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Believe it or not, we're near the halfway point of the 2024 season. As baseball die-hards know, the All-Star break is actually past the halfway point, rendering our "first half" and "second half" stats not technically accurate. Here's how close we are. Entering Friday, June 21, the Padres have played 79 games. The Guardians have the fewest games played at 72. More than half the teams have played at least 75 games. So by the end of next weekend, every team will have surpassed its halfway point in the 2024 season. 

As such, let's start by looking at each of the six divisions. We'll start this week with the American League East. This is a gambling odds breakdown, but it's for everyone in that it's basically a discussion of which team is most likely to win the division while also noting what team(s) could sneak in there. 

It's good timing with this division because the top two teams just wrapped up a series. The Orioles visited the Yankees in Yankee Stadium and took two of three with the rubber game being a 17-5 blowout win. The Yankees technically have a 0.5-game lead, though the winning percentages are both .662 and the Orioles have one fewer loss. 

Is it just a two-team race? Time to dive in. 

Yankees, 51-26 (-260)

They've gotten to this point with only one Gerrit Cole start and zero wins with him as the starter. The work from the rest of the rotation in Cole's absence was a big cause for confidence and there have been reasons for optimism in the bullpen, too, notably from Luke Weaver

Any offense with Juan Soto and Aaron Judge is going to look tough and they do, but there's decent lineup depth here and Giancarlo Stanton having a healthy power year really gives a boost. This is to say that they aren't among the league leaders in runs only because of Soto and Judge. There are plenty of bats here in the everyday lineup. 

There's no reason to believe they are going away. The Yankees always get an odds boost with the general public because they are the Yankees, but the number doesn't feel too far off. This is a loaded team that has survived months without the 2023 Cy Young winner and just got him back. 

Plus, the Yankees will surely be aggressive in addressing areas of need in front of the trade deadline because this is a "win now" team and not winning the World Series in 15 years is an eternity in Yankees years. 

In several other divisions, I'd be strongly backing the Yankees right now, but they have company here in the AL East. 

Orioles, 49-25 (+160), 0.5 games back

Speaking of being aggressive, the Orioles have the deepest farm system in baseball and that comes with a lot of young MLB position players who are blocking upper-minors studs. After the Orioles were bounced in the ALDS in a sweep last season and with ace Corbin Burnes hitting free agency, it really feels like an opportune time for Mike Elias to load up on pitching not unlike the Rangers grabbing Jordan Montgomery and Max Scherzer last season. Of course, the market might not cooperate, but just file the possibility away. 

As things stand, the Orioles have now gone 5-2 head-to-head against the Yankees, not to mention 5-1 against the Red Sox. Not only are the not intimidated, they are the ones who are doing the intimidating. They are the defending AL East champs, after all. 

They are good enough on the position player side -- offensively, defensively, baserunning, you name it -- that they don't need to do anything moving forward to be in excellent shape to win the division. 

I do worry about how both the rotation and bullpen will hold up, absent a few savvy moves. In order to win the division, they don't even have to be home runs. Just some depth-type moves to shore up the underbelly of the pitching staff in light of injuries depleting the depth. I'm only hopeful for the Orioles to swing big for purposes of postseason performance. 

Red Sox, 40-35 (+30000), 10 GB

The Red Sox are to be commended for playing well above what anyone thought they could this season. It's a testament to what they've gotten from their rotation and, really, pitching staff as a whole. They've also been better offensively than many thought they'd be. You have to credit the organization as a whole and, specifically, manager Alex Cora. They are burning up the basepaths, too! 

They also are not going to win this division. If you're a Red Sox fan and want a futures bet here, take a look at "to make the playoffs" odds instead. The Yankees and Orioles are too good to both falter enough to let the Red Sox saunter in here from a double-digit deficit. 

Rays, 36-39 (+32500), 14 GB

Many of us are trained to believe the Rays will always play just over their heads, and even if they start slow, we can never count them out. It's understandable. This team feels different, though. That is to say, it is mediocre or worse. 

They haven't been more than three games over .500 all season and since their high-water mark (25-22 on May 18), they've gone 11-17. Their run differential (-70) says they are worse than their record. They are 11-21 against teams .500 or better and in looking at their personnel, I'm inclined to think they'll get worse before they get better. 

I probably said way too much here since they are 15 games out, but I wanted to say just don't get any ideas here with that longshot number. 

Blue Jays, 35-39 (+27500), 14.5 GB

They have clearly underachieved, but they are far too many games out, especially when it's two teams instead of hoping one falls completely apart. I don't think they'll necessarily do something like trade Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette, but they are getting into the range where selling some parts makes sense. This isn't the NL side of the Wild Card. The third AL Wild Card is seven games over .500 right now. 

Don't be tempted by the odds. 

My play: Orioles +250

The Orioles were my preseason pick and I'm sticking with them at plus money. I love how they play head-to-head against the Yankees and they have a lot more organizational depth equipped to deal with possible injuries. For example, how scary is the possibility of a Juan Soto or Aaron Judge for the Yankees? Of course, a Gunnar Henderson injury would be scary for the Orioles, but they've got Coby Mayo waiting in the wings. We could do that for several positions, too. 

I do think Elias makes enough moves to shore up the depth needed to repeat as AL East champs. I'm not confident he goes nuts to stack his playoff rotation, but I don't need to worry about that here. We just need the Orioles to win the division and that's my play. 

The Yankees will have the best record in baseball among non-division winners.