In most Yankee fans’ lives, no team has been better than the 1998 iteration. Led by a stellar offense and a top-notch pitching staff, the Yankees went 114-48 and finished with a 22-game lead. While they would lose two games to the Indians in the ALCS, that would be the only post-season blip en route to a four-game sweep of the San Diego Padres in the World Series.
What really impressed the most about that team was its balanced approach. Nearly every starter had an outstanding career year, and the Yanks lead the world with 965 runs scored.
Recently, as Steve Lombardi pointed out last night, the Yanks have been on a 1998-style tear. Since the All Star Break, the Yankees are 23-6, and since June 24th, the Yanks are 36-11. As Steve notes, that’s a 124-win pace over a full slate of 162 games. That’s just insane.
Since that fateful night in Atlanta when Brian Cashman addressed the Yanks behind closed doors, the team has been killing the ball. They are hitting .290/.370/.495 as a team over the stretch and averaging 5.9 runs per game. The pitching has flashed a staff ERA of 3.66 over those 47 games.
All of this got me thinking about the 1998 team and the Yankee offense. Take a look at this chart comparing offenses:
Besides the utterly sick seasons of Bernie Williams and Derek Jeter in 1998, what sticks out are the similar OPS numbers. Right now, the 2009 Yankees are actually hitting better than the record-setting 1998 club. The current team’s run-scoring pace is off the 1998 mark, but this is a truly special offense.
Right now, of course, we have no idea how the 2009 story ends. With a 7.5-game lead over Boston and an eight-game lead over the Rangers, the second-place Wild Card team, the Yanks have a better shot to make the postseason than any other team in baseball. Cool Standings pegs their playoff odds at 98 percent while Baseball Prospectus has them at 99.1 percent. While nothing is over until it’s over, this one’s pretty close.
Hopefully, though, as shades of 1998 echo through the offense and pitching staff, the Yankees can write a similar ending. This team is certainly good enough.