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July 27, 2007

Wildcard Or Bust For Yankees

With 60 games left to the season, the Yankees still find themselves looking for a way to get into the post-season this year. (The "60 games to go" count includes an assumption that the Yankees, tonight, go on to win the completion of the suspended game from June 28th.)

There are two ways into October baseball: Win your division or win the Wildcard berth. So, with 60 games to go, where do the Yankees sit in comparison to these two goals?

For the A.L. East, the Yankees are 7 games back of the Boston Red Sox in the loss column – who also have 60 games to play.

For the Wildcard, the Yankees are 4 games back of the Cleveland Indians in the loss column – and they also have 60 games remaining this season.

Is it possible for the Yankees to close the gap on the Red Sox or Indians before the end of this year? Let’s look at the numbers:


As you can see, if Boston goes 30-30 in their remaining games, the Yankees would need to go 38-22 (.633) to pass them. And, if Cleveland goes 30-30 in their remaining games, the Yankees would need to go 35-25 (.583) to pass them. Can New York play .583 or .633 baseball over their last 60 games? Sure, yes, I believe that they can – but, will Boston or Cleveland only play .500 baseball from here to the end of the season? I doubt that.

Let’s assume that the Red Sox or Indians play .583 baseball the reason of this year – which is a reasonable, if not conservative, projection. This means that the Yankees would have to go 43-17 (.717) to pass the Red Sox and the Yankees would have to go 40-20 (.667) to pass the Indians.

What are the odds of the Yankees only losing 17 more games this season – over the next two-plus months? Let’s face it, that’s not going to happen for New York. However, can the Yankees win at a rate of “two out of every three games” from here until season end? While that’s an uphill fight, I think it’s possible – with a few breaks.

Therefore, the Yankees, at this junction, with 60 games to play, should forget about hoping to catch the Boston Red Sox in the A.L. East. That’s not going to happen unless the Red Sox tank in their last 60 games – and play .500 baseball or less from here to October. However, even if Cleveland plays well in their last 60 games, the Yankees can overtake them in the Wildcard chase. This is why the Yankees focus should be to win the Wildcard – and why Yankees fans should not concern themselves with Boston, but, more so, Yankees fans should be root for the Indians (and the Seattle Mariners, who are also in the Wildcard hunt) to lose their games.

Again, outside of a huge Boston letdown, the Yankees only hope at October baseball is winning the Wildcard. But, on the positive-side, that’s an attainable goal – and one where the Yankees can somewhat control their own destiny – by continuing to win series after series until year end.

Winning series after series, alone, will not allow the Yankees to pass the Red Sox. Again, if Boston goes 35-25 from here out, the Yankees can only allow themselves to lose 17 more games this year to pass them.

It’s Wildcard or bust for the Yankees this season.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at July 27, 2007 09:02 AM


Sadly, I think you're right, the division is out of reach. At least there's no stigma to the WC winning the WS.

Posted by: rbj [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 27, 2007 10:38 AM

~~~ At least there's no stigma to the WC winning the WS.~~~

Heck no. In fact, since 2002, the WC has reached the WS every year and won 3 of the 5 WS, IIRC.

Posted by: Steve Lombardi [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 27, 2007 11:04 AM

I listed some teams below that have played .700 ball over 60 games or so the last few years, in making a playoff and division run. I agree that the WC is the most realistic option, but I'm still not ruling out the division.

2006 Athletics

Low water mark: 23-29 (may 30th)

Record at all-star break: 45-43 (51-49 on July 25th)

High water mark: 92-66

41-17 (.707)

2006 Twins:

Low water mark: 27-34 (June 10th)

Record at ASB: 47-39

High water mark: 94-63

(67-29 .698)

2005 Yankees:

Low water mark: 11-19 (May 6th)

Record at ASB: 46-40 (51-45 on July 23rd)

High water mark: 95-66

44-19 (.698)

2005 Indians:

Low water mark: 18-23 (may 21st)

Record at ASB: 47-41 (49-48 on July 21st)

High water mark: 93-66

44-18 (.709)

Posted by: Max [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 27, 2007 11:45 AM

Max - are those .700 runs over the last 60 games of the season for those teams?

Posted by: Steve Lombardi [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 27, 2007 12:51 PM

And I'd have to say a 90 win WC WS winner would be less of an embarrassment than an 84 win division winner.

Posted by: rbj [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 27, 2007 01:36 PM

Steve, not exactly the last 60 games -- actually, the runs I listed were from a selected point after the all-star break (which I specified) up until they reached their high water mark. The exception is last year's Twins, where I simply listed the record from the low point to the high point -- which is still pretty amazing, .700 ball over 96 games.

In the case of the 2005 Yankees, they lost their last game (but had clinched the division in the second to last game), and I believe the A's had clinched with four games left.

I made a mistake with the 2005 Indians -- their high water point was 92-63, which means they went 43-15 from the time they were one game over .500 shortly after the ASB (a .741 pace over 58 games). That team, quite infamously, lost 6 of its last 7 games and missed the playoffs.

Posted by: Max [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 27, 2007 02:16 PM

Steve -

What have the Yankees, Red Sox and Indians done since the "HA!" game? That seemed to be the turning point in the season for the Yankees despite the bad road trip out west.

Posted by: wally26 [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 27, 2007 04:02 PM

Damn I am getting so sick and tired of reading crap like this.

Sorry, and with all due respect, and all that, but....

"Therefore, the Yankees ..should forget about hoping to catch the Boston Red Sox in the A.L. East."

They dont get paid 200 million to give up on the season because some wiseass who wants to appear oh-so-smart calculates the odds that show its going to be hard to do. They get paid to go out there and play their best with the goal of winning everyday. Why on earth would anyone, especially a fan, suggest to them that they should give up on anything?

What is this crazy compulsion that drives reporters, bloggers, commenters and fans to prove their chops at being baseball "analysts" by being the first or the loudest to give up on the season?

They have a better record, by 4 or 5 games, than Boston since June1. They have 6 games left with Boston. I expect them to pursue the goal of winning the division, with all they got. If they fall short, so be it. But it certainly is doable.

Posted by: Tano [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 28, 2007 12:19 AM