The New York Yankees have dominated their competition through the first 35 games of the 2022 season. The Bronx Bombers have opened up a 5.5-game lead in the AL East, and the underlying numbers suggest that gap could be even larger. But there are still a couple teams that could make the division race interesting – if they start playing better in a hurry.
FanDuel Sportsbook currently lists the Yankees as the -220 pick to win the AL East, heading into Tuesday night’s action.
Yankees excelling while rivals falter
New York has compiled a 26-9 record to open the season, easily the best mark in baseball. Their run differential of +73 also tops the majors, one run better than the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Yankees lead MLB in team ERA (2.77), and are third in runs per game (4.94).
In other words, the Yankees are formidable. FanGraphs already gives New York a 74.1 percent chance to win the AL East. Yet that still leaves about a 26 percent chance that someone manages to take the title away from them by the time we reach Game 162.
With all due respect to the struggling Red Sox, there are two candidates to upset the Yankees the rest of the way. The Tampa Bay Rays are always competitive, and currently sit in second place with a 21-15 record. However, they’ve put up a negative run differential so far, something that won’t be good enough to catch New York in the long run.
|AL East Odds (via FanDuel Sportsbook)|
|New York Yankees: -220|
|Toronto Blue Jays: +340|
|Tampa Bay Rays: +600|
|Boston Red Sox: +5000|
|Baltimore Orioles: +100000|
While the Rays haven’t particularly struggled in any area, they haven’t excelled in any aspect of the game, either. Wander Franco, Tampa Bay’s 21-year-old star, has been inconsistent, going through periods of brilliance followed by slumps – something many young prospects go through in the majors.
“He’s being pitched tough,” Rays manager Kevin Cash told reporters. “He’s probably expanded [his strike zone] a couple times. But saying that, he’s also squared some balls up…I think he’s totally fine and he’ll get going.”
Toronto has talent to win AL East
Tampa Bay received more bad news on Tuesday. The team announced that second baseman Brandon Lowe will miss at least a month due to a stress reaction in his lower back. Lowe was hitting just .212 with five homers on the year, but led the team with 39 home runs in 2021.
“It’s a hit, there’s no doubt,” Cash said. “He’s a big part of our club, offense, defense.”
Oddsmakers are uncertain about Tampa Bay’s chances, with FanDuel listing the Rays as a +600 third choice to win the AL East. Instead, the Toronto Blue Jays (+340) rate as the most likely challenger to the Yankees.
At 19-17, the Blue Jays are now 7.5 games behind New York in the standings. Toronto has lost seven of its last 10, losing five games to the Yankees in that span. However, the Blue Jays entered the season as the favorites to win the AL East, and a co-favorite to win the American League pennant. With a deep and talented lineup, sportsbooks are still taking a wait-and-see approach to Toronto. Outfielder George Springer agrees with that assessment.
“Don’t try to hit the five-run homer if there’s nobody on base,” Springer told reporters, addressing what the team can do to get out of its current slump. “Slow down, stay within ourselves, because there’s a long way to go and a lot of time to right the ship.”