MLB Division Picks: American League East

Doug Upstone

Tuesday, July 8, 2014 6:20 PM UTC

Tuesday, Jul. 8, 2014 6:20 PM UTC

As we head towards the All-Star break, I thought we would change it up this time and review each team’s strengths and weaknesses as they relate to making MLB picks. Here is a look at each club in the American League East.

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Baltimore Orioles

Strengths: Steady team who has worked their way into first place by avoiding the typical pratfalls, among which are losing streaks. The Orioles have not lost three in a row since the end of May, yet have four mini-winning streaks of three or four victories during the same period. Credit manager Buck Showwalter for steady hand and this is the top wager in the division. 

Weaknesses: Starting pitching ERA and OBP percentage in lower third of AL and sharp baseball handicappers are aware they lead the league in walks which is a killer. While the offense is good enough to be sixth in baseball in runs scored, the lack of production from the infield and catcher positions is appalling. Chris Davis needs to find his stroke. 

Toronto Blue Jays

Strengths: Strong offense, with a power-laden lineup which can score runs in bunches. The Blue Jays starting staff will not receive many accolades, yet they have moved up to fifth in ERA. As noted by reviewing the MLB odds daily, Marcus Stroman has been coming on strong, Drew Hutchison and J.A. Happ both have positive units when pitching and veterans R.A. Dickey and Mark Buehrle know how to pitch, thus, this is not the weak area it was considered a month ago. 

Weaknesses: Having Edwin Encarnacion out of the lineup with a Grade II strain of his right quadriceps muscle, an injury that could take a couple of weeks to heal, if not longer, puts a strain on an offense that tends to run hot and cold. This was proven is scoring four total runs in a four-game wipeout at Oakland this past weekend, placing them solidly into second place. Toronto is shopping for another infielder who can swing the bat and low-priced reliever who might have upside to help a pedestrian group. 

New York Yankees

Strengths: The Yankees are only a few games behind Baltimore, despite being basically a .500 team which could easily have been much worse. For New York to turn into a true contender they need healthy everyday players and having them coming through, as it will be the offense which will have to carry the load. This means Jacoby Ellsbury, Mark Teixeira, Carlos Beltran, Brian Roberts and to a lesser degree Derek Jeter, have to start piling up five runs a game. 

Weaknesses: The offense has been in flux too often at just over four runs a game; it’s been decades since the Yankees have been this thirsty for runs. Sportsbooks are unimpressed with New York’s pitching beyond Masahiro Tanaka, and the bullpen has surrendered the third-most home runs in the AL. The reach for Brandon McCarthy reeks of desperation. 

Boston Red Sox

Strengths: To call this season a disappointment is understating the facts, but the overall pitching has not been horrible, being in the average category, backed with one of the better bullpens in the AL. David Ortiz is on pace for 30+ home runs and close to 100 runs batted in. 

Weaknesses: The offense is just pathetic, which is why Boston is having such a hard time to beat the betting odds. Only Houston has scored fewer runs in the junior circuit, and too many of the young guys look overmatched in the batter’s box. This is a team in transition and might be in the 75 to 80 victory range for a few seasons ahead, unless something dramatic occurs. 

Tampa Bay Rays

Strengths: It starts with manager Joe Maddon, who never gave up on this team and has been trying to use more motivational tricks than a football coach. The Rays now have a ray of hope with generally improved starting pitching and David Price matching pitches with Clayton Kershaw lately. The offense has begun performing at least to preseason expectations and is delivering more timely hits which is why they have won 18 of 27 and 10 of 13. Can they continue and stun the world by winning the mediocre AL East?

Weaknesses: Even with Tampa Bay playing better, they trail Baltimore by 11 games in the loss column. If they could cut it to eight by the All-Star break they could decide to keep David Price and move him in the off-season, however, the market for the left-hander could hardly be higher than it will be this month. The offense is just not very good in scoring less than four runs a game. Sportsbooks keep making the Rays favorites, but for the most part, they have buried backers and not sure this stretch of good play lasts.

The MLB forum is a great place for sharing (and recieving!) betting advice.

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