A race that gradually adds more horses

Beckett + Lackey = crazy delicious in the AL East this summer. Getty Images

As pitchers and catchers arrive in Florida and Arizona, Baseball Prospectus will be previewing every division in MLB. Wednesday: the AL East and the NL East.

The American League East has produced the eventual AL pennant winner in each of the past three seasons and seven of the past 10. In the 2000s, AL East teams (well, the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees, really) won four World Series. In six of the past seven years, the AL East has also produced the wild-card team. Almost without question, the AL East is the toughest division to win in baseball.

Our projection system, PECOTA, projects the performance of every player on every team for this season. When combined with our most recent playing-time forecasts, we can project the standings. Traditionally, the Yankees and Red Sox are the behemoths that exert tremendous gravity on the other three teams, effectively weighing down their schedules 36 times a year. Somehow, in this most extreme of competitive environments, new hope is managing to grow.