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Don’t look now, but after a disastrous August, the Yankees appear to be picking up some steam, as they have now won six of their last eight games after starting the month 0-2. But even as the AL East division race narrows, there’s only one thing on everybody’s mind: Aaron Judge’s chase for 61. Not surprisingly, No. 99’s historic run leads this round of SB Nation Reacts.
A whopping 82 percent of Yankees fans believe that, after standing for 61 years, Roger Maris’s single-season franchise record of 61 home runs, set in 1961, will at last fall. Another 12 percent believe Judge will at least tie either Maris or Ruth and put himself into the top three. On top of that, 11 percent see him at least matching the 66 home runs Sammy Sosa put up in 1998, which would put him third all-time.
That reflects a massive change from mid-August, when only 38 percent of Yankees fans believed that Judge had a real shot at Maris’s record, let alone the all-time one. The clock, of course, is ticking. The Yankees only have 21 games left to play, meaning that he needs to hit one home run every 3.5 games to match Maris, one every 1.9 games to match Sosa, and almost a home run per game to match Bonds. Nonetheless, the chase will be exciting to follow down the stretch — and it’s not like Judge hasn’t gone on a home run tear before.
As for the team as a whole, fans are a little down on a team that, at time of writing, holds a 5.5-game lead in the division, as only 84 percent of fans see the team winning of the division.
Perhaps it’s not surprising. After watching a 15-game lead dwindle all the way to 3.5 this weekend, fans have a right to be nervous. The bad vibes of a 10-18 month take time to dissipate. If anything, the fact that this number is as high as it currently is reflects renewed belief in the offensive and pitching staff, which have put together strong performances over the last week.
[Note: The below polls were conducted among all baseball fans, not just the Yankees’.]
Still, the division race isn’t what we care about; we want to win the pennant. And while it’s nice to see that baseball fans throughout the country consider the Yankees to be one of the favorites to represent the American League in the World Series, unfortunately, they finish a distant second behind — who else? — the Houston Astros.
Alas, it’s not hard to see why so many see the Astros as the runaway favorites. They have gone to the ALCS in each of the last five seasons, taking home the series win in three of them (twice, unfortunately, against the Yankees). Once again, they are all-around one of the top teams in the AL, ranking fourth in runs/game (4.51), third in OPS+ (110), first in runs against/game (3.27), ERA (2.97), and FIP (3.40). Chances are, the road to the World Series will go through Houston, at least in the Junior Circuit.
On the National League side, the Dodgers have a similarly commanding lead, taking 50 percent of the national vote. The Braves come in at a distant second with 24 percent, and the Mets an even further third with 17. Everybody else combines for just nine percent.
On the whole, fans expect the Dodgers to not only win the National League for the fourth time in six years, but to bring home the World Series trophy for the second time in three seasons. And why shouldn’t they be the odds-on favorite? Their lineup leads baseball in runs/game by almost half a run (5.44, ahead of Atlanta’s 4.98) and ranks second in OPS+ (117), while their pitching staff allows the fewest runs per game of any team in the league, a miniscule 3.21. It is hard to find a true weak point on the roster — even Andrew Heaney has been an impact contributor, with a 2.84 ERA in 12 starts!
What might be of more interest to Yankees fans, however, is that the Bronx Bombers don’t even appear in the top five.
If you’d told me back in early July that the league’s fans would be down on the team’s chances to win the World Series in the middle of September, I would have assumed that we’d be running out the Scranton RailRiders roster due to a massive influx of injuries. And while that influx of injuries has certainly occurred, it’s primarily the team’s lackluster August that fuels this lack of faith: nobody expects a team who had that poor of a month to be able to pull out a World Series title.
Of course, nobody expected the 2021 Braves, who entered the month of July with a 38-41 record, to make noise. After starting the season 6-5, the 2019 Nationals bottomed out at 19-31 and did not reach .500 until June 27th. And the 2015 Mets entered the trade deadline 53-50 and had two months with a losing record (May and June). Each team went to the World Series.
Once the games begin, anything can happen.
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