Aug
28

A look at the last 35 games

By

When Junichi Tazawa — Japanese for Brad Penny — and the Red Sox lost to the White Sox tonight, the Yankees moved one game closer to wrapping up the AL East. With 35 games left this year, their magic number is 30. While that six-game lead can sometimes seem small and sometimes seem large, if the Yanks go 18-17 the rest of the way, the Red Sox would have to go 24-11 just to tie in the East. I doubt this Sox club can play .686 baseball for five weeks.

Anyway, with the stretch drive upon us, the Yankees have a few goals ahead of them: They have to rest their regulars to make sure that everyone is as fresh as possible for an October run. They have to get their pitching in order. And they have to accomplish these two goals while winning the division in a way that inspires confidence among the fans and, more importantly, the players. For how well the Yanks have played lately, backing into the post-season just won’t cut it.

As the White Sox come to town for the last home set in August, let’s take a look ahead at the Yanks’ schedule. In September, they face some very good teams and some very bad teams. In between is an annoying and potentially dangerous trip to Seattle and Anaheim.

I miss the days of baseball when September used to be reserved for division rivals only. A West Coast trip in the second-to-last week of the season should be outlawed. But such are the way of things. The Yanks could very well be playing in Anaheim come the first week in October, and the team should be prepared for the long flight.

Take a look at how the Yanks’ remaining opponents break down by record:

Team Winning Percentage Games
White Sox .500 3
Orioles .406 6
Blue Jays .464 6
Rays .548 7
Angels .600 4
Mariners .520 3
Red Sox .575 3
Royals .381 3
Total At or above .500 20
Total Below .500 15

As you can see, the Yanks play most of their games against teams at or above .500. Of course, had the White Sox lost on Thursday, these numbers would be flipped, but luckily for us, they did not. If the Yanks play just .500 ball against their .500 or better opponents, they would be 10-10 with 15 games left against bad teams. If they go 10-5 against the Orioles, Blue Jays, Royals — not an unreasonable assumption — they would finish the season 20-15, good for 99 wins. Technically, Boston could catch them, but it isn’t likely. Plus, I believe the Yanks can play better than .500 ball against their so-called “good” opponents. A series win against Chicago would get this stretch off on the right foot.

The key team in all of this is Tampa Bay. Recently ranked as the game’s best team in Beyond the Box Score’s SABR-minded power rankings, Tampa has given the Yanks trouble recently. They’re still clinging to the hopes of a playoff spot, and their season is hanging in the balance. These two teams play four at home starting with a Labor Day day-night double header, and Tampa will try to make things interesting.

In the end, I hate to count my AL East chickens before they hatch. I’ve seen far too many Yankee clubs sleepwalk their ways through September, and I won’t relax until the champagne is flowing. But I’d expect that party soon enough. Maybe it’ll come in Anaheim, but maybe it will happen at the best moment of September: with the Red Sox in town and on the field. I can dream, right?

Categories : Analysis

56 Comments»

  1. Mike Axisa says:

    I wouldn’t mind them sweating a little down the stretch in September. It seems like whenever a team clinches early they sleepwalk through the rest of the season and end up flat in the postseason.

    That’s why we’ve seen a lot of wildcard teams making deep runs into the postseason; those teams have typically been playing playoff atmosphere type games long before October.

  2. BigBlueAL says:

    The 2000 Yankees. Nuff said.

  3. Tom Zig says:

    I want the Yanks to clinch with a walk-off HR from Mark Teixeira off Papelbon or the closer of the future Daniel Bard

    A man can dream can’t he?

  4. Johan Iz My Brohan says:

    I think right now is the perfect time to start having those clunkers from the pitching staff and offensive slumber parties. We can still win games with one or the other, and that hot streak after the ASB wasn’t going to last, so I think we can have a couple bad games before injecting ourselves with grit for the playoffs.

  5. Salty Buggah says:

    This is my dream scenario:

    We start resting our starters and starting position players (probably in a rotation of 2-3 starters until the last week of the season, where they only plays once or twice for a tuneup) while running young guys out there everyday but still win most the games.

  6. Short Porch says:

    September callups.

    put em away early, clear the bench, go to the bullpen.

  7. JMK says:

    As others have said, it’s a difficult balance to strike. On the one hand, it seems highly likely that we’ll make the playoffs playing around .500, so we could certainly give our guys a rest (they’re not spring chickens anymore) and lose a few games in the process. On the other hand, it would be nice to have a hot team going into the playoffs.

    Personally, I’d rather rest the guys and lose a few extra. I’d bet more injuries occur when players aren’t rested properly (fatigue reduces consistent motions, mechanics suffer, injuries happen) and that seems like a huge risk to run. Of course, injuries can happen carrying moose meat into the kitchen, but I think the point remains.

    Sidebar: Anyone else think that the Mets’ injury woes could be Mets management suffering from Munchausen by proxy syndrome?

  8. DreDog says:

    What’s are gritness wins based on gritness pythagorean win-lose?

  9. steve s says:

    This notion that one of the Yanks goals in Sept is to “rest regulars” is a dangerous one and perpetrates a myth that players can turn it on and off whenever they want. Giving injured players time to heal is one thing but sitting down an otherwise performing healthy athlete in the most important games of the year (at least until they clinch) would be a big mistake and could lead to panic if the Yanks lose a few and Bos creeps within 3 before their next series with the Yanks. Changing up the strategy that got the Yanks in this position in the first place messes with momentum and leads to pressure/second-guessing on Girardi who quite frankly bristles everytime he gets criticized (sort of akin to, on a micro level, to the results and aftermath of what happened regarding the decision to have Swisher bunt when all the momentum was to have him swing away).

    • Makavelli says:

      Agreed. “Well played, Clerks.”

    • Chris says:

      I think you have the wrong idea of what it means to rest the regulars. In general (except for the last game or two of the season) there would be just a couple backups in the game. This would give each of the regulars a day or two off per week. I don’t think they’re going to get rusty with a couple of days off.

  10. Makavelli says:

    While we’re saying our schedule “isn’t that bad”. The Red Sox schedule is perfectly orchestrated to make us more nervous at just the right time. The majority of their games are at home, where they perennially play the best…and they play sub .500 teams the rest of the way, and that’s still after wrapping up another sub .500 series against Chicago (ok so they’re exactly .500, hopefully sub .500 after tonight then). Either way, the only team up there I have total confidence in beating is the Royals. The Orioles have given us a hard time for the past few years now…for whatever reason. The White Sox battered us around at the beginning of August. The Angels slammed the Yankees heads into the turnbuckle several times at the end of July. The Blue Jays would be in the hunt in any other division. Seattle has a decent club who’s beaten us a few times, etc.

    Even with our team banged up and tired…I still think we’re good enough to muster playing playing .514 baseball but Boston’s schedule seems like it was handed to them on a silver platter at just the right time. While we’re seemingly getting beaten up with injuries and fatigue…the Sox seem to be getting pitchers back at just the right time (NTD – Non-Tazawa Division). We’ll be fine though.

    And the only problem with resting people a lot is you might have a hard time getting hot and take that into the postseason…while much younger ballclubs who are playing til the end, can.

    • Either way, the only team up there I have total confidence in beating is the Royals.

      I thought you were a tad pessimistic before, but yowza.

      • Makavelli says:

        I should have put “TOTAL” in bold to stress it a little better.

        Our team is nasty. We’re the best team in baseball. Don’t get me wrong. I have A LOT of confidence in this team. But when you look at the schedules, the injuries, the fatigue (or as I call it…the Joba Plan), and the match ups. I’m not AS confident as I would be if Posada was 100% and Joba wasn’t an automatic loss. Oh, and Mitre/Gaudin weren’t our #5 and #6 haha. That’s all.

        • Bo says:

          You act like this with a 6 game lead? Wow.
          Looks like you have them going 10-25 over their final 35. Good one.

          Relax

          • Makavelli says:

            You’re claiming I’m jumping to conclusions while at the same time putting words in my mouth lol. I never said they were going to go 10-25 over the next 35. In fact, I said they are perfectly capable of doing fine. I listed my concerns, that’s all.

        • I’m not AS confident as I would be if… Joba wasn’t an automatic loss.

          Joba is not an automatic loss. Again, that’s still WILDLY pessimistic.

          • Makavelli says:

            He can’t pitch with these sporadic days off. The numbers showed he wasn’t good with 6+ days rest before. And in the 3 or so starts since they started this bad idea…he has been even worse than imagined.

            It’s not “wildly pessimistic” it’s realistic. If he’s on normal rest, he can among the best out there.

            He’s even admitted to this and if he’s admitting this…that doesn’t help either because at the VERY LEAST…it’s in his head.

            • I agree with all your major premises. I do not agree with your conclusion.

              The way we’re handling Joba seems to set him up for failure, and yet Joba is still talented enough to pitch well in spite of the obstacles we’re giving him, so he’s NOT an automatic loss.

              I will bet large sums of money that Joba will not lose all the games he pitches in for the rest of the year.

              • Makavelli says:

                It was an extreme exaggeration. Of course I understand he’s a very good professional pitcher in baseball and certainly is capable of winning games under various conditions. I think I’ve been coming across sounding much worse than I’m meaning to sound. But that happens with text at times unfortunately

              • Sweet Dick Willie says:

                …Joba is still talented enough to pitch well…

                This is true. Joba has tons of physical talent.

                However, he has not, to this point, shown a proclivity towards the cerebral end of pitching (e.g., throwing his slider in what seems like every 3-2 count).

                Unless/until he does, his immense physical talent will not be maximized.

    • JGS says:

      they are 9-3 against the Orioles this year

      just sayin

  11. Makavelli says:

    By the way, when I read the title to this thread at first…it sounded like you were going to analyze the last 35 games that we had just played haha. I was expecting some critiquing.

    But then it started making sense…

  12. Bo says:

    Just keep taking care of business. Some goals should be getting Joba right, getting Marte healthy, seeing if Bruney can be fixed, seeing who steps up to be the long man out of Gaudin and Mitre, getting Aceves rest and getting Gardner healthy.

  13. Guess who just cleared waivers and is free to be traded to any team?

    Mike Cameron. I’m just saying…

    /irresponsiblerumormongering’d

  14. vin says:

    “When Junichi Tazawa — Japanese for Brad Penny… ”

    This made me laugh. Nicely done.

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