Rules changes notwithstanding, some things haven’t really changed in MLB after three weeks of the season. Although the American League Eastern Division hasn’t won a World Series since 2018, the division has continued its dominance.
Last year, the AL East teams won 66 more games than they lost and four of the five teams finished above .500, with only Boston six games under. This year, the AL East with the Tampa Bay Rays, New York Yankees, Toronto Blue Jays and Baltimore Orioles again over .500 again — with the last-place Red Sox just a touch behind — already are over 23 games over .500 before Thursday’s games.
But, stunningly, owing to the early rise of the Pittsburgh Pirates and Chicago Cubs, who trail National League-Central-leading Milwaukee, that division has the second-best division mark at plus-12. This is the same division that was a MLB-worst at minus-56 in 2022.
With an all-time high of 690 interleague games on the docket this year, even more attention will be paid to those MLB standings. Much like the All-Star Game, the American League has dominated these standings for the first 26 years, winning the unofficial crown 20 times, including 14 in succession from 2004 through 2017.
But in 2018 and ’19, the National League won in both years and tied at 149 in 2020. The AL had just four more interleague wins last year and are two games down this year but the schedule calls for more than double the interleague games, when the AL East could stretch out the margin again.
Last year, the AL East was plus-12, the only MLB division besides the NL West at plus-8 to be over .500 in interleague play.
One thing that didn’t change was when American League batting champion Luis Arraez moved from the Minnesota Twins to the Miami Marlins.
For Minnesota, infielder Arraez batted .316. For Miami, the 5-foot-10 left-handed batter is leading again, this time at .438. Part of this uptick is that infield shifts, effectively, have been banned and some of Arraez’s hits that would have been outs last year are hits this season. He has only four doubles, a triple and a home run to go with the newly revived single. Arraez has 22 of those in the Marlins’ first 19 games.
Bruce Bochy, Milwaukee Brewers’ bullpen and other MLB surprises
Surprises so far? They shouldn’t be, maybe, but the Milwaukee Brewers, who almost annually put together one of MLB’s best bullpens, have done it again and have won nine of 13 games away from home in a 14-5 start.
Bruce Bochy, three-time World Series champion manager with San Francisco, apparently hasn’t forgot how to do this, running off 12 wins in 18 games with Texas despite missing star infielder Corey Seager with injury.
The Cubs and Pirates, pegged as no better than third-best in the NL Central, both completed wildly successful trips and were a collective 10 over .500 entering the Thursday games.
And can you be a surprise if you weren’t supposed to be very good and are even worse than expected?
The horrid Kansas City Royals, who cashiered manager Mike Matheny and started another re-boot, have started off 1-12 at home, where they have been outscored by an unsightly 71-32. Now they go on the road, where in Anaheim on Friday night, Shohei Ohtani awaits. The Royals, at least, are 3-3 on the road.
But they are also 11 games under .500 overall. Their record at home is just about as bad as the Oakland A’s, who are 2-10 at home and 13 under .500 for the season.
Somebody’s getting the first draft pick next year.
Rick Hummel, who was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame for baseball writing, is the baseball columnist for Sportsnaut.