Following a sweep of the White Sox and a manhandling of the Orioles, the Yankees will welcome the Red Sox to the Bronx tonight. This home stand has been nothing short of terrific, and the Yankees now stand 2.5 games out of a playoff spot. Obviously fans’ expectations were hardly this high a month ago, and even with a tough 11 games ahead of them, the talk surrounding the Yankees this weekend will be their amazing comeback.
Over the last month and a half, the Yankees have slowly gained Curtis Granderson, Alex Rodriguez, Alfonso Soriano, Mark Reynolds, and Derek Jeter, while Ivan Nova has emerged with an ace-like performance. The additional hitting and pitching has given the Yankees what they needs down the stretch, but during this Red Sox series, we’ll undoubtedly hear about how Ryan Dempster‘s plunking of Rodriguez lit a fire under this team. How purposefully hitting Rodriguez has woken up a beast to rally around their injured superstar.
We all know that the lineup has vastly improved over the last month, but perhaps there is some substance to this narrative. The Yankees finished off the Dempster v. Rodriguez game with a huge come-from-behind win after being down twice in that game. And since that Sunday, the Yankees have won 12 of their last 17 games. The offense has put together a slash of .259/.330/.414 with 16 home runs in those 17 games, while the pitching staff has held strong with a 3.64 ERA. Altogether, the Yankees have been good, but the haven’t been outrageous, scoring 81 runs and allowing 65 runs during that time.
But with just 5 losses over the last 2 and a half weeks, they’ve already outperformed their runs scored and runs allowed by 2 wins. At this rate, pythagorean expectation has them winning 59% of their games. With 23 to go, and assuming they’ll continue to put up this sort of production both offensively and defensively, the Yankees are expected to win 14 more games. This would set their final win-loss record at 89-73. That’s pretty close to what most of us expected this season, even before onslaught of injuries and setbacks. Perhaps that’s enough to make the playoffs, but the Yankees are also hoping for something else.
If you were a Yankee fan with strong beliefs in pythagorean expectation or playoff probability, you’ve likely stopped watching the numbers and started watching the team. The Yankees have been outperforming their projections and probability all season. Not so long ago, the team’s playoff chances were supposedly below 2%, and even with just 2.5 games separating themselves from a wild card spot today, the Yankees are still the underdog by most odds. But maybe they’ll find that fire again? That’ll at least be the narrative.