After a promising start to the season, the Yankees slipped out of first place in the American League East on Friday night. The writing has been on the wall for a while, though, as a healthy dose of luck had been covering the Yankees warts up to this point. That writing comes in the form of the team's run differential which tells an ugly and familiar story for the balance of the season.
Just like last year, the Yankees have scored far fewer runs than they have given up, and just like last year the situation doesn't seem that bad because their actual record is defying the odds. Using pythagorean expectation, which is based on run differential and is a better indicator of future performance than actual record, the Yankees are playing like a team that is 4 games below .500. So it looks like they should get used to not being in first place. But wait, it gets worse.
This underwhelming performance has come against some of the easiest competition in Major League Baseball as the Yankees are tied for having the third lightest schedule in the league so far. Taking into account the double whammy of a poor run differential and an easy schedule, the case can be made that the Yankees are the third worst team in baseball right now. That's the conclusion that the Simple Rating System comes to which says that the Yankees are more than a run per game worse than the average team. Yuck.
As always, there's a bit of a bright side to the unfortunate situation the Yankees are in going forward. The season is still very young which means the sample size we're looking at is small and prone to being skewed. In fact, this team has already had three blowout losses where they fell on the sword early and yielded a bunch of runs in garbage time. Those should fall in the skew category and probably will occur less frequently from here on out. Furthermore, as pointed out in this space last week, peripheral metrics for the Yankees point to them either maintaining or reaching an above average production in all three aspects of the game for the remainder of the season. So there's still plenty of time for them to turn their run differential around and get back to their winning ways.