Sunday, July 3, 2022

The Yankees are playing at a 119-win pace; here’s how they compare to other great teams through 60 games

Coming into the 2022 season, the New York Yankees were expected to contend for the AL East title and possibly a World Series title as well. Now two months into the season, the Yankees have established themselves as the class of baseball, and are putting themselves in position to go down as one of the best teams of the wild card era.

The Yankees swept an overmatched Chicago Cubs team at Yankee Stadium this past weekend — the Yankees outscored Chicago 28-5 in the three games — to improve their record to an MLB best 44-16. They are the only team in baseball with fewer than 22 losses. Here are the top of league standings as of Monday morning:

  1. New York Yankees:  44-16
  2. New York Mets: 40-22 (5 GB)
  3. Los Angeles Dodgers: 37-23 (7 GB)
  4. Houston Astros: 37-23 (7 GB)
  5. San Diego Padres: 37-24 (7 1/2 GB)

The gap between the Yankees and the No. 2 team is the same as the gap between the No. 2 team and the No. 8 team. The Yankees are on pace to win a would-be record 119 games, and while that’s unlikely to happen, they only have to play .500 ball from here on out to win 95 games. That should be plenty enough to clinch a postseason spot. They only need to play at an 89-win pace the rest of the season to win 100 games.

“It’s so much fun watching this group compete,” Matt Carpenter told MLB.com following his two-homer effort Sunday. “I just love coming to the ballpark every day, coming into the clubhouse with this group of guys.”  

This 44-16 start is the fifth best 60-game start in franchise history behind 1939 (47-13), 1998 (46-14), 1953 (46-14), and 1928 (45-15). The Yankees won the World Series those four seasons, though it should be noted there was only one postseason round in 1928, 1939, and 1953. You didn’t have to win multiple series to win a title those days. The game has changed.

The Yankees are the 38th team in history to win at least 42 of their first 60 games and only the 16th team to win at least 44 of their first 60 games. Excluding the strike-shortened 1995 season and the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, the Yankees are the seventh team in the wild card era to win at least 42 of their first 60 games. The other six:

2017 Astros

42-18

101-61

Won World Series

2016 Cubs

42-18

103-58

Won World Series

2001 Mariners

47-13

116-46

Lost ALCS

1998 Yankees

46-14

114-48

Won World Series

1998 Braves

42-18

106-56

Lost NLCS

1997 Orioles

42-18

98-64

Lost ALCS

The fact only — “only” — three of those six teams won the World Series is a reminder being a great regular season team and being a great postseason team are different things. Weird things happen in short postseason series, like that Orioles team losing to an 86-win Cleveland team in six games in the 1997 ALCS. Start this well and you have a chance at a memorable season though.

You don’t win 42 (or 44, in the Yankees’ case) of your first 60 games by accident and you don’t win that many games by having a significant, exploitable weakness. The common thread among those six clubs is they were among the league’s best teams in every phase of the game. They could hit, they could pitch, and they could play defense. They had no glaring deficiencies.

Here is where those six clubs, as well as these 2022 Yankees, ranked among the 30 teams in runs scored per game, runs allowed per game, and defensively efficiency (i.e. percentage of batted balls turned into outs):

2022 Yankees

2nd

1st

2nd

2017 Astros

1st

9th

24th

2016 Cubs

3rd

1st

1st

2001 Mariners

1st

1st

1st

1998 Yankees

1st

5th

1st

1998 Braves

9th (3rd in NL)

1st

4th

1997 Orioles

4th

5th

3rd

The 2017 Astros are the outlier given their good but not amazing pitching (remember, Justin Verlander didn’t join Houston until late August that year), and near bottom of the league defense. And, frankly, everything the Astros accomplished in 2017 is clouded in skepticism given the sign-stealing scandal. The pattern is obvious though. To win as much as those teams did, you have to be great at everything. Good isn’t enough. You need to be great, and the Yankees have been.

“It’s been nice that (the wins are) coming in a lot of different ways,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone told MLB.com last month. “I think that’s built a lot of confidence in that room that we know, we don’t have to lean on one thing on a given night. We have a lot of different ways to beat you.”    

This past offseason the Yankees addressed their most glaring weaknesses by improving their infield defense and cutting down on strikeouts. Out went Gary Sánchez, Luke Voit, and Gio Urshela, and in came Josh Donaldson, Isiah Kiner-Falefa, and Jose Trevino. Re-signing Anthony Rizzo and moving Gleyber Torres to second base full-time helped as well. As does Aaron Judge‘s MVP-caliber season. He’s hitting .318/.391/.686 with 24 home runs, seven more than any other player.

New York’s starting pitchers lead baseball in WAR (7.3) and $324 million man Gerrit Cole has legitimately been their worst starter. He has a 3.63 ERA following his five-homer drubbing last week. Every other starter has a sub-3.00 ERA, and bullpen revelation Clay Holmes has not allowed a run since Opening Day. Top to bottom, the Yankees are a run prevention powerhouse.

The Yankees are not without their flaws. Setup man Chad Green was lost to Tommy John surgery and two other important relievers are on the injured list (Aroldis Chapman and Jonathan Loáisiga), and some nights a third of their lineup is a black hole because Kiner-Falefa, Joey Gallo, and Aaron Hicks haven’t hit much. The Yankees have overcome those issues to date, but there are things this team can — and surely wants to before October — improve.

Sixty games does not a season make, and the Yankees are about to begin maybe their toughest stretch of the year. They will play 20 games in 20 days beginning Tuesday, and the first 12 games are against the Astros, the Tampa Bay Rays, and the Toronto Blue Jays. All postseason clubs if the season started today and arguably the three best non-Yankees team in the American League. The Yankees have built themselves a nice cushion though, and they’re a more well-rounded club than they’ve been the last few years. 

“We’ve always felt we’ve had good players,” Yankees GM Brian Cashman told NJ.com last month. “We always felt we had the capability of a really good team. Now it’s time to test those theories, and so far in the very early portion of our season it’s going quite well.”  

Related articles

Comments

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Share article

Latest articles

Newsletter

Subscribe to stay updated.