Andrew Stetka: A look at the muddy AL East

The American League East has long been looked at as one of the best divisions in baseball, and with good reason. Since 1992, the division has produced 13 AL champions and nine World Series titles. Unfortunately for Baltimore baseball fans, the Orioles are the only one of the five current members of the division who haven't participated in the Fall Classic in that timespan.

While the O's have come out of the gate this season spinning their wheels a bit, there is nothing to be discouraged about so far. This year's version of the AL East looks more like a muddled mess with no team looking to take control just over a month into the season. All five teams are within 2 1/2 games of each other and each has serious question marks. There are no perfect teams in the game and everyone has their flaws, but the AL East is taking mediocrity to a new level thus far.

The Yankees lead the division, but have an aging team that could break down at any moment. Aside from Masahiro Tanaka, the rotation has taken a beating. CC Sabathia looks like a shell of his old self while Ivan Nova is lost for the season after Tommy John surgery. Michael Pineda is also dealing with an injury and who knows if he can even throw well without the aid of pine tar. Derek Jeter's ride into the sunset is looking more like a limp. The captain is hitting .240 and looks sluggish defensively in one of the most demanding positions on the field.

The Red Sox are a curious case, because the talent is there but just failing to perform to this point. This is virtually the same team that won the World Series in October, minus Jacoby Ellsbury and a few other minor pieces. The Sox rank mid-pack in most offensive categories and have a weak back end of the rotation. John Lackey, Jon Lester and Jake Peavy have performed well so far, but Clay Buchholz and Felix Doubront each have a high ERA.

The Rays are dealing with more injuries than anyone, especially to their pitching staff. Matt Moore is done for the season after Tommy John surgery, while Jeremy Hellickson and Alex Cobb are each nursing injuries. Pitching is normally Tampa Bay's strong point, but as a staff the team ranks near the bottom of baseball in ERA. There have been a few strong offensive contributions from James Loney and Desmond Jennings, but Evan Longoria will need to step up and carry them while Wil Myers figures things out. Both have had some struggles at the plate so far.

The Blue Jays are a team that the Orioles seem to struggle the most against. Toronto has a ton of firepower in its lineup, sitting fourth in baseball in home runs. There's a lot of talent up and down the order, but the rotation has to follow suit if they want to compete. Mark Buehrle had a great start to the season and is out to a 5-1 record, but has slowed down in his last few outings. The Jays have a similar problem to the Orioles in that they have a very strong bullpen that gets overworked by the lack of innings the starters produce.

There's really no reason to be discouraged as an Orioles fan, even after a weekend in Minnesota that produced very little offense and a pair of frustrating losses. The Birds are right in the thick of things and have dealt with their own share of injuries. Manny Machado is finally back, but now Chris Davis has been lost for some time. The O's also dealt with injuries to J.J. Hardy, David Lough and Matt Wieters earlier in the year.

If the Orioles can get a little healthier and continue trending upward, the next few months will be bright. As mediocre as the division currently looks, there's no reason to panic or write anyone off. The Orioles have the potential to turn heads later this summer, and if a few things go their way, they could even break through to late October and play for a ring.

Andrew Stetka blogs about the Orioles for Eutaw Street Report. Follow him on Twitter: @AStetka. His thoughts on the O's appear here as part of MASNsports.com's continuing commitment to welcome guest bloggers to our little corner of cyberspace. All opinions expressed are those of the guest bloggers, who are not employed by MASNsports.com but are just as passionate about their baseball as our roster of writers.

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