Could the Rays, Blue Jays, or Orioles win the AL East Instead of the Yankees?
The New York Yankees were the best team in baseball during the first half of the season. However, since the All-Star break the Yankees have not played as well and now have the second-best record in the American League behind the Houston Astros.
Over the past few weeks, the Yankees have lost five consecutive series. The Tampa Bay Rays and the Toronto Blue Jays are both now 10 games behind the Yankees in the AL East, and there are more than 40 games remaining before the end of the season.
An Unpredictable AL East
Before the season, the Blue Jays were favored to win the AL East. However, the Yankees finished the first two months of the season with a 34-15 record to establish themselves in first place in the division.
Over the first few months of the year, Aaron Judge became the favorite to win the AL MVP award. On the mound, Nestor Cortes and Gerritt Cole started the season extremely well and were both in contention to win the AL Cy Young award.
The Yankees excellent season continued into June. By June 12 the Yankees had a 100% chance of making the postseason, according to FanGraphs, and they finished the month with an overall record of 56-21. However, since then, the Yankees are 17-24.
While the Yankees began their season extremely well, the Rays, Blue Jays, Orioles, and Red Sox tried to remain in contention to win the division. The Rays and Blue Jays finished April with a 12-9 and 14-8 record, respectively, but by the end of May, the Yankees were the clear favorites to win the AL East.
During the first few months of the season, several Rays players were injured. Brandon Lowe, Wander Franco, Manuel Margot, Kevin Kiermaier, Mike Zunino, Shane Baz, and several other players have all spent time on the injured list this season. Both Kiermaier and Zunino are not expected to play again in 2022.
As a result, the Rays finished June and July with a combined record of 26-26 across both months, while Blue Jays were a combined 29-25. Meanwhile, the Yankees finished June with a 22-6 record.
By the All-Star break, the Yankees led the division with a 64-28 record. The Rays were second in the division at the time, 13 games behind the Yankees with a 51-41 record. Overall, the entire division had a winning record, due to the Orioles’ 10-game winning streak at the start of July which meant Baltimore entered the All-Star break with a 46-46 record.
Since then, the Yankees have not had the same success. After the All-Star Game, the Yankees are 9-17, including losses in seven of their last 10 games. As a result, there could be an opportunity for another team in the AL East to win the division.
Will the Yankees Still Win the AL East?
Despite not playing well since the middle of July, the Yankees are still first in the AL East and have a 10-game lead in the division. Only one team in the AL East, the Orioles, has won more than 10 games in the month of August.
However, if the Yankees continue to not play well over the next few weeks another team could still win the AL East. The Rays’ next eight games are against the Kansas City Royals and the Los Angeles Angels. In addition, Tampa Bay is scheduled to play the Yankees six more times this season.
The Blue Jays and Yankees play each other in a four-game series this weekend, and the two teams are scheduled to play each other seven more times this season; including this weekend’s series.
While the other teams within the division will have a chance to play the Yankees multiple times before the end of the season, New York still has the weakest remaining strength of schedule in the AL East, according to Tankathon. In fact, the remaining opponents of every other team in the division have a combined record above .500, according to Tankathon.
20 of the Orioles’ final 44 games are against the Blue Jays, Yankees, or Astros. 24 of the Rays’ remaining games are against the Guardians, Yankees, Blue Jays, or Astros. Toronto plays 28 of its final 45 games against the Rays, Yankees, Orioles, or Phillies.
The Yankees have had the worst month of their season since the All-Star break, but they are still likely to win the AL East. Over the last few months of the season, the Yankees will benefit from the fact that several of the other teams in the division will frequently play each other.
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