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Sweeny: The AL East Is A Beast

By Sweeny Murti
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New York, NY (WFAN) - Before we condemn the Yankees for not running away with the AL East, let's remember how tough this division really is this year. All five teams are over .500 and only 3 games separate first place from last place.

One thing we must realize is there are fewer wins to be had inside the division compared to years past. Here are the Yankees records against AL East opponents since the unbalanced schedule began in

2001: 50-24
2002: 46-29
2003: 47-29
2004: 49-27
2005: 41-33
2006: 46-28
2007: 39-33
2008: 40-32
2009: 45-27
2010: 38-34
2011: 39-33

From 2001-04 the Yankees averaged 48 wins per year in AL East play. That fell to 43.5 wins from 2005-06. And since 2007 the Yankees are averaging only 40.2 wins per year inside the division, recording more than 40 only once (45 in 2009).

Basically, the Yankees are getting 8 to 10 wins less inside their division than they used to. Maybe the Yankees aren't as good as they need to be in order to win the World Series. But they are being much more severely tested as Tampa Bay, Baltimore, and Toronto have all improved and Boston remains tough to beat as well.

"The simple answer is teams got better," Joe Girardi said Sunday. "You look at Baltimore and Toronto their young players developed. You look at Tampa and their young pitching has been really good since '08. If one guy leaves another guy steps up and does the job."

"Every game seems to be a tough game now," Girardi continued. "It all starts with starting pitching and I think the starting pitching in our division is really good, and I think that's why things have kind of leveled out."

The standings in the AL East currently align perfectly with the division records of each team. Tampa Bay is in first place (17-12) just ahead of Baltimore (15-14) and Boston (10-13) and Toronto (11-14) are in last place. The Yankees (9-9) are right in the middle, with a 3-game series against Tampa Bay starting Tuesday night in the Bronx.

Yes, the Yankees have issues with timely hitting and the middle to back end of their rotation and injuries in their bullpen. They are not a World Series team without some improvements from the guys already here and maybe even some additions. But don't underestimate the strength of the AL East as a reason why the Yankees don't have a better record so far. Other teams have gotten better and it's a fact you can't ignore.

*The talk around baseball this weekend was Johan Santana's no-hitter, of course. And Joe Girardi spent some time on Saturday talking about it from a manager's perspective, watching a pitch count rise and wondering if he could be the villain and actually take the starter out. Here's his take:


Girardi faced a similar situation with CC Sabathia in April 2010, but the no-hitter was broken up before Girardi had to make the call. In that circumstance he was prepared to pull the pitcher because it was early, only his second start of the season. But Girardi recognized the special circumstances involving the Mets and the choice that Collins had to make.

Girardi, by the way, caught Dwight Gooden's no-hitter in 1996 and David Cone's perfect game in 1999, two of the ex-Mets who threw their no-hitters after leaving the team. Oh well, I guess we don't have to worry about that list anymore.

Congrats to Johan, one of the classiest guys in the big leagues, and an awfully fun pitcher to watch to boot.

Sweeny Murti

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