When the Yankees officially come out of the All-Star break tomorrow, they will begin with a 64-28 record and a 13-game lead in the AL East. Each of those figures are the best in all of baseball, which is no surprise given how incredibly well this team has played thus far. Coming into this campaign, the Yankees were supposed to be good, boasting some of the league’s more ambitious projections and playoff odds, and they have blown those expectations out of the water. Aaron Boone’s ballclub has put itself in a supremely enviable spot, and are in as good a situation as anyone to make a run to and through the postseason.
Before the 2022 season kicked off, the Yankees had baseball’s fourth-highest playoff odds according to FanGraphs and the second-highest in their division, behind the Blue Jays. They had the fifth-highest World Series odds at 9.7 percent, and 34.6-percent odds to win their division. Things have obviously changed since then, as New York owns a top-three spot in each of those categories, including 98.7-percent odds to win the East, and 14.3 percent World Series odds, behind just the Astros and Dodgers.
Perhaps most notably, the Yankees entered the season with 32.1-percent odds to clinch a bye, and they have improved that to today’s aforementioned mark of 98.7 percent.
Given the new postseason format implemented for this year, where the two best division winners in each league get a first-round bye, this improvement is supremely important. This is because, though unsatisfying to think about, the postseason is a bit of crapshoot. The “best team” is largely determined over the course of the season, and the postseason is just a fun tournament at the end of the year. That’s not really how it’s seen, or even how it should be, but regarding true representation of a team, it’s more accurate.
If you were to hypothetically throw a mediocre, sub-.500 team into the postseason bracket, that team would win at least some percent of the time. The 2006 Cardinals captured a championship despite a mere 83-78 record and the 1973 Mets were a win away from doing the same with an 82-79 mark. Anomalies happen. So, if the Yankees put themselves in a situation where they don’t have to play a first-round series, that greatly helps the likelihood of hoisting a trophy in October. This is especially the case the first round that they’d be avoiding is a risky best-of-three.
Although the Yankees’ various odds have gotten about as good as they can get, there are still 70 baseball games left to play for the Bombers. As far as the remaining season goes, New York falls right in the middle of the leaderboard for remaining strength of schedule. Their future opponents have a winning percentage of .502, good for 15th in baseball, and their .505 opponent’s winning percentage up to this point was the 14th-highest in the sport. The aforementioned rest-of-season mark is also the fourth-lowest in the East. They have rolled through just about everyone they’ve seen so far, and the remaining schedule doesn’t inspire much doubt in that continuing.
The rest of July is somewhat light for the Yanks, outside of two games each against the Astros and Mets. August is no cakewalk, as they have two series against the surging Mariners, a trip to St. Louis to face MVP candidate Paul Goldschmidt and his NL Central contenders, and 12 games in as many days against the Red Sox, Rays, Blue Jays, and Mets (again). But it wraps up with two series against A’s and the Angels — a tiring West Coast trip, but a manageable one. The final month sees the Yankees playing each of their division foes, as well as tough matchups with Minnesota and Milwaukee. These are some of the more daunting tasks ahead, but if there’s anything this team has showed us, it’s that they are up to them.
The Yankees have been excellent, and are in a much better spot than originally projected. They have the best record in baseball and are projected to finish north of 103 wins. Even if they played .500 ball the rest of the way, that would put them at 99. New York now finds itself in about as good a spot as possibly, looking nearly locked into a bye for the first round of the postseason, and their healthy lead affords them the ability to use the roster in a way that maximizes them for a deep run. As the deadline approaches, and the Yankees look to get even better, they have done the work to set themselves up for success in the second half and beyond.