For the third straight year, Baseball Prospectus is kicking off spring training for Insider with an early look at the PECOTA projected standings. A lot can change between now and Opening Day due to injuries and roster machinations, but over the course of this week BP will provide an early prognostication of how each division will play out.
For the past three seasons, the ultra-competitive American League East has been contested among the Yankees, Red Sox and Rays. That won't change in 2011, although the plucky, small-market Rays will have a harder task than ever before due to an offseason in which their roster suffered great losses to free agency. The Orioles will be less of a pushover than they have been in recent years and the Blue Jays will continue to be solid if unspectacular, but given the capabilities of the teams at the top of the standings, their progress will be difficult to see with the naked eye.
Baseball Prospectus' projection system, PECOTA, forecasts the performance of every player in baseball from the majors to the minors. These projections, combined with estimates of playing time, allow us to project the standings. This is how it sees baseball's toughest division shaking out in 2011.