AL East Beat: 5 Things, Week Two

The season is still fresh enough to have that feeling of newness and it doesn’t quite have the grind quality just yet. As teams are completing their second full week of action, the reality of the Major League Baseball season has set in. Pitching injuries are popping up as the all too common Tommy John Surgery is being scheduled for multiple pitchers. Others are waiting for results. Those injuries not only hurt the team, but it is a test of an organization’s depth. Most teams do not have answers when they have to reach to starter number seven, eight, or nine. Some teams are getting to that point.

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The early portion of the American League East schedule looks like a preview of what is to come later this summer. From top to bottom, the division is separated by just one game. No team is more than one game over .500. No team is less than one game under .500. While injuries and roster attrition will likely change that to some degree, the talent in the American League East should make for an exciting race that involves every team. It is, once again, the best division the sport.

5 Things (Three AL East, Two Orioles)…

Moore, The Latest Rays’ Loss

No team in the division has the pitching depth of the Tampa Bay Rays. Even when the club lost Jeremy Hellickson before the season, they simply plugged in Jake Odorizzi. The talent level and depth is phenomenal. The depth takes another hit as Matt Moore, their 25 year old southpaw, was placed on the disabled list with elbow problems. The Rays’ rotation hasn’t gotten off to their typical start as the rotation has posted a 3.34 ERA and a 3.58 FIP during the first two weeks. While solid, the starters have compiled an 18.6 percent strikeout rate, just 9th in the American League while posting just the 8th best walk rate of 7.7 percent. By the end, the Rays should have the best rotation in the division. Alex Cobb’s first two starts are a continuation of his excellent 2013 season. Chris Archer has started well. David Price is a legitimate ace. But, now, they have questions with the rotation.

The loss of Moore hurts as the Rays don’t have another young pitcher quite ready to step in. The idea of Tommy John Surgery on a member of the Rays isn’t something often heard. The Rays are one of the best organizations in terms of pitching health. Even if Moore avoids the disabled list, he will be out for quite some time. The replacements are likely veteran Erik Bedard or Cesar Ramos. Bedard is the likely candidate as the southpaw is pitching on Moore’s schedule while at Triple-A. Bedard is still capable of missing bats as he has posted strikeout rates of at least 20 percent since 2011. While his statistics don’t look impressive over the past two seasons, he has posted FIP’s of 3.64, 4.08, and 4.38 over the past three seasons. The Rays can survive, but the latest injury certainly brings them closer to the pack.

Ellsbury Fitting In Well

The Yankees were mocked for paying Jacoby Ellsbury $153 million. While he is injury prone and giving a seven year deal is as risky as it gets, Ellsbury, at least for the next couple years, will be the Yankees best all around player. Already moved to the third spot in the order, Ellsbury is off to a 12 for 37 start, including 3 doubles and 4 stolen bases. With a history of elite defense, the Yankees are getting a premier player for the next couple of seasons. Because they can exploit their economic advantage, the signing makes sense. Even if the back end of the deal is awful, Ellsbury’s first few seasons will make up for that.

Blue Jays Rotation

Last week, this section was labeled “Blue Jays Can Hit”. But, the real story of the Blue Jays’ 5-4 record has been the rotation. Through nine starts, the Blue Jays’ staff has already compiled a 1.3 WAR value, ranking first in the American League. While the 4.50 ERA screams mediocrity, the 2.95 FIP is the best in the league. They are also second in the AL in strikeout percentage with a 24 percent rate and third in the league in home runs allowed per nine innings. While this doesn’t figure to last and the defense may wind up costing them, the start is an indication that if the pitching can perform, the Blue Jays can compete because of their offense. It is the single most important area to watch with the Blue Jays. If the rotation can even be league average, they can be the surprise team in the league.

Rotation Woes For The O’s

The Orioles’ offense is doing exactly what was projected, especially after their explosion on the Yankees’ Ivan Nova. They are a top three offense in terms of batting average and slugging percentage. They rank 11th in on base percentage. But, the rotation, outside of Chris Tillman, has struggled to begin the season. Even with Tillman’s great two starts, the Orioles rotation has compiled a 6.06 ERA (5.46 FIP). They rank 14th in the American League in strikeout percentage, last in home run percentage, and last in hits allowed.

Again, it is early and nothing should be done after just two turns through the rotation. But, the troubling parts include Bud Norris’ low strikeout rate (8.7 percent), Ubaldo Jimenez’s 18.7 percent walk rate (not a typo), and Miguel Gonzalez’s inability to get anyone out (9 innings, 16 hits, 10 runs, 4 home runs, and just 4 strikeouts. Of all the potential problems of the 2014 Orioles, the pitching rotation was the biggest concern. All of the starters have a history of varying degrees of success, but Norris’ must get his strikeout pitch back to be even moderately successful. Gonzalez will have to lose the home run ball. And, Jimenez will have to find some semblance of control.

One issue with Jimenez that is troubling: 5 starts vs. Boston (10.27 ERA in 23.2 innings with 34 hits allowed), 5 starts against vs. Yankees (6.67 ERA in 27 innings). Those are still in the small sample size neighborhood, but they are alarming.

Where’s Gausman?

Maybe it is too early to ask the question, but the Orioles’ best pitcher is sitting in triple-A. He’s made just one start thus far as he pitched 4.2 shutout innings, allowing 3 hits, 2 walks, and 6 strikeouts. Yes, the Orioles have a rotation of “proven” guys and Gausman could get some more seasoning in the minors, but those proven guys don’t quite offer the ceiling that Gausman can offer. Gausman has the stuff to lead the rotation right now. Pair him with Tillman, Jimenez, and Wei-Yin Chen and the Orioles have a strength in the rotation.  The Orioles cannot afford to wait too long.

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About the author

Gary Armida  

Gary Armida is a Father to the best little girl in the world. After that, he is a writer who has been covering Major League Baseball since 2007. During that time, Gary operated, one of the first independent online sites that gained Major League Baseball media credentials. Over the years, he has covered two Winter Meetings and has written feature articles for a variety of outlets while interviewing Major League personnel such as Rick Peterson, Jason Giambi, Zack Wheeler, Jeff Luhnow, Jack Zduriencik, Michael Bourn, and many others. In addition to his work at BSL, Gary contributes to USA Today Sports Weekly and maintains his personal site,, that serves as his portfolio as well as a place for additional content.

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