Bronx Blues: Yankee Dream Season Going South?

After starting on an historic winning pace, the Bombers have fallen on hard times over the past six weeks. After a blistering 61-24 pace to start the season, the Yankees have gone 13-24 since to see their 15 game lead on July 9th shrink to just 8 games as of this writing. Which other teams have posted similar seasons? Find out after the jump.

To find comparable teams, I looked for clubs winning 55 of their first 75 games, as the Yankees did by beating Oakland on June 28th. It’s a really short list.

So, since the World Series was instituted in 1903, only one team starting 55-20 or better has failed to make it to that championship duel, and that team (the 2001 Mariners) only won a record 116 games. Also notable is that only the 1913 Athletics failed to win 100 games, and those A’s needed a 1-8 finish to end up with just 96 W’s. With 40 games remaining, this year’s Yankees will need to finish 26-14 to reach the century mark in wins.

Looking at bit further down the list to 53 or more wins in the first 75 games, and it’s still all pennant winning teams with 100+ wins with just a couple of exceptions.

Those two exceptions are the 1955 Dodgers, who clinched early and coasted to a 6-9-1 finish to their 98 win season, and the 1942 Dodgers who dueled the Cardinals to the next-to-last day of the season, but had to settle for 2nd place despite an 8-0 finish (their 104 wins remain the most for any team that did not reach the post-season).

Even at 51 or 52 wins in a team’s first 75 games, the great majority of these teams reach the World Series, though there are more exceptions and lower final win totals.

The 1978 Red Sox, at the top of the table above, are the only team in the division era to miss the post-season after a 51-24 or better start. The popular lore surrounding that team is that they ran away from the pack in the first half of the season, only to see their lead slowly dwindle away over the second half. The reality is that they lost about half of their lead after a 13-15 July, gained back most of it in a 19-10 August, but then saw their 7 game lead disappear entirely in a 2-8 slide to start September. An 11-2 finish to close out the season got the Red Sox back to even with the Yanks, resulting in a one game pennant playoff won by New York, with Bucky Dent providing the heroics with a 7th inning 3-run home run to give the Yankees a lead they would not relinquish.

Let’s take a look at the other notable feature of the Yankees season, their post-ASG swoon that includes a 12-24 (.333) mark over a 36 game stretch (July 9th to August 19th). How often has a pennant-winning team had a 36 game stretch with so few wins?

In the interests of full disclosure, the above table shows the worst and earliest of 12-24 or worse stretches if those stretches overlap each other. While there have been 4 pennant winning teams with such a stretch in their seasons, none of them won 95 games and all of those stretches came in the first half of the season, including three times in the first weeks of the season. So, if the Yankees do make it to the World Series, they will be the first team to do so with a 12-24 or worse skid in the second half of their season.

If we expand the scope to playoff bound teams, several more teams are added.

Of these 10 teams, only one won even 90 games, and only 3 of the teams had their swoon start in July or later. Of note is the 1995 Yankees appearing on this list, the last time (before this season) that any Yankee team has gone through a 12-24 stretch.

So, what to make of these results? Based on teams with similar hot starts, the Yankees would seem to be strongly favored to make the post-season and with a very good chance of winning a pennant. But, based on a second half swoon as deep and long as what the Yankees have just gone through, history records zero pennant winners and only one division champ. Those contrary results indicate there are likely few teams with comparable seasons to what the Yankees have posted over their first 120+ games. The closest matches could be one of these clubs, with three different season outcomes.

  1. The 2017 Astros bolted out of the blocks at a 42-16 clip, the same as this year’s Yankees. After reaching 67-33, again the same as this year’s Yankees, Houston skidded to 12-20 before finishing 22-8 to post 101-61 and then take the World Series crown. Despite their pedestrian 34-28 finish, the Astros actually increased their division lead over that stretch, from 17 to 21 games. This year’s Yankees would appear to have stiffer divisional competition though, if none of the chasers emerges from the pack, a close-to-.500 finish may be all the Yankees need to preserve their division lead.
  2. The 1976 Phillies finished June at 50-20 (Yankees were 52-18) and extended that to 67-32 at the end of July (Yankees were 66-33). With an 11½ game lead at that point, the Phils coasted the rest of the way at 34-29 to finish 101-61, though they did have a notable 6-17 slide from Aug 29 to Sep 19. Despite a strong 12-2 finish, Philadelphia was swept in the NLCS by the eventual WS champion Reds.
  3. The 1935 Giants started 51-21, good for a 7½ game lead (the Yankees were 52-20 with an 11 game lead). A 2-9 skid reduced that lead to just ½ a game, but a 12-3 rebound restored a 4 game cushion. Alas, a mediocre 26-29 finish left the G-Men in 3rd place, 8½ games back of the NL champion Cubs.

So, what do our readers think? Do the Yankees have the wherewithal to right the ship and make a post-season run? Or, are the Bombers destined to follow their meteoric rise with an epic collapse and make this season memorable only for the wrong reasons?

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Tom
Tom
3 months ago

The Joey Gallo curse lives. Since the trade to LA, NY is 3-14, LA is 14-3.

Paul E
Paul E
3 months ago
Reply to  Tom

Serves ’em right for trading a guy who, in 501 PA’s, went 159.291.368

Doug
Doug
3 months ago
Reply to  Paul E

You’ve got to be impressed with the .209 ISO, right 🙂

Paul E
Paul E
3 months ago
Reply to  Doug

Obviously, not as impressed as the Dodgers. Giuseppe-G is already the all-time ML career leader in WAR amongst players batting .203 or less – very impressive

Tom
Tom
3 months ago
Reply to  Paul E

For LA, he’s a platoon LF, batting 8th. LA doesn’t need him to be anything more. No one expects him to carry the team. This year, against LHP, he’s hit .098 – 6 for 61 with 1 double and 1 HR – .214/.164/.378. The Dodgers are not going to let him get anywhere near the plate when a LHP is on the mound. He hit .139/ .250/.270 at Yankee stadium. 2 for 30 at Camden (.067/.177/.167), 2 for 20 at Tropicana (.100/.182/.100). Getting a respite from those locales seemed to do wonders for his spirit, and his batting eye. He’s… Read more »

Paul E
Paul E
3 months ago
Reply to  Tom

per 162 gms. 619 556 91 155 21 4 44 118 Dave Kingman 28-30 y.o.

Does Gallo peak in the next couple of years? Like .250/.325/.550?
But, who am I to be critical of someone who has made $22M at their craft before age 30?

Doug
Doug
3 months ago
Reply to  Tom

If Gallo can keep his BA below .200 and his ISO above that level he’ll become the first player with two such 300 PA seasons. Sixteen other players have one such season, all of them since 1990.

Rob Deer’s .179 BA in 1991 is the lowest in such a season, so Gallo might have a shot at that mark, though not facing lefties will make that considerably less likely.

Richard Chester
Richard Chester
3 months ago

At the end of play on 9/13/2000 the Yankees were in first place by 9 games. For the final 18 games of the season they were 3-15 and outscored by 89 runs. They finished in first place by 2.5 games and went on to win the WS.

Richard Chester
Richard Chester
3 months ago

They could be emulating the 1928 Yankees who were in 1st place on 7/1, 13.5 games ahead. By 9/7 they dropped into a tie for 1st. They had one stretch of 6 wins and 12 losses.They recovered and won the pennant by 2.5 games.

Doug
Doug
3 months ago

With Stanton and Bader due to come back, and maybe Carpenter too, I think the offense will get back to where it was. Still a lot of unknowns on the pitching staff, but Severino and Britton should help, assuming they get back before too much longer.

So, my prediction is Yankees claim the division title, as Rays, Jays and O’s have so many games against each other, they will likely end up beating each other enough to prevent any of them from making a run at the Yanks.

Last edited 3 months ago by Doug
John S
John S
2 months ago

Do the Yankees have the wherewithal to right the ship and make a post-season run? Or, are the Bombers destined to follow their meteoric rise with an epic collapse and make this season memorable only for the wrong reasons? As a proud Cubs fan since 1969, of COURSE the Yankees can tank in biblical fashion! As my dear Cubs have proven time after frustrating time, any bad outcome is possible if you just try hard!

Paul E
Paul E
2 months ago
Reply to  John S

if it’s, “Can You Top This”, I do recall a neighbor kid showing me his 1964 Phillies WS tickets 🙂 before the ‘epic’ collapse

John S
John S
2 months ago
Reply to  Paul E

Point. I’ll see your 64 Phillies and raise you the 69 Cubs. Or ma6be the 51 Dodgers. Or the 1914 Giants!

Paul E
Paul E
2 months ago
Reply to  John S

John S
They way the eventual winners came through and took advantage of the above cited teams’ collapses almost hints of Calvinistic Predeterminism and some sort of “meant to be” outcome. Bizarre……

Doug
Doug
2 months ago
Reply to  John S

Looks like the schedule and bad weather did in the Dodgers’ chances in 1948. Due to make-up games from earlier rainouts, Brooklyn had to play 23 games in an 18 day stretch (Aug 29-Sep 15), including no fewer than 8 double-headers. During that period, they went from a game up on Aug 30 to 6 back on Sep 15. That pennant chase gave rise to the “Spahn and Sain and pray for rain” mantra as the same bad weather saw the Braves play 7 double-headers from Aug 26 to Sep 12 (20 games in 18 days), and the Cardinals play… Read more »

Last edited 2 months ago by Doug
Paul E
Paul E
2 months ago

https://www.baseball-reference.com/players/h/harrimi04.shtml

In the light of the recent Julio Rodriguez post…..I just noticed this potential future world-beater. WOW! looks like the real deal

Doug
Doug
2 months ago
Reply to  Paul E

Thanks Paul, Quite the numbers, especially for a 21 year-old playing in his hometown. Scores 43% of the time he reaches base, not least because he takes an extra base 61% of the time and steals bases (16 in half a season) 100% of the times he tries. I like his 56% of BIP up the middle, and his 14 HR despite only 18% of BIP in the air. Except for the 56% up the middle, those numbers are all way off MLB averages, with the 18% fly ball rate the only outlier that may be considered on the wrong… Read more »

Tom
Tom
2 months ago

Completely off topic. But, speaking of rookies… Fernando Valenzuela was recognized as an Outstanding American by Choice.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JElKZEMMjcg

Paul E
Paul E
2 months ago
Reply to  Tom

When he debuted in the ML, I thought he had a fake birth certificate and had to be close to 40 y.o. Now, he looks younger than when he came up

Doug
Doug
2 months ago
Reply to  Paul E

When I saw Fernando with countryman Alejandro Kirk for the ASG first pitch, I had the same feelings: that Fernando looked quite youthful for his age; and that Kirk seemed just the opposite (like Valenzuela when he came up).

Doug
Doug
2 months ago

Aaron Judge is doing his best to keep the Yankees atop the AL East, stroking home run #54 on Labor Day. Judge presently has a 23 HR lead in the AL over Yordan Alvarez. That would be the largest lead in a 50+ HR season since Babe Ruth beat out teammate Lou Gehrig by 27 HR (54 to 27) in 1928. The largest such advantage is Ruth’s 35 HR edge (54 to 19) over George Sisler in baseball’s first 50+ HR season in 1920. Before this season, the largest post-Ruth advantages in a 50+ HR season were: AL: 20 HR… Read more »

Scary Tuna
Scary Tuna
2 months ago
Reply to  Doug

Just read this in Marly Rivera’s (ESPN) article on Aaron Judge hitting his 56th and 57th home runs yesterday:

“Judge has 20 home runs more than anyone else in baseball this season; Philadelphia Phillies outfielder Kyle Schwarber is second in the majors with 37 homers. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, it’s the first time an MLB player will finish a day with a lead of 20 or more homers since the final day of the 1928 season, when Babe Ruth led Jim Bottomley and Hack Wilson by 23 homers.”

Doug
Doug
2 months ago
Reply to  Scary Tuna

On the topic of home runs, Vlad Jr. bagged no. 100 tonight (Sep 14), one day after collecting double no. 100. He becomes just the third player to reach both of those milestones before his 24th birthday and within the first 500 games of his career. Vlad did it in game 486, A-Rod in game 470 and Ted Williams in game 467. If you look at PA, the three of them are within a single game’s worth, with Vlad in PA no. 2077, A-Rod in PA no. 2078 and Williams in PA no. 2082.

Paul E
Paul E
2 months ago
Reply to  Doug

Doug,
After hitting home run #99 in career game 494 on opening day 2015, Mike Trout did not hit home run #100 until game 503 – CLOSE, but no cigar as he already had 111 doubles entering the 2015 season

Paul E
Paul E
2 months ago
Reply to  Paul E

Soto had the 100 HR’s but only 98 doubles thru 499 games

Doug
Doug
2 months ago
Reply to  Paul E

Vlad also joins his father among the 26 players to reach those milestones in their first 500 games, regardless of age. Eight of those players are currently active.

Last edited 2 months ago by Doug
Doug
Doug
2 months ago
Reply to  Scary Tuna

And speaking of doubles, there’s another group of 26 players with 30 doubles in the first 100 games of a career. The 26th (and 4th active player) is Oriole catcher Adley Rutschman, who collected his 30th double this past week in game no. 93. Rutschman is the only catcher in this group.

Last edited 2 months ago by Doug
Paul E
Paul E
2 months ago
Reply to  Doug

Doug,
..and, no one from the 1950’s and 60’s. I get the absence of guys from the 1960’s with the huge strike zone and the not-so-lively Spalding baseball but the 1950’s seemed to be much more high scoring. Maybe they were hitting homers and not doubles in the 1950’s?

Doug
Doug
2 months ago
Reply to  Paul E

Dave Stapleton in 1980 and Chris Sabo in 1988 are the only guys between Ted Williams (1939) and Brad Fullmer (1997).

Last edited 2 months ago by Doug
Paul E
Paul E
2 months ago
Reply to  Doug

Brad Fullmer always looked angry to me 🙁

Doug
Doug
2 months ago
Reply to  Paul E

Fullmer had a breakout season in Toronto in 2000 at age 25, batting .295 with 32 HR and 104 RBI in only 524 PA. But, he never approached those numbers again, and his career was over before turning 30. He has a couple of interesting accomplishments though, including a PH homer in his first PA (his second homer was also as a pinch-hitter) and stealing home in the 2002 World Series (when catcher Benito Santiago tried to throw out a runner at second without first looking Fullmer back to third). Incidentally, Rutschman (4.8 WAR) and Michael Harris (4.9) are both… Read more »