Previewing the AL East

Originally Published: March 28, 2013
By and ESPN The Mag

Editor's note: has teamed with ESPN The Magazine and the SweetSpot Blog Network to produce this year's preview capsules.

Baseball has become so unpredictable that we needed to invent an entirely new way of guessing what will happen next. Below you'll find ESPN Insider Dan Szymborski's projections for the likely range of every team's wins, based on projections for every player on every roster.

Why Dan, why now? Because since he started doing this 10 years ago, Dan's median prediction has been accurate within 6.5 wins on average.

We also asked Szymborski to create a new metric, the unpredictablility index, which gauges what version of hope fans of every team should have. The metric is an offshoot of Szymborski's ZiPS projection system -- a sabermetric standard-bearer that factors in age, injury history and statistical highs and lows going back four years and makes its projections based on database comparisons across MLB history. With it, he sums up the volatility from 0 (what you see is what you get) to 2 (who knows).

Meanwhile, Tim Kurkjian predicts division standings, including wild-card teams, and offers the breakdowns that show how Szymborski's best- and worst-case scenarios will play out.

Click on the links below to go directly to a capsule for each American League East team:

Toronto Blue Jays | Tampa Bay Rays | Baltimore Orioles
New York Yankees | Boston Red Sox

Information courtesy of Mop-Up Duty


1st Place
  • 98 wins if … Jose Reyes thrives in a triple-happy park and logs a career-best 130 runs, Jose Bautista returns from wrist surgery to hit 50 homers and win the MVP, new ace R.A. Dickey again wins 20, and fellow newcomer Mark Buehrle produces a double-digit win total for the 13th straight season.

  • 89 wins if … Despite all the moves, the vaunted rotation doesn't quite pan out, Josh Johnson or Brandon Morrow gets hurt again, the turf is unkind to Reyes' knees, and 2012 NL Cy Young winner Dickey grows weary of all those AL East sluggers.

  • Unpredictability score -- 0.57: There is some drama around Bautista's recovery from wrist surgery, but the mound is a drama-free zone. Toronto spent the offseason acquiring good, reliable pitchers. Now the rotation has a sagelike 41 years of experience.

Information courtesy of The Process Report


2nd Place
  • 94 wins if … New star Wil Myers hits 30 homers and wins ROY, Matt Moore pitches up to his 14.46 K/9 September call-up in 2011, Evan Longoria stays healthy, and Fernando Rodney again leads all relievers (0.60 ERA in 2012).

  • 89 wins if … They still don't have a catcher (26th in MLB in slugging at the position in 2012), James Loney's numbers keep falling, and Myers isn't ready for the middle of the order.

  • Unpredictability score -- 1.19: The Joe Maddon formula requires a constant pipeline of confident young pitchers and conjuring terrific relievers out of thin air. It has worked so far, but the playoffs are never a lock in the AL East. See 2012's 90-wins-but-no-October season.

Information courtesy of David Schoenfield


3rd Place
  • 90 wins if … Miracle worker Buck Showalter finds more magic, 20-year-old Manny Machado continues his heroics at the plate, Dylan Bundy, also 20, wins a job in the rotation, and Chris Davis (33 HRs, 85 RBIs last season) hits 40.

  • 76 wins if … The untouched rotation remains 21st in ERA, and the O's fail to duplicate last season's lucky streak of 299 in one-run games and 16 straight extra-inning wins.

  • Unpredictability score -- 1.66: Beyond luck, the O's had solid performances on the mound and at the dish. Jason Hammel's ERA dropped from 4.76 to 3.43 in his first season with the club, and the team's 214 home runs were second in MLB. Both trends must continue if they are to contend.

Information courtesy of Bronx Baseball Daily


4th Place
  • 91 wins if … Robinson Cano builds on his career-best .929 OPS, Derek Jeter plays 155 games on a repaired ankle, Mariano Rivera saves 40 in his swan song, and Alex Rodriguez crams last season's power (18 HRs, 57 RBIs) into his injury-shortened season.

  • 77 wins if … Jeter limps, Rivera's cutter stutters (he is 43), Andy Pettitte makes only 15 starts, and the big club gets stuck at catcher waiting for Class A star Gary Sanchez.

  • Unpredictability score -- 1.63: New York is as vulnerable as in any year in recent memory. The self-imposed salary cap has hurt depth, and although the roster has 90-plus-win potential, when half your squad is old enough to remember the Reagan years, you'll get familiar with the disabled list.

Information courtesy of Fire Brand of the AL


5th Place
  • 93 wins if … New manager John Farrell mends clubhouse relations, a revitalized Jon Lester and a revamped pen (Joel Hanrahan and Koji Uehara averaged 10-plus K/9 in 2012) form the pitching core, and Will Middlebrooks' bat provides pop.

  • 79 wins if … The changes aren't enough, Mike Napoli's injury woes continue, Shane Victorino's .245 BA in L.A. doesn't improve, and Ryan Dempster doesn't enjoy the AL East.

  • Unpredictability score -- 1.49: Boston did a mini-rebuilding job in hopes of competing again in 2013, but pitching was the big problem. If Lester and Clay Buchholz don't return to form at the top of the rotation, the winter additions will have been for naught.


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