In late July, the Yankees faced a question which they hadn’t had to face in nearly a quarter century – whether to be buyers or sellers. At the July 31st trade deadline, the New York Yankees stood at 52-52, seven games behind the 1st place Orioles, and had just been swept by the last-place Rays, in St. Pete. General Manager, Brian Cashman, had called on the team to declare itself, as a contender or a pretender. In his eyes, they had declared themselves as pretenders; and so, he convinced ownership to sell off its most valuable parts, to build for the future.
First, closer Aroldis Chapman was shipped to Chicago’s north side, in exchange for, among others, Gleyber Torres and Adam Warren. Then, Andrew Miller, Ivan Nova, and Carlos Beltran followed Chapman out of the Bronx to other cities, as Cashman vaulted the Yankees from a middle of the pack farm system to the top 2 (and possibly even the BEST). It was expected by many that this spelled the end of the Yankees as contenders for a wild card spot in 2016. As a result, the “baby bombers” were called up from Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to make their Major League debuts, in the wake of releasing Alex Rodriguez unconditionally from the 25-man – Gary Sanchez, Aaron Judge, and Tyler Austin. The torch had been passed on.
Since the calendar flipped to August, the Yankees’ season has flipped it’s on the switch: the team is 20-13, and a season-high seven games over .500 as of September 7th. The addition of Gary Sanchez as necessarily the everyday backstop has helped bring some serious punch to the lineup, as the rookie smashed 11 home runs in his first 21 career games, the first player in MLB history to ever accomplish such a feat.
His defense isn’t too shabby either, as he nailed 6 of the first nine attempted base stealers against him, flashing a gun for an arm, and better agility behind the plate compared with his veteran counterpart, Brian McCann. Judge and Austin became the first pair of teammates to ever homer in their 1st plate appearances ever (back to back, no less), and despite their struggles, they have helped bring a youthful excitement to an otherwise drab season.
The insertions of Luis Cessa and Chad Green into the rotation helped to provide stability, stepping in for the injured Nathan Eovaldi (Tommy John), and the departure of Ivan Nova (traded to Pittsburgh). Tyler Clippard acquired from the Diamondbacks, and Adam Warren has provided a much different, but mostly useful bridge to a new closer, Dellin Betances. Picking up Tommy Layne, who was released by the Red Sox, has provided a lefty specialist in the pen, replacing a mostly ineffective Chasen Shreve in high leverage situations. So, what do the playoff chances look like for this version of the Bronx Bombers?
After the Yanks wrap up their series against the Blue Jays tonight, they face the Rays for four games, and then welcome the Dodgers to town. Of their remaining 25 games, 12 are at home, and 13 are on the road. The good news is, the team doesn’t leave the eastern time zone for the remainder of the season – 4 games against the Jays, seven against the Red Sox, three against the Orioles, seven against the Rays, and three against the Dodgers (at Yankee Stadium)
ESPN has the team’s chances of making the playoffs at 4.6%, but let’s take a look at the combined winning percentages of their remaining opponents, and how it has fared against the competition for the season so far:
Combined winning pct of opponents – .531
Record vs. Toronto – 5-9
Record vs. Boston – 5-7
Record vs. Baltimore – 8-8
Record vs. Tampa – 6-6
Combined winning pct vs. opponents- .444
Working in the Yankees favor is the absence of Chris Tillman in the Orioles rotation, combined with the fact that the team has shown a much stronger fight in them during the 2nd half, as opposed to the 1st half. At present, the Yankees trail the Orioles by 3 1/2 games for the 2nd wild card, and the Blue Jays and Red Sox by 4 1/2 games in the division. By having four games against the Jays, plus the game on September 7th, the Yankees have control of their destiny within the division.
By having three games remaining against the Orioles, the team has control of it’s destiny against Baltimore, in the wild card chase, by trailing in the loss column by three games. By having seven games against the Red Sox, and trailing by 4 1/2 games, clearly, the same goes.
On the negative side, the Yankees have yet to sweep a three-game series this year, and have only two sweeps of a four-game series.
Since getting off to their horrendous 9-17 start, the Yankees have played to a 63-48 record (.568 winning pct), which would put them on pace for 92 wins in a 162 game season, or 86 wins over 136 games since that 26 game start. The Orioles are on pace for 89 wins, which would mean the Yankees would have to go 17-8 just to force a 1-game playoff to get to the 1-game wild card; a pace that this team hasn’t shown the ability to conquer all year.
The bottom line is that the Yankees MUST win their games against their divisional opponents, and hope for some outside help. Despite the fact that they control their destiny against the Orioles, Red Sox, and Blue Jays, the Astros and Tigers can still beat them out.
Their chances would be much higher if not for the other teams ahead of them. But, there’s no time like the present, with a better roster makeup than before, infused with youth and passion, and just enough veterans to provide the experience.
Get ready for an exciting stretch run, Yankees fans. These last 25 games would make or break their season if their 9-17 start didn’t already.