Many Red Sox fans who reside on the optimistic side of the Nation, as well as a number of pundits commenting on the 2013 Red Sox have predicted these Sox will move from 69 wins up to " the 80's".
Some have specifically mentioned low 80's. Some of the truly faithful (yours truly included) have tossed out a 85-90 or so number (also including Barry on two of the recent podcasts).
Also, ever since around the Winter Meetings in December, many folks have extolled the parity of the AL East. It is long ways from the days of Yankees and Red Sox clubbing the rest of the division.
This has led me to wonder how many games will teams in the AL East win, and how close can Boston come to winning the division with those 80 something wins many are calling for?
The over/under lines set for each team by Sportsbook.com discussed on the most recent RSM podcast are:
If all of the teams hit these lines on the( +/- .5) nose, what jumps out at me is no one in the AL East will win 90 games. I think most, if not all of the predictors of Boston winning 85 games or so, are actually saying " yes the Sox will be improved and may be on the edge of contending for the second wild card, but nothing else". But in fact could 84-88 wins contend to win the AL East?
Short of going through the entire schedules of all five AL East teams and guessing win, win, loss, etc. it is hard to pick win totals. And at this time of year it is hard to tell which teams are tougher opponents than others ( for example 2012 A's and O's). But here are some general assumptions and projections based on type of games scheduled. Since parity is the name of the game in the AL East, these assumptions are made for all five teams equally, this is not an attempt to pick a division winner.
First the AL East teams play 72 games within the division( 18 vs. each other team). Since the whole premise here is equality in the ranks we will assume that all the teams split the intra-divisional games.
Each of the AL East will have 20 games against National League teams. This year the AL East is pitted against the NL West for 16 games. The home and aways and the mix is slightly different for each team but 16 games vs. the Giants, Dodgers, Dbacks, Padres, and the Rockies. ( For example the Red Sox play 3 each at Fenway vs. Padres and Arizona, make a 6 game west coast trip with 3 each in LA and SF, and Boston plays 4 times vs. Colorado, 2 at each team's park.) The last four interleague games are scheduled for late May, 2 games at one park and 2 more at the other teams place in a four day period. The AL East teams get:
Blue Jays- Braves
(Maybe a slight disadvantage to Toronto and Baltimore, and a possible edge to the Rays.) Over the years the AL teams have been quite successful versus the NL. Let us assume a .650 winning percentage for these 20 games.
13 more wins for 49 so far.
The next type of game the teams have are AL games versus teams that going into the season are considered better than any AL East team and/or are 2012 playoff teams. These are Detroit, Texas, Oakland, and the Angels. The Red Sox have 25 of these, and each AL East should have the same or very close to 25. Since on the dreaded "paper" these opponents are the iron of the AL we will guesstimate roughly a split of these games. 12-13.
61 wins so far.
So far we have accounted for 117 games leaving 45. These 45 will be played against some combination of games with the White Sox, Cleveland, Kansas City, Minnesota, Seattle, and the newly minted American League Houston Astros. Calling these teams the lesser members of the junior circuit is reasonable but the Chisox, Tribe, and Royals especially remind us to remember the '12 A's and O's.
But will will assign the same .650 winning % we used for NL games which gives us 29.25 wins. We will round down to 29 wins ( and a .644 win %).
A grand assumed total of 90 wins.
So using our admittedly non-sabermetrical analyzation, the maximum number of wins a AL East team could reasonably expect is 90. Maybe the biggest leap of guesstimation is the 36-36 divisional split for all. But considering the expected parity how else to assign value? If one or two of the teams collapse and lag well behind, like the 2012 Sox and Jays, this will very likely push a team or two ( or three??)
up over 90.
But in the other three categories of games I feel like I was generous in assigning wins. Can any or all of the AL East teams play .646 for 65 games?? If a team played at this rate for a whole season it would win 104 or 105 games. And included in these 65 games are opponents such as big bucks Dodgers, Diamondbacks( picked by some to win the NL West), improving Padres, Indians, White Sox, Royals, and defending World Champion Giants. Ok, also the Astros who would be underdogs in a seven game series with the 2013 Portland Sea Dogs ( I am NOT kidding!).
And if the reigning AL champ Tigers, Angels, and Rangers meet their press clippings 12-13 could come hard against these three plus the A's.
So the over/under lines mentioned at the beginning of this piece and in our last podcast, dovetail right into our win total assumptions. It does seem likely the AL East could be won with 87-90 wins. The more bunched together the 5 teams stay, the more likely it is. In fact if the five truly come deep into September in a five team race, it could take as few as 85 to win the division.
One last thought about an AL East with no one winning 90. If it comes true the other very real assumption that can be made is neither AL wild card will come from the East. That also would depend greatly on teams like Texas, the Angles, A's ( these three get 18 games each with Houston!), Royals, White Sox, and Tito Francona's Cleveland Indians.
So in summation, if the Red Sox win around 85-87 games, they could in fact contend to win the division. Secondarily, if they want to get into the playoffs with 86 wins or so they had better win the AL East.