The American League East is one of the most competitive divisions in MLB this season, as four teams still have playoff aspirations as we enter the summer months.
Today, we are going to pick the best starting pitcher on team in the division based solely on performance in the 2021 season so far.
Based on that criteria, pitchers who have missed much of the season due to injury or project to miss substantial time for the remainder of the year will not be considered.
Let’s get started.
Boston Red Sox – Nathan Eovaldi
Chris Sale would typically be the obvious choice here, but he hasn’t appeared in a game yet this season as he recovers from Tommy John surgery.
Fortunately, that is expected to change soon.
Welcome to Portland, Chris Sale pic.twitter.com/xagz681jY4
— Portland Sea Dogs (@PortlandSeaDogs) June 22, 2021
In the meantime, the pick goes to 31-year-old Nathan Eovaldi.
The Boston Red Sox have lacked a staff ace this season, but Eovaldi has been the next-closest thing.
He has a 3.90 ERA, 2.59 FIP, and 1.27 WHIP through 15 starts.
His excellent FIP suggests that he has been better than his ERA implies.
He has done an exceptional job keeping the ball in the park, as his 0.3 HR/9 rate is the best in the AL.
Make of this what you will, but Eovaldi has actually been much better on the road this season than he has been at home.
Fenway Park tends to be hitter-friendly which may have something to do with it.
He has a 3.08 ERA over five road starts and a 4.29 ERA over 10 road starts.
Eovaldi’s home/road splits are in line with this Red Sox club as a whole, which is very odd.
The team is 20-17 at home and 23-12 on the road this season.
When Sale returns, Eovaldi may lose his spot on this list to the seven-time All-Star.
Tampa Bay Rays – Rich Hill
Unfortunately for the Tampa Bay Rays, staff ace Tyler Glasnow recently suffered a UCL injury which will keep him sidelined for the foreseeable future.
It’s a devastating blow for a Rays team that had been relying heavily on Glasnow to anchor the rotation.
With him on the shelf, veteran lefty Rich Hill gets the nod here.
He has managed a 3.64 ERA, 4.16 FIP, and 1.05 WHIP over 14 starts this season as of Wednesday afternoon.
Hill had four straight rough outings to open the season, allowing exactly four earned in each of them, but since then, he has pitched to an outstanding 2.11 ERA.
Hill has been lights-out against left-handed batters, allowing just a .154 opponent average and .475 opponent OPS against lefties.
The Rays are 8-6 when he gets the ball, but it could (and should) be more like 10-4.
New York Yankees – Gerrit Cole
There’s no debate here, as Gerrit Cole is not only the New York Yankees’ top arm, but is also one of the most dominant starters in MLB.
This season, he has a 2.33 ERA, 2.59 FIP, 0.85 WHIP, and 123 strikeouts in 96.2 innings.
Although Cole was initially vocal about his frustrations with the league’s new foreign substance policy, his results have been largely unaffected (with the exception of one bad start), as he has now managed three consecutive two-run outings.
— YES Network (@YESNetwork) June 23, 2021
Cole will likely be named to his fourth All-Star team this season.
Toronto Blue Jays – Hyun Jin Ryu
Ray is a flashier talent, as he has 90 strikeouts in 74.2 innings this season (to complement a 3.50 ERA), but Ryu is having a better all-around season.
Ryu has actually been one of the most reliable pitchers in MLB for years now.
He has managed a 2.49 ERA over 70 starts since the start of the 2018 season, and he even won an ERA title in 2019.
This year, he has a 3.25 ERA, 4.00 FIP, and 1.08 WHIP.
Ryu is one of the biggest reasons the Blue Jays have been able to stay afloat through the first few months of the MLB season.
Baltimore Orioles – John Means
John Means is currently on the 10-day IL, but the injury is not long-term and not serious enough to justify leaving him off this list.
He has been unbelievable this season, posting a 3.2 WAR, 2.28 ERA, and 0.83 WHIP over 12 starts.
Pitchers who stay healthy all year long typically make 32 starts.
Means won’t get there due to his shoulder strain, but his current 3.2 WAR would put him on pace for an 8.5 WAR over a full injury-free season.
The highlight of the season for the Baltimore Orioles came when Means tossed a nearly-perfect no-hitter on May 5.
His emergence has been an extremely bright spot for the Orioles in an otherwise frustrating season.