - 61-57, GB(7)
The AL East has always been one of the best divisions in the Majors mainly because of the Yankees and Red Sox. This year though, the Sox and Yanks are not the superior teams and both are on the verge of missing the playoffs. The Orioles have become one of the hottest teams in the Majors going 16-7 since All-Star break, 7-3 in the month of August so far. For the past 4 seasons the O's have had one of the best lineups, ranking top 5 in home runs since 2011. The x-factor for the O's this season though has been the pitching staff. A staff with no true ace has been a few steps above average, with Wei Yen Chen leading the teams in wins with 12 in 22 starts. The O's also has the best defensive team in the majors, that gives that pitching staff added support. Manager Buck Showalter deserves a ton of credit for changing the culture of this team and managing an average pitching staff. He has found a closer in Zach Britton, who leads the team with 24 saves, and continues to push the right button when calling to that bullpen. Right now, the AL East is their's to lose.
- One June 12th, the Blue Jays had the 2nd best record in the American League, 39-29, and was sitting at the top of the AL East. Since then they have gone 29-28 and continue to drop behind the O's. They are currently 3-7 in their last 10 games, losing last night to the Mariners 11-1.
- You can never count out the Yankees but if you look at their lineup, you will see a bunch of unfamiliar names, which isn't Yankee baseball. They are holding on by a thread right now but injuries are going to keep them from making it into October. Right now they have a run differential of -33 and 21-24 against AL East teams.
Cy Young Candidates
American League Central:
- Kansas City Royals - 64-53 GB(-)
- Detroit Tigers - 63-53 GB(.5)
- Cleveland Indians - 59-59 GB(5.5)
Another surprising division leader, the Kansas City Royals. The Royals for the first time since July 2003 are 11 games over .500. Last season, they won 80 games for the 4th time since 1990 but this year they will look to claim their first division crown since 1985 and end their 18-year playoff drought. The Royals currently have the 3rd best batting average in the majors, .263, while their pitching staff is 9th in ERA, .354. This team doesn't hit home runs, in fact they;re ranked last with 71, and is average at best in most hitting categories but they still manage to win games. They are on a 8-game win streak, averaging 6 runs during that streak. They are 52-1 when leading after the 7th inning, which you can give credit to the bullpen. This is a team with no true individual stars but great team chemistry. My only question, is can they keep it up down the stretch?
- While the Royals only have 1 player over $10 million on the roster, the Tigers has 7, 3 of them being pitchers. Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander, and newly acquired David Price on paper gives the Tigers the best rotation in the majors but that hasn't produce on the field yet. Since July 13th, the Tigers are 10-16 and surrendered a 6.5 game lead they had over the now 1st place Royals. Monday night while the Royals were defeating the A's, Verlander only pitched 1 inning and had to leave the game due to shoulder issues. Can the Tigers get out of this slump?
American League West:
- Oakland A's - 72-46, GB(-)
- LA Angels - 68-49, GB(3.5)
The Oakland A's are proving that money don't equal success. A's are on their way to a second straight division title, while the Angels chase them. A's not only are the best in the West, they are the best in baseball, being the first team to reach 70 wins this season. Just like the Red Sox a year ago, the A's manufacture runs with solid hitting and base running. They lead the league in runs (575) and RBIs (543) with a solid team batting average of .250 and .327 on-base percentage. Like the Royals, it's no real superstar on this squad and the one they did have, Yoenis Cespedes, they traded him away to Boston for Jon Lester, an ace. The A's already had two bonafide starters with Sonny Gray and Scott Kazmir, both with sub-3.00 ERAs, but with Lester and Jeff Samarzija in the rotation, they are October ready.
- The Angels have a tough roster but somehow find themselves 3.5 games out of 1st place. Mike Trout is having an MVP year, ,299 batting average, 27 long balls, 85 RBIs, 12 stolen bags, and a .969 OPS. Numbers like that are crazy and signal a $300 million contract in the future for Mr. Trout, yet they are in 2nd place. The Angels have been behind the A's since May 12th despite having an all-star roster. The Angels do hold the #1 wildcard spot with the 2nd best win percentage and score differential in the majors, so more than likely they will make the playoffs. Just beware though, if this team get hot, damage will be done.