Sunday, September 8, 2013

Is the AL East Race Over?

In yesterday's Three Truths post I posed the question is the AL race over?  Are the Red Sox a shoo in for the title?  Let's take a look at some numbers starting with the standings in the AL East.

1. Boston        87-58        ---        17 games left
2. Tampa Bay 78-64        7.5       20 games left
3. Baltimore    76-66         9.5      20 games left
4. New York   76-67        10        19 games left
5. Toronto       67-76         19       19 games left

A very comfortable lead as of this Sunday night, three weeks from the end of the season for the Sox. Let us also look at the wild card standings because this will illustrate how much the AL East foes, except the Jays, are in the heat of the wild card race and therefore will be going all out every night.  No playing out the string.

1. Texas   81-61     +3.5
2. Tampa  77-64      ___  ( Rays would be the 2nd wild card, and all of the games behind for the others are in relation to the second wild card)

3. Cleveland 76-66     2
4. Baltimore  76-66     2
5. New York 76-67     2.5
6. Kansas City 75-68   3.5

With a lot of AL East games among each other, there should be no one team to sweep the others with so much on the line.  That is a good thing for the team out front: your Boston Red Sox.  And by the way I predict if they get any help at all from Boston( beating up at least some on Rays, Yanks, and O's) that Cleveland will get the second wild card.  Go look at their remaining schedule.  The Paw Sox could win at least 15 of the remaining 20 the Tribe has. ( although the lost to the Mets with Dice-K starting today!)

Here is a quick breakdown of the AL East schedules from here in.

Boston 8 away ( 3 Rays, 2 Rockies, 3 O's)  9 home ( 3 each with Yankees, O's and Jays)

Tampa Bay 9 away ( 3 Twins, 3 Yanks, 3 Jays), 11 Home ( 3 Red Sox, 4 Texas, 4 O's)

Baltimore 10 away( 3 Jays, 3 Red Sox, 4 Rays)  10 home ( 4 Yanks, 3 Jays, 3 Red Sox)

New York 13 away ( 4 O's, 3 Red Sox, 3 Jays, 3 Astros)  6 Home (3 each Giants and Rays)-The Yanks begin a ten game road trip tomorrow all of the remaining road games except Houston. the Yanks and O's play four while the Sox and Rays play their three game set.

Let us quickly review the only team with any reasonable chance to catch Boston, the Rays.  Foremost the two teams start their final head to head meetings of the year Tuesday in St. Petersburg for three games.  The Rays are starting David Price on Tuesday versus the returning Clay Buchholz.  To my thinking catching David Price in game one is a slight advantage.  Best case scenario the Sox beat Price or his bullpen in game one and mission accomplished.  Worst case Price beats Boston, and the Sox still have two cracks at the Rays.  If Boston can win just one game in this series they will leave town 6 1/2 games ahead with 14 to play.  Two of three is always a goal in any series, but one will do the trick. Plus Matt Moore pitched today meaning he misses this series unless Maddon wants to hurl him on three day rest.  Unlikely as he is just coming back from injury.

The other trouble spot I see for the Rays is the pair of 4 games series left, both with contenders.  It is always seems harder to win a four game set than two or three.

Finally, let's play with some numbers to help determine if this AL East race is all ready over.  Here are a half a dozen different scenarios.

1. As of tonight the Red Sox magic number for clinching the title is 12.  So if the Red Sox go 12-5 or better they win the East.

2. If the Red Sox win 10 games or more this would eliminate Baltimore and 9 more wins eliminates the Yankees.

For the next four items, we will plug in a possible Red Sox win/loss record and see what the others would need to do to catch or pass the Sox.

3. The Red Sox go 9-8 ( roughly .500)

Tampa Bay would need to go 18-2 to tie and 19-1 to finish first
Baltimore would need to 20-0 to tie and could not win without a playoff or tie breaker
New York as mentioned above is out with 9 Sox wins.

4. Red Sox finish 8-9 ( roughly .500 again)

The Rays need 17-3 to tie, 18-2 to win.
The O's need 19-1 to tie, 20-0 to win ( this would also mean the Sox 8-9 includes 6 losses to O's)
Yankees need 19-0 to tie cannot win outright.

Now we will take a little walk on the dark side

5. If Sox go 6-11

Rays could tie with 15-5 and win with 16-4.
Orioles could tie with 17-3 and win with 18-2
Yankees could tie with 17-2 and win with 18-1

So even on the dark side there is light.  If the Red Sox win only about 1 of every three games, the Rays need to play .800 to catch them ( with all of those tough games left), and the Orioles need to play at a  .900 pace, while the Yanks could only afford to lose one game in three weeks.

One last peek into the abyss of the really dark side,

6. The Red Sox  go 2-15  ( and I would like to take the way, way, way over on that bet)

Tampa Bay could catch the Sox with a 11-9, and win with 12-8
Baltimore needs 13-7 to tie and 14-6 to win
New York needs 13-6 to tie and 14-5 to win.

Again the light peeks in.  Even if the Sox duplicate 2011 ( and I am here to tell you, the Beards will not do this!)  The Rays need .600 ball, the Orioles .700 and the Yanks over .730 ball.

This numbers strongly suggest that yes the AL East race is OVER!  Me, I would like to wait until next weekend, after the Rays series and into next weekend last meeting with the Yankees.

Postscript.  Two other things to watch.  The overall best AL record. The Sox hold it currently by three games over Oakland and four over Detroit.  And then if the Sox get this overall best record they would host the wild card team, which could be the AL East foes Rays, Orioles, or Yankees.

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