American League surprise teams, good and bad, of the 2013 season

Mike Scioscia

(Ray Stubblebine/Reuters)Though

There’s an old saying in sports: “That’s why they play the games.”

There are plenty of games remaining in the 2013 season, but for many clubs, expectations have already been exceeded — or are out of reach. Some disappointing clubs are clinging to a glimmer of hope, but the standings in mid-August already tell some of the season’s story.

AL West

When the Houston Astros made the AL West a fivesome before this season, some front-offices grumbled that the expected struggles of the Astros coupled with the unbalanced schedule would create plentiful easy wins for the teams ahead of them and a glut of playoff teams from the division.

Texas and Oakland have held steady, but the unexpected result in this division belongs to the Angels. Considered to be one of the three playoff contenders in the division, Los Angeles is in fourth place behind the Mariners. The Astros have a lot of games within the division (17-36), but so have the Angels (18-33). Seattle has actually played over .500 (27-24) in the division, while falling 10 games below .500 overall.

Nothing went right for the Angels this year. Some of it may have been expected, but, for the most part, the epic struggles of Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton went beyond even the most cynical projections.

AL Central

There are few surprises in the heartland of the American League. The Tigers have established themselves as one of the best — if not the best — team in the league. the Indians and Royals upgraded this winter, and it seems to have worked, at least for now.

The Twins and White Sox struggled, as most anticipated. But the South Siders have put  their worst performance in decades. Some times a bad team is even worse than you expected.

AL East

The premier division in baseball has lived up to its billing. The Red Sox and Rays are in their typical positions, with 2012′s darlings, the Orioles, hanging on behind them.

Still, things haven’t exactly gone as planned. The Blue Jays made major moves to pull themselves into contention, but they have floundered and are the only AL East team play sub-.500 baseball. Given the Yankees’ roster issues, it’s a surprise they are above .500.

Is it possible that Joe Girardi has had his best year as a manager? Without Derek Jeter or, for the most part, Alex Rodriguez, the Yankees had an abysmal left side of their infield. Until they acquired Alfsono Soriano they had a nearly complete lack of power from the right-handed batter’s box. While not in serious contention, the Bronx non-Bombers have kept their heads above water. That’s an impressive feat with a weakened lineup and a tough division.

Setting Expectations

The next six weeks should see a big battle for supremacy in the AL East. No one wants to be the wild-card race and risk being knocked out in a single-game playoff. The AL West is setting up much like the AL East, but without the third contender. On the flip side, Cleveland and Kansas City are anxious to chase down either Tampa or Oakland to nab their golden ticket. So while fans in Boston or Arlington, Tex., mght lament a wild-card bid, folks in two Midwest cities may be looking to that shot as the season’s great hope.

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