With interleague play here, there’s no argument than the National and American League East divisions are the best of baseball’s six. But, which of those divisions are the best?
Generally, the NL East has more pitching, the AL East more offense, partly because of the DH. But, here’s a position-by-position comparison:
Rotation: The Phillies’ Roy Halladay, the Marlins’ Josh Johnson and the Braves’ Tim Hudson are more dominant in the top three slots for the NL East than the Rays’ David Price, the Yankees’ CC Sabathia and the Red Sox’s Jon Lester. At No. 4, I’d take the Phillies’ Cliff Lee over the Red Sox’s Clay Buchholz. In the final spot, I’ll go with the Braves’ Tommy Hanson over James Shields of Tampa Bay. Edge: NL East.
Closer: The Yankees’ Mariano Rivera went into the weekend with three blown saves. Rivera blew seven saves in 2001 and six in 2003. Otherwise, he’s never blown more than four in a season. The Mets’ Francisco Rodriguez is the best in the NL East, but the Nationals’ Drew Storen could be an All-Star this season. Edge: AL East.
Catcher: The Braves’ Brian McCann is one of the best catchers in baseball. The AL East’s best is the Orioles’ Matt Wieters, who is making strides in all aspects of his defense. Edge: NL East
First base: The Phillies’ Ryan Howard is always an MVP candidate with his RBIs, but I like the total package of the Yankees’ Mark Teixeira and the Red Sox’s Adrian Gonzalez. Edge: AL East
Second base: The Yankees’ Robinson Cano made a strong case to be the AL MVP last season. The Braves’ Dan Uggla can hit with power, but hasn’t. Omar Infante has tightened the Marlins’ defense. Edge: AL East.
Shortstop: This one’s easy. The Mets’ Jose Reyes is piling up numbers and could be traded. Where would the Marlins be if Hanley Ramirez were hitting like Hanley Ramirez is supposed to hit? The AL East’s best is the Blue Jays’ Yunel Escobar with J.J. Hardy making an impact with his arm and bat for the Orioles. Edge: NL East.
Third base: The two best have battled injuries. Tampa Bay’s Evan Longoria has returned, and the Nationals’ Ryan Zimmeran is the disabled list with a torn stomach muscle. This is a tough call. Edge: NL East.
Left field: The Red Sox’s Carl Crawford should be igniting the top of the Red Sox’s lineup, but he’s struggling lower in the order. The Mets’ Jason Bay has come back from a concussion. Edge: NL East.
Center field: The Yankees’ Curtis Granderson is among the AL leaders in runs, home runs, RBIs and total bases. The Orioles’ Adam Jones is playing Gold Glove defense with a sizzling May average. The NL East’s best is Chris Coghlan, who is learning a new position. Edge: AL East
Right field: The Blue Jays’ Jose Bautista is showing that his 54-home run season from 2010 is no fluke. Jason Heyward of the Braves tops the NL. Mike Stanton of the Marlins is a superstar in waiting. Edge: NL East.
Rookies: The AL East has had an exceptional crop of pitchers, including the Orioles’ Zach Britton, the Blue Jays’ Kyle Drabek, Tampa Bay’s Jeremy Hellickson and the Yankees’ Ivan Nova. Britton could end up being the AL Rookie of the Year. The NL East’s best rookie is first baseman Freddie Freeman of the Braves. AL East.