And we’re off: Cincy Unscripted’s breakdown of the MLB… part 4

Join us all week as Jim Bianchine sounds off on MLB at the break.  It’s time for the AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST

NEW YORK YANKEES (52-23)

New Yankee StadiumWhen closer supreme Mariano Rivera went down the Yankees were supposed to go down with him. But that supposed devastating injury did little to slow the Bronx Bombers down and they are owners of the best record in baseball.

Manager Joe Girardi has done nothing short of a masterful job using his arms in a bullpen by committee and Rafael Soriano has become the man with 20 saves and anchors the corps.

New York’s starting pitching has been equally if not more impressive as the overall staff ERA (3.73) ranks fourth in the AL. Though the leader is All-Star C.C.Sabathia (9-3), Ivan Nova (10-3) leads the team in wins and when you factor is the solid effort of  late addition Koroda (8-7, 3.50) and Joe Hughes 9-7 (4.33) you find the Yankees atop the division.

While Sabathia and Nova are a combined 19-6, the Yankees compliment their staff with a Major League leading 134 homers and are hitting an AL  fourth best .262 even with some stall worths yet to hit their stride.

Two who have are All-Stars Derek Jeter (.313) who is 10th in the league and .Robinson  Cano who is doing it all and his average is eighth best in the AL along with 20 homers and 51 RBIs.

The main source of power comes from Curtis Granderson (23 hrs T-4th) yet another All-Star while suddenly the likes of Mark Teixeira, Nick Swisher and Alex Rodriguez (suddenly mortal) provide quite a supporting cast.

When those supporting players who were expected to be top guns pick it up a notch, the Yankees could really stretch their lead in a hurry.

BALTIMORE ORIOLES (45-40 -7)

While many around baseball continue to expect the Orioles to suddenly fall back to earth with a resounding thud, manager Buck Showalter is having none of that idea. And while few expect them to be serious contenders, this team may seriously be better than anyone thought even if they lack the chops to win this powerful division.

Although All-Star Adam Jones (.289-20-44) is a stud, you won’t find any O’s among the league leaders in anything. However you will find the Orioles, yes, the O’s, with more saves (30) than any team in baseball at the break and that has given them staying power thus far. Of course bullpen hammer and 2012 All-Star Jim Johnson has 26 of them.

The O’s have a pair of serviceable starters in Hammel (8-5, 3.47) and Chen (7-5, 3.93) and that just won’t cut it. The staff ranks 9th in the league surrendering 4.05 runs per game.

Even with an injury to a main cog in their lineup with the loss of Nick Markakis which is tough to swallow, the Birds rank third in the league with 103 homers. All-Star Matt Wieters, and .Chris Davis have combined for 26 homers in an effort to pick up the slack on a team ranked only 11th in hitting in the AL (.240).

Baltimore has received far less production from J.J. Hardy (.224) and ancient slugger Jim Thome is not the answer, but changes are slowly happening at Camden Yards. They just simply do not have enough horses to seriously contend.

TAMPA BAY RAYS (45-41 – 7 ½)

No matter how gritty these guys are, this team could ill-afford to lose star third baseman Evan Longoria to an early-season injury and his loss quickly took its toll. He had just 82 ABs.

Any hope of contending rests in the right arm of James Shields (8-5, 4.17) who has struggled of late and the left arm of All-Star David Price (11-4, 2.82) but the starters really drop off after them. Still the pitching ranks fifth in the league (3.73) but the Rays depend heavily on those two who have no margin for error.

If there is any margin at all, lights out closer, All-Star reliever Rodney is a Godsend with 25 saves and a minuscule 0.93 ERA.

The Rays rank third from the bottom in hitting (.232) and continue to wait for B.J. Upton (.248) to reach his potential. Ben Zobrist (11-37) and Matt Joyce (.279-11-34) are solid players, but are hardly the type that can carry a team too far.

BOSTON RED SOX (43-43 – 9 ½)

SoxShades of the Bronx Zoo and the days of Billy Martin in Beantown. Yikes!

With a dysfunctional clubhouse to match the Martin era in New York and Bobby Valentine heading the Boston zoo, the Sox do not have the talent that the New Yorkers did to overcome.

While the Red Sox will always hit (4th in AL, .268), it is hardly the fearsome lineup of past years and the only stick that strikes fear is All-Star David Ortiz 9.312-22-57) And while young Will Middlebrooks who supplanted Kevin Youkillis at third base appears a rising star making the Boston fan favorite expendable (there is more to that story) the Sox are far from the expected collection of hitters many thought.

A season ago the addition of sweet swinging Adrian Gonzalez provided Bostonians with real hope of big things once again. But AG has been very average (.283-6-45) at best and is performing well under expectations thus far. Meanwhile spark plug Dustin Pedroia has been hobbled and that hurts the Sox chances as well.

Boston pitching has been somewhat deplorable, ranking 10th in the league (4.22). Top starters Josh Beckett and Jon Lester are a combined 9-13 and it gets worse from there and Alfredo Acves is not the answer as closer in a bullpen that has had its share of problems.

TORONTO BLUE JAYS (43-43 – 9 ½)

Life in the AL East is anything but easy. Ask the Jays who are .500 and find themselves tied for last place.

The Jays have enough power to cause people plenty of problems but their biggest problem is a lack of pitching, third from the bottom of the AL list with an ERA of 4.45.

Toronto starter Brandon Morrow ( 7-4, 3.01) is not one of those problems but the bottom falls out after him. Ricky Romero has good stuff but his 8-4 is less an indication of his troubles than his bloated 5.22 ERA. And the bullpen? In short, nearly non-existent.

While the Jays hit only .244 as a team (10th) they do have enough power to light up the province, second in homers in the league with 127. The primary wattage comes from All-Star Jose Batista who has become one of the game’s most dominant sluggers. His 27 home runs leads the league and his 65 RBIs are 3rd.

Batista is part of a slugging duo that includes third baseman Juan Encarnacion who should have been an All-Star with his numbers (.295-23-58), ranked seventh in the league in RBIs. Add former Cardinal outfielder Colby Rasmus’ 17 homers and these Jays could well have a trio of 30-homer guys.