The American League East was a bear in 2021, and since the season’s final pitch, all the division’s elite teams have weathered the storm and made significant changes to their rosters.
The Red Sox will be without Chris Sale, but added Trevor Story and significant rotation depth, boosting Tanner Houck into a more prominent role.
The Blue Jays have told us all that last year was the trailer and this year’s the movie; they dropped Robbie Ray and Marcus Semien in favor of Kevin Gausman and Matt Chapman, and all their stars are a year more mature.
The Rays? No one knows why they win 96-102 games annually, but damn it if they don’t do just that. And the Yankees have brought back most of the same sluggers who went 37-22 down the stretch last season to stop a nosedive, while also shoring up their infield defense, adding Josh Donaldson, and bringing Luis Severino back.
And, according to FanGraphs’ ZiPS projections, all those teams did that just to tie at the top.
Per the machine, all four squads in contention will finish 88-74 this season, with exceedingly similar slices of the odds pie for winning the division, snagging the Wild Card, making the playoffs, and appearing in the World Series.
This is why we play the games, folks! Specifically so this does not happen.
Yankees four-way tied with Red Sox, Rays, Blue Jays in ZiPS Projections?
I know we got rid of one-game tiebreakers and winner-take-all Wild Card Games but what … the hell … happens here?
MLB’s logistical dream would involve all three non-AL East champion tie-holders having the fourth, fifth and sixth best records in the league, qualifying the entire trio for Wild Card spots. If not, things could get entirely messy sorting out the winners and losers. What if 88-74 qualifies the Yankees, Red Sox and Rays for the second Wild Card spot? Four teams for three spots?
In terms of which team this outcome would be most disappointing for, the Blue Jays are the clear victor/loser. With all the talent in the world and the weight of the highest possible expectations, Year 2 with this core netting 88 wins would be devastating — especially with a baked-in vaccination home field advantage.
Then again, 2021 was impossible to predict. The Yankees were the dregs all year, until suddenly they weren’t. The Red Sox beat all their preseason projections, but toppled the juggernaut Rays in the ALDS after choking their way out of a season-long stay in first place. The Blue Jays mashed harder than anyone, but ended up on the outside looking in in October. They also had the literal Cy Young winner! How did they do this?!
Yup. Four-way tie sounds about right, actually.