One-third of the way through the 2008 Major League Baseball schedule, and the always tightly contested American League East does not disappoint. But it does offer a couple of surprises. The most notable, is the early run of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, the perennial last-place team.
As of the end of May, the standings are as follows:
Tampa Bay -- 34 (W), 22 (L), .607 (pct.), 0 (GBL), 21-12 (vs. East)
Boston -- 34(W), 24 (L), .586 (pct.), 1.0 (GBL), 10-11 (vs. East)
Toronto -- 31 (W), 27 (L), .534 (pct.), 4.0 (GBL), 7-10 (vs. East)
New York -- 28 (W), 27 (L), .509 (pct.), 5.5 (GBL), 13-14 (vs. East)
Baltimore -- 26 (W), 28 (L), .481 (pct.), 7.0 (GBL), 11-15 (vs. East)
So, at present, Tampa Bay is fending off the Red Sox, and keeping a respectable distance ahead of the Yankees. The Blue Jays, meanwhile, are occupying their usual third place spot. An initial glance at the last column (wins and losses within their own division) tells a story. At present, Tampa Bay is the only team in the American League East that has a winning record against the other four teams. And, in fact, of 56 games played to date, 33 of them have been against AL East teams, more than any other team in the division. In the unbalanced schedule of the MLB, if you want to win you have to beat teams in your own division. Period.
Currently, the Tampa Bay pitching staff is fifth in ERA in the American League (3.67), and sixth in team batting average (2.63).
At 34 wins so far in this campaign, Tampa Bay has already won just over half of the 66 games they won all of last season. Now, a baseball season is more akin to a marathon than a sprint. But assuming (big assumption, by the way) that they were able to keep up the pace, Tampa Bay would be on track to win roughly 99 games, and a post-season bid.
Let's check in on them again at the All-Star break in about a month.