What Do The Yankees Want?

It’s pretty safe to assume that the Yankees wanted things decided by now, but when you lose five-of-six down the stretch, you have nothing to complain about. Here’s where things stand right now.

1- The Yankees will finish no higher than fifth, which means they are opening on the road.

2- To finish fifth, they need to either win both of their remaining games, or have Toronto lose one.

3- They cannot finish in 7th, so its 5th, 6th (very unlikely) or 8th.

4- If they finish 8th, they play Tampa. Otherwise, it’s up in the air because Minnesota, Cleveland, and Chicago are separated by a single game.

Work to Do

The Yankees dropped three-of-four in Buffalo, so their playoff seeding remains unknown. Here’s what we do know.

1- The best they can be is the 4 seed, the worst is the 8.

2- The Yankees clinch a 4/5 seed if Toronto loses one more game, but if Toronto sweeps this weekend, the Yankees have to win twice to hold onto a seed better than seventh.

3- Minnesota and Chicago will finish with a better record than the Yankees with one more win, or one more Yankee loss. That means the Yankees start the playoffs on the road barring a miracle.

So the Yankees are in a tough spot entering the last weekend. If the care about their playoff seed, they have to play to win Friday and probably Saturday. And if they want any chance of playing at home in the first round they need to sweep this weekend. Unless the Orioles help them against the Jays this weekend, they may need to go all out to the finish.

The Final Five

Here’s the breakdown of where the Yankees stand.

1-The Rays have a magic number of 1, so kiss the AL East goodbye.

2- The Twins won last night, so they have a 1-1/2 game lead on the Yankees. But, if they lose today or the Yankees win, the Yankees will have the tiebreaker.

3- One more win will lock the Yankees into the 4/5 series (barring a complete collapse by Tampa). That puts them in San Diego if they win their wild card series where they would face the winner of the 1/8 series.

4- The White Sox have lost three in a row, opening the door for Minnesota to win the Central. The White Sox would hold the tiebreaker over the Yankees for the fourth seed with a win today or tomorrow over Cleveland, or a Yankee loss to Toronto.

5- The NL is going to have a wild finish with six teams separated by two games fighting for four spots.

Now What?

The Yankees are going to the postseason. What remains to be seen is who they play in round 1 and where they play them. That will be determined by the final seven games, but we could know much sooner. Let’s break it down.

The division is a long shot at best. Baseball Prospectus puts the odds at 5%, which seems high when you consider that Tampa has to only go 3-3 this week to clinch.

These four games against the Jays could solve the puzzle. For one thing, if the Yankees split the series, they clinch second in the East. For another, they would also clinch the tiebreaker with Minnesota. The Twins have two more wins, but the teams are tied in the loss column and the Yankees currently hold the tiebreaker. No matter what the Twins do, a 2-2 split with Toronto gives the Yankees that tiebreaker.

But that could also setup a dilemma. The Yankees could head into the final three games locked into the 4 vs 5 wild card series with the seeding still undecided. Since the 4 seed hosts that series and the Yankees are 21-7 at home, it might make a lot of sense to try very hard to clinch that seed. (An additional factor is that the Twins are 21-5 at home, so getting them out of Minnesota is a good move). But the playoffs are going to be a brutal stretch. The only off days are the ones between series. So is it better to go into them fully rested and ready, or with an advantage of home field in round 1? The Yankees may have to choose.

A Great Escape

The Yankees should not have won this game, three errors, six? steals allowed, and way too many failures in moments that counted. But Loaisiga pitched two daredevil innings and LeMahieu delivered another huge hit. Add it up and the Yankees have their ninth-straight win.

And while the Rays won, the rest of the league broke the way the Yankees hoped. The Jays lost two to the Phillies, putting them four back with nine to play. They still have four left with the Yankees, but that’s a significant deficit.

Minnesota lost, and it seems pretty likely that they are headed for a playoff series with the Yankees, with the only question being which team hosts the series. Pretty much everyone else lost behind the Yankees, so they could actually clinch a playoff spot tomorrow with a win and some other teams losing.

Nine games to go.

The Final Ten

The Yankees showed what they are capable of by rattling off eight-straight wins and putting themselves in contention for a home playoff series when the playoffs start on September 29th.

First things first, the magic number for a playoff spot is four. The Yankees have a few teams that are chasing them, but if they finish the season 4-6, they will make the playoffs.

Finishing first in the division is going to be very tough. Tampa has a 3-1/2 game lead, a magic number of seven, and they hold the tiebreaker over the Yankees. If they go 4-5 over the final nine games (all against sub .500 teams) the Yankees have to go 9-1 to win the division.

Finishing second will most likely come down to the four games next week with Toronto. It could be totally unimportant, or important enough that it results in the Yankees hosting the wild card round of the playoffs. That will mostly depend on Minnesota, who the Yankees trail, but are even with in the loss column. Right now the Yankees hold the tiebreaker over Minnesota, thanks to a better intradivisional record.

So what does a Yankee fan root for over the final ten games? First, that the Yankees win. Then you should root for losses by Tampa, Toronto and Minnesota, not necessarily in that order. But the biggest thing you should want is that Gerrit Cole’s last meaningful start of the regular season is Tuesday in Buffalo. That we he can be ready to go on the 29th wherever the Yankees are.

How Much Trouble are the Yankees in?

Imagine an alternate reality. It’s September of 2020 in the good timeline and no one has ever heard of COVID-19. Here in that timeline you are getting back into the swing of school and the bustle of post-Labor Day life when you decide to look at the MLB standings. To your horror, you see that the Yankees, with only 18 games to play, have a 6-1/2 game deficit in the division and a 4-1/2 game deficit in the wild card.

Now back to our version of 2020 where the Yankees are 6-1/2 back in the division with 18 to play, but thanks to pandemicball, they are currently in the playoffs, but only with a 1/2-game margin. (I will mow pat myself on the back for finding something better about this version of 2020.)

Now, if the Yankees keep playing like the team that has gone 5-12 over the past few weeks, even the expanded playoffs won’t save them, but I believe there is a good enough baseball team in that clubhouse to salvage a playoff spot. But, it’s going to take some rethinking by Aaron Boone.

One of the things I have always liked about Boone is how he understood the length of the 162-game season. He didn’t get too high or too low depending on the situation and he always kept the big picture, of getting to the playoffs rested and ready in focus. But that’s entirely wrong for this moment. The Yankees are facing an 18-game sprint to the finish and then the playoffs in some sort of bubbled format. It’s all hands on deck and the most important game is today’s, you simply can’t worry about tomorrow’s, or next week’s. The best players play and the ones not producing sit. No one is safe unless they produce and no one has a defined role unless they produce. What does that look like?

Here’s my thought. LeMahieu, Voit, Frazier, Hicks, Andujar, and Torres are in the lineup everyday right now. Catcher, 2B, and DH/LF are wide-open to whoever hits. If Eric Kratz hits, Sanchez sits. On the pitching side, my rotation is Cole, Tanaka, and Happ, with two open spots. If Garcia pitches well today, he gets the ball in five days. If not, King or Schmidt step in. The bullpen is wide open with no defined roles.

Urgency starts at the top and it’s especially tough this year with zero fans to pump up the emotion. Boone’s going to have to set some fires and kick some asses over this final stretch.

Trade Deadline Blog

Welcome to the annual YR.com trade blog. Once again, we are at the MLB deadline so we are going to blog about it. The biggest deal of the day has probably already happened as Mike Clevinger is headed from Cleveland to San Diego. The Padres have been loading up and this is a huge pickup. They may be five games back, but with all the additions they’ve gotten this year, they should make the NL West very interesting.

2pm- Multiple reports that Robbie Ray is headed to Toronto. Electric arm, but 31 walks in 31 innings this year, so it’s not like when they traded for David Price in 2015.

2:45- Bringing Lance Lynn back would be interesting. The Yankees essentially made the wrong choice after the 2018 when they let Lynn go to Texas for 3/$30-m and brought Happ back for 2/$34-m plus an option in 2021 for $17-m.

3:05- The Marlins are buyers at the deadline, adding Marte from Arizona. 2020 is a Wild year.

3:10- The Marlins are sellers at the deadline, sending Villar to Toronto. 2020 is a Wild year.

3:14- MLB announces that the A’s-Mariners games scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday are postponed due to COVID.

3:20- Jon Heyman reports the Yankees aren’t optimistic.

3:30- David Phelps is heading to Philly from Milwaukee. Does this mean the Brewers are sellers?

3:49- Red Sox trade Kevin Pilar to Rockies for the famous PTBNL

4pm- times up! But announcements can still come in.

4:06- Reds getting Archie Bradley and Cubs getting Maybin

4:08- Lance Lynn isn’t getting traded.

4:10- Mets get Robinson Chirinos

4:12- Bryan Hoch quotes Boone as saying nothing happened on the Yankees front.

4:14- It’s always dangerous to react to small samples, but if I’m the Yankees, Garcia is getting the ball every fifth day from here on out.

4:23- Yankee lineup tonight 3-6 hitters are Ford, Frazier, Tauchman, and Urshela.

Halfway Done

The Yankees played their 30th game today which means they are halfway to finishing the season. At 17-13, they are 3-1/2 games out of first at this writing only 1-game ahead in the race for a wild card spot. They would project to an 92-70 record over a 162-game season.

Yes, they’ve had plenty of injuries, but who hasn’t? Their rotation has been a mess behind Cole and Tanaka and the bullpen has choked away a lot of leads. Tomorrow they are giving the ball to Mike King and Devi Garcia for the doubleheader in an obvious showcase/see if they can help us now situation. What those two do tomorrow will go a long way to helping the Yankees decide what to do by the Monday trade deadline. Personally, I would stand pat, unless Cleveland suddenly decides it wants to trade one of its starters that will be under team control for the next few years.

They’re are just too many X factors this year. A COVID strike at the wrong moment could wipe out a portion of the team. We may not even get the season completed. LeMahieu came back today, Judge, Stanton, and Torres will follow, the playoffs can be made from third place. Going all in on this season is a bad bet.

How to Wreck a Pitching Staff in Three Easy Steps

1- Lose a weekend to your opponent failing COVID tests

2- Lose your next game to rain.

3- Have MLB schedule three doubleheaders, and an additional single game, over the next five days.

That’s right, here’s the future the Yankees currently face. Two games in Atlanta tomorrow, an off day to travel back to NY on Thursday, a doubleheader against the Mets on Friday, a single game against them on Saturday, and another doubleheader against them on Sunday. This is going to be nuts. (Oh, and it’s worth noting the Yankees have one day off the rest of the season after Thursday).

This isn’t may the better team win, its may the team with the most pitchers win. With seven games in five days, the Yankees will have to use seven starters and make multiple moves to shore up a bullpen that is certain to be running on fumes. They’ve announced Cole and Tanaka are going tomorrow (makes sense since it lines them up for the Rays next week). I would expect Happ or Montgomery on Friday in Game 1 with Loaisiga or King in Game 2. The flip of Happ/Montgomery for Saturday and then Sunday will probably be the flip of Loaisiga/King for one game and an opener for the other. Meanwhile, the trade deadline is Monday, and this could send the Yankees shopping, though I would be surprised to see them trade for a pitcher who wouldn’t be under team control next year. Remember, Tanaka, Paxton, and probably Happ are all free agents after this season, so the future rotation is looking a bit thin.

Of course any of this could blow up at any minute. That’s the lesson of 2020.

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