100 Wins

If I had told me you back in March that the Yankees would win 100 games, I imagine you would have been thrilled. After all they had done it 19–times previously and won their division every time. (Well since divisions came into existence in 1969). Now they join the 2001 A’s, 1993 Giants, and 1980 Orioles as the only teams to win 100, or more, games and not win their division. And they face a do-or-die game to advance in the playoffs on Wednesday. That’s rough, but before you complain, remember that the 1980 Orioles and 1993 Giants didn’t even get that chance, they just went home for the offseason.

We should have a fun scoreboard-watching day today. The Cubs and Brewers are tied and the Dodgers and Rockies are also tied. All four teams are in the playoffs, but two will win their divisions and two will be wild cards. If the ties are not broken today, we will have two playoff games tomorrow with the winners heading to the NLDS and the losers heading to face each other in the wild card on Tuesday. That’s what I am rooting for today.

Three Things Left

The Yankees wrapped up home field for Wednesday tonight and got the added bonus of seeing Didi and Hicks return and be effective.

There are three things left for the Yankees to do during these next two “exhibition” games.

1- Hit a home run. One more homer sets the all-time team record.

2- Throw Chapman in both games. They have to know what he can and can’t do in October.

3- Use Wade as a pinch runner with a base to steal and see what happens. If the Yankees need a stolen base in a close game, he is probably the guy who should be asked to do it.

And that’s about it. If you can’t win your division, the next best result is to play a wild card game at home. Mission accomplished.

What Will Boston Do?

The cloud hanging over the Yankees-Red Sox series this weekend is the chance that both teams will be right back in Boston next Friday with much higher stakes. Boston of course is a lock to be there. The Yankees have a tough game Wednesday that could be tougher if they have to play it in Oakland.

The question is, what will the Red Sox do knowing they may have to play “real” games against NY in a week? They have nothing to win this weekend and while forcing the Yankees to travel out to Oakland before possibly heading to Boston is appealing, they would need to sweep this weekend and have Oakland sweep the Angels. I’m not sure that will even factor into their calculations. I know if the situation was reversed, I would want the Yankees to tune up for the playoffs while avoiding any reliever matchups I might want to use next week.

I find it interesting that Happ is getting the ball tonight. I think it almost guarantees he is pitching Wednesday and therefore could start Game 3 of the ALDS. I think the Yankees pitch Lynn tomorrow whatever happens, but Severino only starts Sunday if homefield is still up in the air. The Yankees will hope to wrap that up tonight and enjoy their weekend.

The best parallel to these three games I can think of is the annual Giants-Patriots exhibition game that closes out the preseason. Neither team wants to show too much and avoiding injury is the key. It’s weird to think of Yankees-Sox games with so little on 5he line, but that could also just be the calm before th3 storm.

Where Things Stand

The Yankees are in the wild card game and they will face Oakland, the only question is where will the game be played?

Currently, the Yankees lead the A’s by 1-1/2 games meaning they would host the game. Where things get tricky is if the two teams finish the season tied, say the Yankees go 3-4 and the A’s go 4-2. The answer is the Yankees would still host the game because while the two teams finished the year tied head-to-head, the Yankees have the better intradivisiomal record by 4-1/2 games and there is no way the A’s can make that deficit up while tying the Yankees in the standings. So, the A’s only host the wild card game if they lead the Yankees by a game or more when the season ends.

It’s still a bit tricky because the A’s have played one more game currently, so here’s an easy way to think of it- the magic number is five. Now, no formula for the magic number will show you that, but trust me.

Ok, you still doubt me. Then do this-Take the A’s final six games, assign them a total number of losses and then give the Yankees two more than that. For example, you expect the A’s to go undefeated, then the Yankees can lose two games the rest of the year. Anything more, and Oakland hosts the wild card, anything less or equal to, the Yankees do. Or, the magic number is five 😉

Danger Ahead

As the Yankees strive to win a wild card spot, they would be wise to take advantage of this weekend’s series with Baltimore because there is a possible nightmare ahead of them.

The magic number is 3, so sweeping this weekend gets them a wild card spot, but anything less than that sends them to Tampa for four games against one of the hottest teams in baseball. Since the end of July, Tampa has gone 31-14, that’s an 111-win pace over more than a quarter of the season. It’s why Kevin Cash deserves series consideration for manager of the year and why the Yankees really need to take care of business this weekend.

The Rays could be eliminated from playoff contention this weekend, it would take a combination of four Tampa losses and Oakland wins. But if they are not, they are going to be reall6 motivated come Monday. And with the AL East settled, the best scenario for the Yankees is hosting the wild card game. Baltimore is an 108-game losing team and taking two of three should be the minimum expectation this weekend. That would lower the clinch number to 1 at worst. Anything else, and next week will be far too interesting.

Best Red Sox Team Ever?

No is the answer.

Thrilled to see the Red Sox clinch the AL East last night in New York (John Sterling’s turn in the booth notwithstanding…but to be fair, his call was actual perfectly fine as it didn’t include some of the usual silliness that accompanies).

Is this the best Red Sox team ever?  Certainly based on their regular season record it will be, but unless they run the table and win the World Series, then no.  A World Series win is a must.

Looking at the Red Sox playoff prospects means we have to look at Red Sox rotation:

Post Season Record:

Chris Sale – 0-2, 9.2 IP, 13 H, 9 ER, 1 BB, 12 K’s, 8.38 ERA, 1.44 WHIP

Rick Porcello – 0-3, 24.2 IP, 29 H, 15 ER, 5 BB, 23 K’s, 5.47 ERA, 1.378 WHIP

David Price – 2-8, 61 IP, 66 H, 40 ER, 10 BB, 54 K’s, 5.90 ERA, 1.246 WHIP (as a starter)

Yikes?

If you think Eduardo Rodriguez will come to the rescue, here is his post season line:

Rodriguez – 0-0, 0 IP, 1 H, 2 ER, 0 BB, 0 K’s, 1 HBP, Infinite ERA, Infinite WHIP.

Drew Pomerantz?

Pomerantz – 0-1, 5.2 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 1 HR, 2 BB, 7 K’s, 9.53 ERA, 2.118 WHIP

 

There’s really nowhere to hide with this staff.  It all boils down to pitching, we know the Red Sox can hit, but if they don’t have starters who can go 5-6, heaven forbid 7 innings, there’s really nothing to talk about.  The existing cast of characters has had no post-season success so I’m not overly optimistic about their chances at another World Series.

Maybe this will be the year each starter figures it out, but the odds look long.

Any don’t get me started on the bullpen…

They Made It

The AP is reporting that the Yankees have come in under the luxury tax. This means that they have reset their tax rate and would pay 20% next year on any payroll amount between $206 and $226 million. (Here’s how the whole thing works if you are interested.)

The Yankees will have a bunch of really interesting decisions to make in the coming months. Do they try to buy out arbitration years from some of their young stars? Do they seek a big free agent? We won’t know until we see how the season ends and while the panic alarm keeps getting louder, it is worth remembering that the Yankees are pretty much where we thought they would be a month ago- heading to the wild card game. With Judge hitting baseballs again and Chapman rumored to be returning next week, things should look a bit brighter soon. Plus, the two closest teams to them in the wild card face each other over the weekend.

It Was Twenty Years Ago Today…

SiriusXM Radio did a countdown of the 100 greatest Beatles songs last weekend and it was great. The number one song was “A Day in the Life” which put me in the mood to listen to Sgt Peppers again and when the title track started, it triggered a memory. (Digression time- my original cassette copy of this album started with “Strawberry Fields Forever” and “Penny Lane” before the title track, which I subsequently learned wasn’t how it was originally released. It changed the whole meaning of the album for me.)

Back to the memory, it was September 9th, 1998, when I sat down the first base line in Fenway and watched the greatest team I ever saw in person, clinch the AL East. It was great seeing that happen behind enemy lines and I remember having a very hoarse voice at work the next day. Anyway, happy anniversary Yankee fans!

Like the ‘98 edition, the current Yankees are probably destined to play dramaless baseball the final three weeks of the season as well. With 20 games left, they are 7-1/2 out of the division and 11-games up on the wild card. They may sweat the race to host the wild card game a bit, but that’s a small thing compared to the three big questions hanging over them-

1- Can Judge make it back?
2- Can Chapman?
3- Who starts a wild card game?

The first two are huge with only three weeks left in the year, because without those two, the Yankees are greatly diminished. The final question is impossible to answer right now other than to say it won’t be Sonny Gray. Any of their five starters could be the answer, depending on the location, the matchup, and how they finish the season. With Severino falling apart in the second half (6.95 ERA) the Yankees don’t have a clear ace to start a do or die game. They will have to assemble all the data, study the matchup, and make a good guess. That’s the uncomfortable reality of where they currently stand.