The Battle for the AL East Pennant

The Battle for the AL East Pennant

The battle for the AL East pennant is really starting to kick into high gear. As Summer marches on, the Rays, Yankees, and Blue Jays move closer to October and a shot at the pennant.

The Red Sox have completely fallen apart over the past few weeks, but remain in contention. While the Orioles…well…they’re just being the Orioles. 

Tampa Bay is sitting with a comfortable lead in the AL East standings at the moment. The team is 68-44, and 4 games out in front of the Red Sox. The interesting part is of course that the Rays, Yankees, and Blue Jays are all 8-2 over their last 10 games.

Boston is only 2-8 over their last 10 games.

Red Sox Down the Stretch

The final 8 weeks and 48 games of the Red Sox schedule comes with all the pressure and importance that you’d expect a stretch pennant race to have. Of their final 48 games, 14 of them are against AL East contenders (we didn’t count the Orioles).

Boston has 8 games remaining with the 1st place Rays, and 6 remaining against the Yankees, who only trail them by 2 games. One would think that the Sox would need to at least go 8-6 in these games to stay in the playoff hunt. 

The Red Sox are 4-5 against the Rays this season, and kick off a HUGE series against them on Tuesday night at Fenway. A series that the BoSox desperately need to win. 

According to Baseball-Reference, the Red Sox have a 55.8% chance of making the playoffs and a 3% chance of making it to the World Series. 

Blue Jays Down the Stretch 

Toronto has the fewest games left against the AL East contenders at 13. Once again, we aren’t counting the Orioles since they are completely out of the hunt.

The Jays do have the most remaining games in the 2021 season at 52. 2-4 more than the other contenders. They also have the most youth, so don’t expect their recent pace to slow down as the youngsters refuse to tire out down the stretch. 

Offensively, the Jays have 5 everyday players with an OPS over .820. Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette, Marcus Semien, Teoscar Hernandez, and George Springer are all tearing it up at the plate.

Everyone, including myself, assumed the Blue Jays just didn’t have the pitching that was necessary for a playoff run in 2021. Here are the Blue Jays top 9 pitchers in innings pitched this season. 

Does this seem like a staff that’s struggling? 

al east pennant

The lowest ERA+ in their starting rotation is 100 even, which is also the league average. Kind of insane for a staff that lacks any huge names.

With the addition of Jose Berrios at the deadline, this staff is plenty strong enough to give them a playoff berth in 2021. Their offense could almost propel any staff into the playoffs. 

The Blue Jays have a 61.6% of making the playoffs and a 6.3% chance of making the World Series. They are way ahead of schedule. 

Yankees Down the Stretch

Here is a team that seemed to be the consensus AL East pennant winner heading into the season. Their slow start seemed to never end. 

Since the All-Star break, the Yanks have figured some things out and finally got into a rhythm. And with no time to spare, any later and they may not have been able to get back into the division hunt. 

The Yankees have a total of 16 games left against the 3 other contenders. 3 against the Rays, 6 against the Sox, and 7 against the Blue Jays. These last 50 games must be played as if there is no tomorrow for this team. 

New York only has 2 guys with an OPS of .800 or over, and they’re very predictable. Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton. The Yanks are going to need a lot more than those two in order to get this job done.

The Yankees have a 21.5% chance of making the playoffs and a 0.8% to get to the World Series in 2021. The lowest odds of all 4 contending AL East teams.

The Division Leading Rays Down the Stretch

At 98.9%, the Rays are basically a lock to make the playoffs. They also have a 16.8% chance to return to the World Series in 2021.

That’s not to say that things couldn’t change very quickly for the team from Tampa that always seems to outplay what they look like on paper. They have the most games remaining against AL East contenders at 17 games of their final 50.

Tampa simply cannot let their foot come off the gas pedal in these final 50. There is too much at stake.

The Rays only have 3 players with an OPS over .800, but that seems to be their story every season. They just keep on getting the job done anyway. We should all learn to never doubt this team.

AL East Pennant Prediction

The way this division has played since the All-Star break leads me to not even want to touch this prediction, but I will anyway. And I’m taking the best offense.

That’s right, the winner of the 2021 AL East pennant, the Toronto Blue Jays. With the addition of Berrios and the performance of their other starters, I no longer doubt that this pitching staff can keep them in games.

With an offense as explosive as this one, all you can ask of your staff is to keep it close, and I believe they will get exactly that down the stretch. 

The Blue Jays win the AL East pennant, and the Rays slide into an AL Wild Card spot. 

Even if my outcome is completely wrong, one thing is certain. This division is going to be tons of fun to watch down the stretch, and we are ALL here for that!

 


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About Erik Neff 2 Articles
Erik has played many roles for Knup Solutions over the years including Sports 2.0 admin, site mgmt, content creation, and writing. An avid card collector, sports fan, musician, and family man, Erik continues his journey trying to grow the Sports 2.0 Network to a household name. You can find his work across the Sports 2.0 Network and up and down his Twitter feed. He is also the biggest St. Louis Cardinals fan in the world.