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The historically unfortunate spot the Yankees are stuck in

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Having a winning percentage this high and still not leading a division is a pretty rare thing.

MLB: New York Mets at New York Yankees Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports

Thanks to the sweep in Boston a few weeks ago, the Yankees’ chances at winning the AL East are pretty slim. It would take a incredible winning run, or a hilarious Red Sox slump, probably both. It’s understandable to feel a little disillusioned about the team because of that. Even after the sweep, they won seven of nine, but still can’t gain any ground on Boston. They haven’t been playing great of late. Going into Wednesday’s game, the Yankees are .500 for August.

Yet a lot of their currently situation is that they’re stuck in a historically rare spot. Before Wednesday night’s game against the Rays, the Yankees’ winning percentage was .630. Since the three division/wild-card era, only one team with a winning percentage that high hasn’t won their division. The 2001 Athletics finished with 102 wins, which is also what the Yankees are on pace to do. They still finished 14 games back in the AL West, thanks to the Mariners’ record-tying year.

From 1996 to 2017, only 15 teams have won 102 or more games. The Yankees are on pace to do something that essentially only happens two times in every three years. Yet, they’re still stuck 10 games back. For all the recent struggles, the situation the Yankees are in is just poor fortune more than anything.

Obviously the counter to that would be that the Yankees have struggled against the likes of the Orioles. That’s not wrong, but going through ups and downs is just something normal baseball teams do, even really good ones. If you consider the bunch of the Orioles losses as unexpected, you would have to concede that a decent chunk of the 15-5 record against the non-Red Sox teams currently in the AL races to be unexpected wins. That’s an incredibly good record against some of the other best teams in baseball.

The Yankees’ current record is probably right around where they should be. They’re actually outplaying their Pythagorean record by two wins. This Yankees team is far from perfect. However, their current AL East situation shouldn’t be used as something to write them off in the playoffs.

Will they win the World Series? Odds are against it. That has nothing to do with how good they are, and all to do with the fact that it’s really hard. An entire 162-game season gets boiled down to something where teams are playing either 19 or 20 games maximum. The small sample size factor also can be held against the Red Sox chances too. Bottom line is: the Yankees are really good team who just happen to be stuck behind another really good team.