The Freakish Parity Of The American League East

BALTIMORE, MD - Outfielders Xavier Avery #13 (L), Nick Markakis #21 (C) and Adam Jones #10 of the Baltimore Orioles celebrate the Orioles 5-2 win over the New York Yankees at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

The American League East has always been filled with good teams. But what happens when the bad teams start playing well?

You're sick of hearing that the AL East is the best division in baseball. I know this because you've found your way to a site named "Baseball Nation" where you can mingle with other people who have found their way to a site named "Baseball Nation." You like your baseball. You like reading about baseball. And for a decade or two, you've read about how the AL East is so danged tough. It's boring.

Welp. About that. A table of run differentials in the American League East:

Team Runs Scored Runs Allowed Differential Pythagorean Record
Orioles 173 158 +15 20-17
Rays 169 153 +16 20-17
Yankees 176 159 +17 20-16
Blue Jays 167 152 +15 20-17
Red Sox 199 187 +12 19-17

It's worse now. It's even worse. The AL East used to be tough, even when the Orioles were sitting in a corner with a bucket over their heads and hitting the bucket with a wooden spoon and yelling into the bucket so they could hear their own voice reverberate off of the bucket before they'd hit it with a wooden spoon again. Things are different now. Every team in the division is playing well.

Five teams, each within a half-game of each other when it comes to expected wins and losses. Pythagorean records aren't perfect, and they aren't meant to define which teams are lucky and unlucky. But they give you a pretty solid idea of how a team is doing when it comes to accumulating and preventing runs. And all of the teams in the AL East have been just about as successful as the other teams in the division.

There's a different kind of parity in the Central. Every team in the East has a positive ratio of runs scored to runs allowed. Not a single team in the Central does.

Team Runs Scored Runs Allowed Differential Pythagorean Record
Indians 157 167 -10 17-19
Tigers 157 163 -6 17-19
White Sox 150 151 -1 18-19
Royals 143 162 -19 16-19
Twins 120 192 -72 11-25

The top four teams are clustered closely together. The Twins are chewing on the wooden spoon the Orioles were using earlier, and you don't want to see what they're doing in the bucket.

Team Runs Scored Runs Allowed Differential Pythagorean Record
Rangers 212 137 +75 26-11
Athletics 132 142 -10 17-20
Angels 134 148 -14 17-20
Mariners 136 154 -18 17-21

More parity! Except for the part about the first-place team crushing their enemies, seeing their enemies driven before them, and hearing the lamentation of their women. The Rangers are clearly the class of the American League right now, and it isn't especially close. They've allowed fewer runs than any other team in the league. They've scored more runs than any other team in the league. That'll work. Remember when people couldn't pick between them and the Angels? That was adorable!

Of the six teams that have scored more runs than they've allowed, five of them play in the AL East. That's freakish parity. And it's also a sign that the toughest division in baseball is even tougher. The winner of the division (and wild card) (and other wild card) will have just about everything to do with intra-division match-ups. The teams in the East are a combined 33-19 against the Central and 29-22 against the West. The Red Sox are 4-8 against the rest of the East, and the Blue Jays are 4-10, which explains why they're at the bottom of the standings despite the positive run differential.

It's possible for the AL East to produce three playoff teams this year. It's also possible for two more East teams to feel hosed when they miss the playoffs after having a better season than any of the teams in the Central, at least in terms of runs scored and allowed. The East used to be tough and a little top-heavy. The ascension of the Orioles made it tougher.

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