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AL East Division is dominating like never before in 2023

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Thomas Hall
1 year ago
The AL East is the best division in baseball. This we already know. But it has been an uncontainable beast through the first month-plus of the 2023 season, more than anyone likely expected heading into the year.
On some level, at least, this type of outcome was on the horizon with the balanced schedule coming into existence, reducing the number of divisional matchups from 19 per team to 13. So for the Toronto Blue Jays, that means facing the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, Tampa Bay Rays and Baltimore Orioles six fewer times each, allowing them to play all 29 opponents during the season.
That has created a slightly easier schedule for Canada’s lone MLB franchise as they’re guaranteed to face rebuilding organizations in the National League, such as the Washington Nationals, Cincinnati Reds and Colorado Rockies. Overall, the subtracted 24 games previously against division rivals now come against the NL, which is less superior than the AL.
While that should translate into additional wins for the Blue Jays, it will also do the same for the rest of the AL East, as well, and has done precisely that thus far.
All five teams in the AL East featured a .500 winning percentage or better entering Tuesday, with each club also possessing a positive run differential. Only one other division has four teams at .500 or better: the NL East. And the AL West is the only other division with four teams at a positive run differential.
WinsLossesWinning %GBRun Differential
Tampa Bay 236.793N/A+103
Baltimore 199.6793.5+25
Toronto1811.6215.0+13
Boston1614.5337.5+13
New York1515.5008.5+1
Collectively, the AL East carried a combined .623 winning percentage in April, the third highest by a division in a single month, minimum 70 games. The only two ahead of it were the 2001 AL West’s July (.648) and the 2002 AL West’s August (.625). Those percentages, however, were compiled by four teams rather than five.
Thus, the AL East’s 2023 April produced the highest winning percentage in a calendar month for a five-team division. Who held the previous record? The AL East, of course, with its .619 from last June.
If that weren’t dominant enough, the AL East currently owns a .670 winning percentage versus non-divisional opponents. For comparison, the 2002 AL West (.603) holds the record in that regard, followed by the ’01 AL West (.601) and the ’22 AL East (.577), whose percentage is the highest for a five-team division.
This year’s AL East (106) has benefited by playing the third-most games outside the division, behind the AL Central (117) and AL West (111). That will even out, of course, but it has certainly played a factor in this early-season explosion.
Plenty of things could change between now and October. If everything remains status quo, though, the 2023 AL East could have a chance at making history this season. The latest a division has gone through a season with all five teams above .500 is Oct. 1, accomplished by the 2005 NL East.
The 2023 season ends on that same day, Oct. 1, whereas the ’05 schedule ended one day later. So the AL East could become the first five-team division to finish a full 162-game schedule where every franchise placed better than .500.
What might this mean for the Blue Jays? Well, a few things. First, competing for the AL East Division is incredibly difficult this season, especially amidst the Rays’ 23-6 start. Second, they must continue to beat the teams they’re supposed to outside the division. Lastly, there is little margin for error if they hope to win their first division title since 2015.
None of this, however, would mean as much if Toronto was located in another division – the AL Central or West, for example – as the Blue Jays (81.8 per cent) currently feature higher post-season odds than the Minnesota Twins (80.2 per cent) and Texas Rangers (52.1 per cent), who lead their divisions, respectively.
Source: FanGraphs
Major League Baseball has stated repeatedly realigning the divisions isn’t atop its priority list. At least, not at the moment. But the AL East is reaching unprecedented heights of greatness, and if that continues, league officials may have no choice but to even the playing field.
Until then, we’ll have to wait and see how everything unfolds over the next five-plus months.

ARTICLE PRESENTED BY BETANO

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