Yankees likely need another September to remember to make the Wild Card

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The Yankees have recovered from the lows of early August to vault back into the playoff race, but they are going to need an incredible September to become a playoff team.

As September began, the Yankees were 72-63, a .533 winning percentage that was much better than the .504 of the 57-56 mark for the season after the three-game sweep at the hands of the White Sox on August 5-7. However, while the Yankees' 15-7 mark for the remainder of August ranked among the best in baseball, they still have significant work to do before they can even be in a position to move into the second WIld Card spot. The Rays currently occupy that second position with a .556 winning percentage, which is on pace for about 90 wins.

To reach that plateau, the Yankees need an 18-9 September, a .667 winning percentage for the month. It seems like a daunting task, but the Yankees have matched that pace 26 times in franchise history:

Rk Split Year W-L% W L
1 NYY Sept/Oct 1952 .792 19 5
2 NYY Sept/Oct 1995 .786 22 6
3 NYY Sept/Oct 1931 .778 21 6
4 NYY Sept/Oct 1960 .759 22 7
5 NYY Sept/Oct 1980 .758 25 8
6 NYY Sept/Oct 1927 .750 21 7
7 NYY Sept/Oct 1955 .739 17 6
8 NYY Sept/Oct 1961 .733 22 8
9 NYY Sept/Oct 1964 .727 24 9
10 NYY Sept/Oct 1921 .719 23 9
11 NYY Sept/Oct 1978 .719 23 9
12 NYY Sept/Oct 1942 .708 17 7
13 NYY Sept/Oct 2002 .704 19 8
14 NYY Sept/Oct 2007 .704 19 8
15 NYY Sept/Oct 1933 .692 18 8
16 NYY Sept/Oct 1924 .692 18 8
17 NYY Sept/Oct 1935 .680 17 8
18 NYY Sept/Oct 1939 .679 19 9
19 NYY Sept/Oct 1943 .677 21 10
20 NYY Sept/Oct 2003 .667 18 9
21 NYY Sept/Oct 1919 .667 16 8
22 NYY Sept/Oct 1951 .667 18 9
23 NYY Sept/Oct 1949 .667 20 10
24 NYY Sept/Oct 1920 .667 18 9
25 NYY Sept/Oct 2005 .667 20 10
26 NYY Sept/Oct 1977 .667 20 10
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 9/2/2013.

It's remarkable that once every for years, the franchise could have such a hot month so late in the season, but then again, Yankees gonna Yankee. Unsurprisingly, just six of those 26 teams failed to reach the playoffs, and all that missed out played in the pre-1968 era before divisions.

The Yankees have had a .667 September in four of their last eleven Septembers. In two of those years, it was particuarly necessary to play well down the stretch, as the Yankees were in tight contention for a playoff spot. In '05, the Yankees entered September 2.5 games behind the Red Sox for the division lead and a mere game ahead of the Angels for the Wild Card. Their .667 month tied the Red Sox for the AL East lead and they won the division title in a tiebreaker, just two games ahead of the Wild Card runner-up Indians. In '07, the Yankees rebounded from a 21-29 start in late May to move to a couple games ahead of the Mariners and Tigers entering the month, and a .704 month really helped them put some distance between them and their Wild Card contenders.

If the Yankees just win every series for the rest of this month, they will go 18-9 and reach 90 victories. Obviously sweeps against lesser teams like the White Sox, Giants, and Blue Jays could give the Yankees some insurance as they face the tougher division rivals throughout the month, including seven in a row on the road against the Orioles and Red Sox from September 9-15. It may very well come down to whether or not the Yankees can sweep the nigh-100 loss Astros in the final series of the season. The Rays and Orioles are currently ahead of the Yankees, but they will have a chance to draw closer to them with several games against them this month.

Both Jesse and Chris have made some of these points in recent articles, but it's comforting to know there's significant historical precedent beyond a couple of sensational seasons. Hell, even a .704 month of 19-8 to reach 91 wins seems hellish, but even that has been done 14 times.The Yankees have a strong history of finishing strong. Keeping up with that tradition would put them in a solid position to actually make some hay in this damn playoff race after all.

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