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7/11/2007 11:32:00 AM

AL East: Midseason Grades

By Alex Belth

The Yankees' run of nine consecutive American League East titles likely will come to an end this year. The Red Sox got off to a torrid start and hold a comfortable lead even though they played below .500 in June. It would take a massive collapse on Boston's part to relinquish first place, and they haven't hit like they can yet. New York would also have to play close to .700 ball for the rest of the season, and the Yankees have simply been too inconsistent to bank on that. When they pitch, they don't hit and when they hit, they don't pitch. The Bombers haven't missed the playoffs since 1993, and it looks like curtains for the Joe Torre Era.

Like the Yankees, the Blue Jays have been crippled by injuries. They have not folded but are essentially a .500 team. The Orioles and Devil Rays are mired at the bottom of the division once again, each consumed by their own controversies. The O's fired manager Sam Perlozzo and hired Andy McPhail to oversee baseball operations, while the Elijah Dukes fiasco everything good out of Tampa Bay, except their losing record.

Boston Red Sox
Record: 53-34, 1st place
Runs Scored: 435 (7th in the AL)
Runs Allowed: 346 (1st in the AL)

What went wrong: Julio Lugo (.197/.270/.298) has been a major disappointment at shortstop and J. D. Drew (.258/.368/.391) has not hit for power, with just six home runs in the first half. David Ortiz has battled through injuries and hit only has 14 home runs; Manny Ramirez has just 11.

What went right: Mike Lowell is playing very well for a second-straight year in Boston, and, in spite of the drop in home runs Ortiz still has a .990 OPS. The starting pitching, led by Josh Beckett (12-2, 3.44 ERA) and Dice K (10-6, 3.84 ERA), has been stellar. Hideki Okajima (0.83 ERA in 43 innings) and Jonathan Paplebon (1.93 ERA and 46 strikeouts in 32 innings) have been devastating in the bullpen.

What's next: The Sox were nothing short of mediocre in June, posting a 13-14 mark, yet they still hold a double-digit lead over the Jays and Yanks. The hitting should improve in the second half and Boston should cruise to the division title.

Grade: B+

New York Yankees
Record: 42-43 (10 back), 2nd place (tie)
Runs Scored: 464 (3rd in AL)
Runs Allowed: 392 (4th in AL)

What went wrong: Injuries hit hard this spring, but that doesn't explain Bobby Abreu's horrible first half. Johnny Damon and Robinson Cano have been subpar as well. Most of all, the bullpen has been terrible. Anyone imagine that the Yankees would ever be last in the league in saves (11) with Mariano Rivera still wearing pinstripes? Derek Jeter's fielding has been poor, a trend that is bound to continue. Surprisingly, Jeter also leads the league in times caught stealing (seven).

What went right: Offensively, Jorge Posada, Jeter and Alex Rodriguez are playing as well, if not better, than could have been expected. Rodriguez has 30 homers. Hideki Matsui is second on the team with 11. Without Rodriguez, the Yanks would be fighting to stay out of last place.

What's next: The Yanks face a long climb to make the postseason. It's unlikely that the Red Sox, Indians or the Tigers will fold and that's what has to happen for New York. Beyond that, they have Rivera and Posada to re-sign in the off-season. It's likely that both will remain in New York, at inflated prices. But the $64,000 question is whether or not Rodriguez stays. At this point, the Yankees can't afford to lose him.

Grade: D-

Toronto Blue Jays
Record: 43-44 (10 back), 2nd place (tie)
Runs Scored: 415 (9th in AL)
Runs Allowed: 400 (6th in AL)

What went wrong: The Jays have been hampered by injuries. The biggest loss was closer B.J. Ryan, gone for the year. A.J. Burnett has been decent but he's hurt again and the decision to sign him has been publicly questioned by the general manager. Roy Halladay is 10-3 but he's got a 4.46 ERA in 16 starts. Vernon Wells (.253/.314/.443) is having a down year.

What went right: Alex Rios has rebounded nicely from a injury-plagued 2006 with 22 doubles and 17 dingers. Shaun Marcum has been a pleasant surprise as the number three pitcher in the starting rotation.

What's next: Everything needed to fit into place in order for the Jays to make a serious run this year and that just hasn't happened. They still might push the Yankees out of second place but they might be sellers (Glaus, Thomas) at the trading deadline.

Grade: C

Baltimore Orioles
Record: 38-49 (15 back), 3rd place
Runs Scored: 390 (12th in AL)
Runs Allowed: 403 (7th in AL)

What went wrong: The bullpen only has 15 saves, second fewest in the AL. Closer Chris Ray has an ERA of 4.89. Starting pitcher Daniel Cabrera has thrown a lot of innings and has a 1.43 WHIP but he continues to be a disappointment at 6-10 with a 5.04 ERA. Miguel Tejada was no longer an elite shortstop before he broke his hand, ending the fifth longest consecutive-games played streak in baseball history.

What went right: Brian Roberts is an All Star and deservedly so -- his 848 OPS leads the team. Erik Bedard has emerged into very good pitcher, with 149 strikeouts and a 3.40 ERA in 121 innings, while Jeremy Guthrie has a 2.74 ERA in 102 innings and is the team's second best starter. The hiring of Andy McPhail to run the baseball operations is a step in the right direction.

What's next: The O's have a couple of good young players (Bedard, Markakis) but they essentially need to go back to the drawing board and start from scratch. They'll play out the string and get to work trying to build a cohesive program for the first time in years.

Grade: D

Tampa Bay Devil Rays
Record: 34-53 (19 back), 4th place
Runs Scored: 408 (10th in AL)
Runs Allowed: 537 (14th in AL)

What went wrong: Rocco Baldelli got hurt again and then once more. Aside from Jamey Shields and Scott Kazmir the pitching has been awful. The Elijah Dukes story, a tawdry turn right out of Jerry Springer, has been a PR nightmare for a team with a lot of young talent that seemingly does little else but spins its wheels.

What went right: James Shields has been a horse, throwing 129 innings and he's been efficient with 116 strikeouts and only 19 walks. Scott Kazmir hasn't been as good but he does have more than a strike per inning. Al Reyes has been strong at the back of the bullpen with 17 saves and 38 strikeouts in 33 innings. Carlos Pena (.287/.395/.609) has been an unexpected treat at first base, leading the team with 20 homers, and B.J. Upton (.320/.396/.545) has been very good at second base.

What's next: The Rays continue to develop promising young players -- Dukes, Young, Upton -- but they have not been able to move any of that talent for what they need most: pitching. There are isolated performances that bear watching but collectively, the Rays are as bad as ever.

Grade: D


posted by SI.com | View comments |  


Posted: July 11, 2007 2:52 PM   by Anonymous
First of all how in god's name can the yankees get b+ and the jays get d- and be tied for 2nd. The jays get the worst rating in the division and have had there closer, starting LF, starting 1st basemen, 3rd starter, starting 3rd basemen and any # of essential players on the DL this year and still be .500 how does this make sense. The yanks have had horrible starting pitching and sub par defense and they get B+. You not bias at all, you wouldn't want to upset the fans in the bronx. what a joke!!
Posted: July 11, 2007 7:52 PM   by Anonymous
how can you rank the jays below the yankees with half there payroll and all there injuries they have pretty much the same record
Posted: July 11, 2007 8:44 PM   by Anonymous
If you read the article correctly you would have noticed that the Red Sox received the B+ and the Yanks received the D-...
Posted: July 11, 2007 8:45 PM   by Anonymous
marks are at the END of the paragraphs, not BEFORE the team's name. It is poor presentation I have to admit
Posted: July 11, 2007 8:47 PM   by Anonymous
The rankings are after the review, not before. The yanks have the D- and the Jays have a C.

the B+ is for the Red Sox.
Posted: July 11, 2007 8:47 PM   by Anonymous
Hey idiots, the Yankees got a D- and Blue Jays got a C. Try actually reading the article next time.
Posted: July 11, 2007 8:47 PM   by Anonymous
Are we reading the same article?

I see:
Yanks D-
Blue Jays C
Posted: July 11, 2007 8:57 PM   by Anonymous
Hey folks, look a little closer at the grades; D- for the Yankees and C for the Jays. Take care.
Posted: July 11, 2007 8:59 PM   by Anonymous
hey goof,
learn to read. yanks got a D-. jays got a C. I'm thinking you get an F in reading.
Posted: July 11, 2007 9:02 PM   by Anonymous
You are both idiots. First, the Yankees didn't get a B+. That's the Red Sox's grade. The Yankees get a D-. The grades come after the analysis, not before. READ!!!

Also, the Jays are not ranked below the Yankees; they have a C to the Yankees' D-. The ordering is based on their position in the standings. The Yanks and Jays are tied in the standings, and "New York" comes before "Toronto" in alphabetical order. Duh!
Posted: July 11, 2007 9:04 PM   by Anonymous
you guys are idiots. try to read the column slower next time. the yankees got a D minus and the bluejays got a C.
Posted: July 11, 2007 9:26 PM   by Anonymous
Alex Belth you're a tough one to please! I'm a Jays fan (thanks for the C grade), but how is it that Boston, leading the majors, doesn't get an A?
Posted: July 11, 2007 10:11 PM   by Anonymous
I hope the Yanks make it interesting with the Sox for baseballs sake. There's nothing greater to witness than the Sox blowing a big lead from August to September.
It'll be a tall task but it will make the summer more interesting.
Posted: July 11, 2007 11:02 PM   by Anonymous
We all get C's for reading this blog
Posted: July 12, 2007 3:03 AM   by Anonymous
You guys are idiots. It's clearly a D- for the Yankees and B+ for the Red Sox.

Oh wait, that's been said 40 times already.
Posted: July 12, 2007 8:54 AM   by Anonymous
yankees had tons of injuries and started a rookie pitcher 31 times during the first half of the year....there is nothing wrong with this team when healthy
Posted: July 12, 2007 10:44 AM   by Anonymous
A D- and and saying Jeter is falling off...can we say Boston fan. I'm not saying they deserve any better than a C-, but really can you be any more biased.
Posted: July 12, 2007 11:04 AM   by Anonymous
Wow the first poster is a complete moron.
Posted: July 12, 2007 11:34 AM   by Anonymous
I think the use of more space between the grades and the next team summarized would have facilitated error-free reading
Posted: July 12, 2007 11:38 AM   by Anonymous
Yankees can move up one grade - to C- - if they get rid of them old folks, and get some young talent in there. Let's try some good pitchers first, from Venezuela, Cuba, or Japan. Then go after some young hitters. A-Rod is alright, let's be patient on him, but the other high-paid guys (Abreu, Giambi et al) can be replaced by some new talent. Come on George, get on the ball - Let's get that C-...
Posted: July 12, 2007 12:28 PM   by Anonymous
yanks in a tough spot heading forward. mariano is beginning to look human, but how can the yankees turn their back on him? they owe him more than they could ever repay in dollars alone. same with posada.... yeah he's having great year, but the guy has logged so much time behind the plate. he can't last forever. but again, they owe him so much. this leads me to clarity re: yankees collapse. the yankees of the nineties weren't loaded with superstars like they are now. they were loaded with good all around ballplayers who knew how to win... o'neill, brosius, tino, bernie, posada. none of those guys (with possible exception of posada) are going to HOF. yet together....
Posted: July 12, 2007 1:51 PM   by Anonymous
al east is the division im most familiar with being a yank fan, who lives in canada who gets countless yes,nesn and blue jay broadcasts and having been to devil ray yankee game i feel red sox grade of b+ is fine because manny and papi are due for a second half surge and lugo and drew can only get better. They would have an A probably if these guys were already hitting. ( although i hope they dont start)
Posted: August 9, 2007 1:26 AM   by Anonymous
It's funny to read this now...
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