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.
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.
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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?