When the Yankees won their fifth straight game this past Monday, even some of the brightest baseball writers around were convinced that the team was poised to make a serious playoff push. For some reason, people forgot that this was the same team that had lost five in a row just a week before that win streak started. Since then, with the exception of two freak innings against David Price and their old punching bag Mark Buehrle, the Yankees are back to being a team that struggles to score runs and win games.
The reality of the situation is that their playoff hopes are fading faster than Ben Kenobi in A New Hope. Nothing illustrates this better than a look at a collection of playoff odds from around the world wide web. Each of the odds given below are calculated using a methodology that simulates the rest of the season, in some cases up to over a billion times, to arrive at a best guess. The results vary, but none of them paint a particularly rosy picture. (All odds given were posted on their respective sites on 8/31/14)
Sports Club Stats - Yankees playoff chance: 3.9%
This method assigns weighted scores to each remaining game on the schedule by taking home field advantage and the opponent's record into account. They say the Yankees have a 0.6% chance of winning the division and a 3.0% of getting a wildcard spot. Those numbers don't add up to the total above because in the overall percentage they also add a small percentage of simulations that have a team either winning or losing all of their remaining games. This site also has some neat graphs tracking each team's playoff odds over time.
Fangraphs' Season to Date Stats Mode - Yankees playoff chance: 5.9%
Fangraphs provides three different versions of playoff odds and this one is the most harsh on the Yankees. Here they simulate the rest of the season using pythagorean expectation (runs scored vs. runs allowed to date) as a predictor. As most of us are aware, the Yankees have surrendered more runs than they've scored, so this version gives the Yankees only a 1.4% shot at the division and a 4.5% chance at a wildcard berth.
Baseball Prospectus - Yankees playoff chance: 8.6%
These simulations use modified PECOTA estimates to determine outcomes for the rest of the season. The odds here are broken out into a 1.6% chance of taking home the AL East crown and a 7.0% chance of sneaking in through the wildcard. That might not seem like much, but it's probably enough to get Suzyn Waldman really excited.
Fangraphs' Projections Mode - Yankees playoff chance: 10.1%
This is the most in-depth of Fangraphs' three methods. It uses a combination of Steamer and ZiPS projections as well as Fangraphs Depth Charts to calculate expected winning percentages for the rest of the season. This method is more bullish on the Yankee bats going forward than they probably should be, but still gives them just a 3.3% chance at topping the division and a 6.8% shot at a wildcard spot.
Fangraphs' Coin Flip Mode - Yankees playoff chance: 15.5%
Of all the methods laid out here, this one makes the least sense. It simply gives every team a 50/50 chance at winning each game for the rest of the season. While not probable, it still gives us a possible outcome. With the even money line, the Yankees have their best shot in this scenario. The coin says that the Yankees have a 3.4% chance at winning the division and a 12.1% chance at the wildcard.
The best case scenario here has the Yankees heading home early about 85% of the time, but will they succumb to their apparent fate, or go all Han Solo and keep playing baseball in October? Let us know in the comments.