June 24, 2013

AL East is NOT better than NL Central

Normally, I just see baseball idiocy at ESPN. But, Jon Paul Morosi at Fox gets in the picture with his claim that the AL East is the best division in baseball.
By this point in baseball’s 162-game tightrope, the standings typically reveal a handful of conclusions. Not so in the 2013 AL East, which is — indisputably and without any hint of regional bias — the best division in the major leagues.
NOT!

First, his parenthetical qualification indicates that regional bias indeed is what's behind the story.

Let's take a look at today's MLB standings, shall we, Gentle Readers and Mr. Morosi?

AL East: 31 games above .500
NL Central: 23 games above .500

So, there, the AL East looks better, but not indisputably so.

Next there's cumulative run differential for the five teams in each division.
AL East: Plus-102 runs
NL Central: Plus-132 runs

In terms of percentage of difference, even, the NL Central outranks the AL East on this as much as the AL East outranks the NL Central on games over .500.

It's true that, overall, the AL is above .500 and the NL is below, which one could argue mitigates the run differential issue.

That said, if Morosi had said something like:
By this point in baseball's 162-game tightrope, the AL East has staked a strong claim as arguably being baseball's best division.
We wouldn't be having this little argument.

I could probably delve further into advanced stats, to see if fielding-independent pitching shows AL East teams are playing out of their heads, NL Central teams could be even hotter, or whatever, but I don't make Jon Paul Morosi money to do that.

That said, Jonah Keri at ESPN's Grantland IS in the same rent district, and this week, he focuses on the five NL Central teams as part of his weekly "The 30" review of MLB around the horn.

He notes that, if the Pirates could pick up one solid right-handed bat before trade deadline, it could be huge, and that the Brew Crew has been hit at least half as hard by the injury bug as the Yankees, but with much less luck from their replacement players. Take that, JPM.

That said, I most certainly do not expect every team in the AL East to finish at or above .500. I'll venture two teams, not just one, finish below the treading water mark.

Because, JPM, take also this. Gordon Edes at ESPN says we shouldn't be surprised if (when?) Boston tumbles, and tumbles hard, from its division-leading perch.

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