If you thought the AL East was a competitive division last season, as things are shaping up in 2017, it appears to have got even tougher with every single team being in contention.
In 2016, the playoff race in the AL East began in early June and continued right on through to the final game of the regular season. Last year it was the Orioles, Red Sox, and Blue Jays who were going back and forth for the division lead over the final four months of the season. This year however, the Yankees and Rays have thrown themselves into the mix as well.
For decades now the AL East has been considered the toughest division to play in, but that was mostly on account of how great the Yankees and Red Sox were. Things are a bit different these days, and although Boston and New York are still competitive, with the Blue Jays, Orioles, and Rays stepping up their game in recent years, the AL East of 2017 has never been so tight.
Just to put into perspective how skewed the numbers are when it comes to the AL East’s dominance over the rest of the league, let’s just take a quick peak back at what happened in 2016. Combined, the five AL East teams posted a .522 winning percentage last season. Whereas the next highest division, the NL Central, had a .505 winning percentage, and that included the league best Chicago Cubs with their 103 wins and .640 winning percentage. Remove Tampa Bay and their 68-94 record, and the combined winning percentage of the Red Sox, Blue Jays, Orioles, and Yankees was .548…a winning percentage higher than every team in baseball except for five other ball clubs (Cleveland, Texas, Washington, Los Angeles, and the Cubs).
In 2016, the Red Sox, Blue Jays, Orioles, and Yankees all had lower winning percentages when facing AL East teams compared to what they did against teams in the other five divisions. Perhaps the craziest statistic of all was just how similar the records of the Red Sox, Blue Jays, Orioles, and Yankees were when playing teams outside the division. With the Red Sox going 50-36 (.581), and Blue Jays, Orioles, and Yankees all going 49-37 (.570).
It’s still early yet, but what’s happening in 2017 isn’t a whole lot different compared to the trends we saw last season. So far this year when playing teams outside the division, AL East teams are 90-69 (good for a .566 winning percentage!). In 2016, the AL East had three of the five teams that represented the American League in the post-season…don’t be too surprised if the same thing happens this year.