Baltimore Isn’t The Problem

I know there is a tremendous amount of hand-wringing in Yankeeland right now over the fact that a ten game lead has evaporated to one. You can pick a number of different excuses for the current malaise, but the numbers say that the Yankees have been a tad unlucky while the Orioles have been very lucky and the Rays have been really unlucky. Let me explain.

On July 18th, the Yankees’ record was 57-34 and they had a ten-game lead over Baltimore. Since then, the Yankees have gone 19-24 while Baltimore has gone 28-15, cutting that lead down to one single game. Yet, when you look at run differentials, they tell a completely different story. New York has scored 191 runs and given up 185, that should translate to an actual record of 22-21, but it hasn’t.

Meanwhile, Baltimore has scored 195 runs while giving up 170. That should translate to a record of 24-19. If those two records panned out, the Yankees would currently have a lead of eight games and everyone would be feeling great this morning.

But, take a look at Tampa. They have scored 183 runs since July 18th while surrendering only 102. That should translate to a record of 32-11, but they have “only” gone 27-16.

Now, let’s look at the entire season and that makes the picture even clearer. The Yankees are 76-58 and run differentials show that is exactly where they should be. Baltimore is 75-59, but run differentials shows they should be 64-70. How are they so much better than their run differential? They are 24-7 in one-run games. That means their winning percentage is .774 in one-run games, a rate that would break a record that has stood for 104 years. (1908 Pirates went 33-12 in one-run games for a .733 winning percentage.)

But, once again, take a look at Tampa. Their run differential suggests they should be 77-58, or one game better than the Yankees right now. And take a look at Tampa’s rotation. Shields, Price, Moore and Helickson represent the best rotation in the AL and probably baseball right now. I know the Rays’ offense isn’t much, but this really seems to be a team built for success in October. And with five games left with the Yankees and six with Baltimore, Tampa will have plenty of chances to get there.

So, what can we expect over the final 28 games? I would dare to say that Baltimore implodes at some point, while the Yankees and the Rays fight down to the wire for the AL East crown. New York has a 2.5-game lead over the team they should fear the most. That’s not an insignificant number at this point, but one that could be whittled to 0.5 over the next two days.