The Yankees presently sit at 52-33, a .617 winning percentage that is the best in baseball, despite early claims of the Rangers' invincibility and the complaints of the Yankees hitting too many homers. The season's first half was weird in quite a few ways though. Alex Rodriguez leads the team with nine stolen bases. Eric Chavez is only hitting .286, but he has as many hits as Russell Martin in 97 fewer plate appearances. The Yankees went 5-7 against the Rays, the only team to play more than three games against them and have an over-.500 winning percentage, but they still presently sit 7.5 games ahead of Tampa, so the Yankees are fortunate that the Rays haven't played as well against non-Yankee teams (hell, they even got swept by the other New York team during interleague play).
Perhaps the strangest anomaly I noticed though was that the schedule-makers only arranged for two Yankees-Blue Jays games in the first half, and the two teams will thus play 16 games in the second half to make up the deficit. 16 games would be 20.78% of the remaining schedule. One out of every five games the Yankees will play in the second half will be against Jose Bautista and those crazy Canucks. I really don't know how this happened. I can't imagine the logistical nightmare that goes along with planning 162-game schedules for 30 teams, but it just seems odd that the Yankees couldn't play a division rival more than two times in the first 85 games of a season. I hope you enjoy the Rogers Centre, because the Yankees will be seeing a lot of it in the second half.
Although the Yankees will be playing the Blue Jays in one out of every five games in the second half, this statistic does not, of course, literally mean that every five days, the Yankees will ditch the team they're currently playing and run off to make sweet baseball with Joey Bats. The MLB schedule would be even sillier if that was the case. (Imagine though- Joe Mauer: Hey, I thought we were playing the Yankees today! /turns on TV, sees Yankees playing Toronto/ THOSE CHEATING BASTARDS). Here's a quick breakdown of the Yankees' second-half foes:
Games at home: 41
Games on the road: 37
Games against teams over .500: 33
Games against teams at or below .500: 44
TOR (43-43, 2-0 vs. NYY): 16 (7 away, 9 home)
BOS (43-43, 1-5 vs. NYY): 12 (3 away, 9 home)
BAL (45-40, 3-5 vs. NYY): 10 (4 away, 6 home)
OAK (43-43, 0-3 vs. NYY): 7 (4 away, 3 home)
SEA (36-51, 1-2 vs. NYY): 6 (3 away, 3 home)
TBR (45-51, 7-5 vs. NYY): 6 (3 away, 3 home)
DET (44-42, 2-4 vs. NYY): 4 (4 away)
TEX (52-34, 2-1 vs. NYY): 4 (4 home)
CHW (47-38, 2-2 vs. NYY): 3 (3 away)
CLE (44-41, 3-0 vs. NYY): 3 (3 away)
LAA (48-38, 3-3 vs. NYY): 3 (3 home)
MIN (36-49, 2-2 vs. NYY): 3 (3 away)
A quick look at these numbers shows that the Yankees have a fairly good chance at finishing up the AL East race early if they do their job. A slight majority of the games will be played at home in Yankee Stadium, which is always an advantage. Even when the Yankees are on the road, they've shown that they have a good chance to win since they actually have a slightly better winning percentage on the road than at home (almost negligible- .614 to .610). Don't listen to other forms of media fool you into thinking that the Yankees don't hit as well away from the short porch, too--they actually have scored more runs per game on the road than at home (4.63 to 5.05).
Fortunately, the majority of the Yankees' second-half opponents are also currently playing at a .500 or below-.500 pace. Now teams flutter over and below .500 all the time during the season, so the actual number of teams under .500 may vary, but there are really only three other teams playing nearly as well as the Yankees--the Rangers, Angels, and White Sox. Fortunately again, the Yankees will play a combined ten games against these teams, all but the three with the Surprisin' Sox (who are playing over their heads and will likely cool off somewhat) at home. Three of those games will be out of the way after this weekend, as the Yankees start the second half with a home series against the Angels. Now, let's see where the Yankees will end up if they play optimally in each series of the second half. The most common definition of playing optimally says "sweep the bad teams, take two out of three from the good ones." I take that definition and take it a little further. If you're playing against bad teams on the road, it's okay to spot the bad team at least one game when playing optimally since they are the home team after all, and home teams don't often get swept. In a four-game series on the road against a good or even an average team, a split is fine since playing at .500 baseball on the road is above-average. If playing a bad team though, three out of four should still be taken. At this point though, only the Mariners and Twins can be classified as truly bad though, so this exception to the rule won't be applied much. Keep in mind that this whole exercise is not my actual prediction and is an estimation of extremes, and this is about as optimal an outlook as you will get since it involves the Yankees not losing any series.
Present record: 52-33
July 13-15 vs. Angels- Home series, good team = Two out of three (54-34)
July 16-18 vs. Blue Jays- Home series, average team = Two out of three (56-35)
July 19-22 @ Oakland- Away series, average team = 2-2 Split (58-37)
July 23-25 @ Seattle- Away series, poor team = Two out of three (60-38)
July 27-29 vs. Red Sox- Home series, average team = Two out of three (62-39)
July 30-August 1 vs. Orioles- Home series, average team = Two out of three (64-40)
August 3-5 vs. Mariners- Home series, poor team = Three-game sweep (67-40)
August 6-9 @ Tigers- Away series, average team = 2-2 Split (69-42)
August 10-12 @ Blue Jays- Away series, average team = Two out of three (71-43)
August 13-16 vs. Rangers- Home series, good team = Three out of four (74-44)
August 17-19 vs. Red Sox- Home series, average team = Two out of three (76-45)
August 20-22 @ White Sox- Away series, good team = Two out of three (78-46)
August 24-26 @ Indians- Away series, average team = Two out of three (80-47)
August 27-29 vs. Blue Jays- Home series, average team = Two out of three (82-48)
August 31-September 2 vs. Orioles- Home series, average team = Two out of three (84-49)
September 3-5 @ Rays- Away series, average team = Two out of three (86-50)
September 6-9 @ Orioles- Away series, average team = 2-2 Split (88-52)
September 11-13 @ Red Sox- Away series, average team = Two out of three (90-53)
September 14-16 vs. Rays- Home series, average team = Two out of three (92-54)
September 18-20 vs. Blue Jays- Home series, average team = Two out of three (94-55)
September 21-23 vs. A's- Home series, average team = Two out of three (96-56)
September 24-26 @ Twins- Away series, poor team = Two out of three (98-57)
September 27-30 @ Blue Jays- Away series, average team = 2-2 Split (100-59)
October 1-3 vs. Red Sox- Home series, average team = Two out of three (102-60)
In this extremely optimal schedule, the Yankees finish with a record of 102-60. It's a high expectation to forecast a 100-win season in Spring Training, and it should speak to the incredibility of this feat that even with the team playing this well, they barely crack 100 wins. Still, we should assume some series losses to the average and good teams mixed in there that knock the total down by about five when mixed with the also-unexpected Yankee sweeps of other teams. This adjustment would put the Yankees at about 96 wins, which should certainly be enough for the American League East crown considering the fact that the other teams would have to play .650 baseball in the second half to reach that mark.
As long as the Yankees keep up the good work and don't hit an awful slide, another division title looks to be awaiting them. Just hope each player is being put in bubble wrap after each game.