MLB officially announced the 2013 postseason schedule yesterday. The AL wildcard game is slated for Wednesday, October 2nd. The Yankees end their season in Houston on Sunday, September 29th, and the two days in between are saved for any necessary tie-breaker games. The winner of the wildcard game will play Game One of the ALDS on Friday, October 4th. Am I getting ahead of myself? Hell yes. Do I care? Hell no.
As of this morning, the Yankees have a 5.4% chance of making the postseason according to Baseball Prospectus. Cool Standings is slightly more optimistic at 8.3%. Both systems give the team a less than 1.5% chance of winning the AL East even though the Bombers come into today six back of the both the division lead and second wildcard spot in the loss column. Is it possible New York’s odds of winning the division are better than they are for winning a wildcard spot?
Yesterday I quickly broke down the schedule of the seven teams currently in the mix for the second wildcard spot. The Yankees are at a disadvantage not only because they’re the furthest back, but also because they only have seven games left against their six wildcard competitors. This late in the year, those head-to-head meetings are crucial. It’s the only chance you get to control what you and your opponent do.
Because four of the six teams the Yankees are competing with for that second wildcard spot come from the AL Central or AL West, they’re going to need a lot of outside help to get into the postseason. They’ll need the Mariners and Angels to beat the Rangers and Athletics, the White Sox and Twins to beat the Indians and Royals, stuff like that. That’s not good; counting on other teams to do your dirty work is not where you want to be heading into September.
The AL East race is much different, however. As usual, the last few weeks of the season are heavy on intra-division games, and the Yankees will play 21 of their final 39 games against the three teams ahead of them in the AL East. That’s seven games against the Red Sox, seven against the Orioles, and seven against the Rays. Furthermore, those three clubs play a bunch of games against each other down the stretch, guaranteeing one will lose (loose?) on a given night.
The Yankees have much more control over what happens down the stretch in the division than they do the wildcard race thanks to those 21 games against Boston, Tampa, and Baltimore. They still need help, don’t get me wrong, but at least now less lies in the hands of other teams. The downside is that the three AL East teams are probably better and tougher matchups than the other wildcard contenders, but that’s life. No one ever said digging out of this hole would be easy.
Because of how the system works, the Yankees would almost certainly climb into a wildcard spot before taking the lead in the AL East. That’s just the way it’s set up. The only way that doesn’t happen is if the various AL East teams simultaneously hit slumps while other clubs, say the Athletics and Indians, get hot and finish with better records. Possible but unlikely. The Yankees will be happy to get into the postseason either way at this point, but all those head-to-head meetings say that, no matter how unlikely, we shouldn’t rule out a division title just yet.
As of this morning, the Yankees have a 4.3% and 6.3% chance of making the postseason according to Baseball Prospectus and Cool Standings, respectively. They are currently six games back of the second wildcard spot with 40 games to play, and they’ve managed to gain exactly zero games in the race despite winning six of their last nine games. That’s the problem with having to climb over four teams, someone is always winning on a given day.
The Yankees have a very small chance of making the postseason but it’s not impossible. Their lineup is much improved these days and both CC Sabathia and Andy Pettitte have started to pitch a little better, which will help the cause. Here’s a quick breakdown of the team’s remaining schedule compared to the clubs they’re chasing for that second wildcard spot:
|GB of 2nd WC||Games Left||Games Left vs. NYY||Games Left vs. WC Contenders||Games Left vs. .500+ Teams|
I included the Rangers and Rays here just because they’re so very close to the second wildcard spot. The Rangers and Athletics have been trading first place in the AL West back-and-forth all season.
Despite their tough overall remaining schedule, the Rays and Orioles are in a good spot because they have a ton of games left against the other wildcard contenders. Those head-to-head matchups are crucial, and as long as they have a bunch of them left, they’re still in the race. The Indians have a really soft schedule down the stretch, with 14 of their final 17 games coming against the lowly Twins, Astros, and White Sox. If they stay close enough to the race these next four weeks, they’ll be in good position to close out the season strong.
Following tonight’s series finale against the Red Sox, the Yankees will play seven of their next ten and ten of their next 16 games against the Blue Jays and ChiSox. After that they run through the AL East gauntlet and close out the schedule with three games in Houston. Those 13 games against the Rays and Orioles can help their postseason cause — or completely bury them — but otherwise they’re at the whim of the other teams. All they can do is win their games. They’ll need a lot of help from the other wildcard contenders. Or, really, they’ll need help from the teams playing those wildcard contenders. The road to the postseason couldn’t get much tougher at this point.
Playoff shares were announced Monday morning, and the Yankees awarded 58 full shares worth a cool $115,065.28 each. Each LCS loser is allotted 12% of the $65.36M pool. That $115k+ is a drop in the bucket for stars like Derek Jeter and CC Sabathia, but it’s major cash for guys like Chris Stewart and David Phelps. A full share for the World Champion Giants was worth a bit more than $377k, breaking the previous record held by the 2006 Cardinals ($362k). The Tigers earned $284k each for sweeping the Yankees and then getting swept by San Francisco.
The 2012 season is officially over. The Giants swept the Tigers — the same Tigers who swept the Yankees in the ALCS — in four games to win their second World Series title in the last three years. Pablo Sandoval won MVP honors thanks in large part to his three-homer effort in Game One.
If you’re looking for some Yankees connections here, you’ve got plenty. George Kontos was a September callup last year before being traded for Chris Stewart. Xavier Nady spent a year and a half in pinstripes, and Joaquin Arias was a former top Yankees prospect who went to the Rangers in the Alex Rodriguez trade. Melky Cabrera wasn’t on the active World Series roster due to his PED suspension, but he certainly helped the Giants this summer after several years in New York. Giants GM Brian Sabean also spent a number of years in the Yankees front office immediately prior to heading west. Dave Righetti, Hensley “Bam Bam” Meulens, Roberto Kelly, Joe Lefebvre, and J.T. Snow are all on the coaching staff. Former Yankee Phil Coke took the loss in extra innings. Congrats to San Fran, they were magnificent in the series.