When you're in the middle of a losing a 1-6 skid, everything looks bad.
The Yankees have been outscored 17-40, indicating the kind of all around bad play that makes it hard to single out one particular unit. If you pay attention to Pythagorean winning percentage (basically, how many games would we expect the team to win given their runs scored and runs allowed), a 1-6 record is exactly what they've deserved.
I think it's fair to say that the Yankees' true talent level lies somewhere between their 96 win pace April and their .500 May. Heading into last night's game against the Nationals, the Yankees are on pace for 89 wins, but there's a lot more reason to harbor some deep hopes. First, this has been a very tough stretch of schedule, both for number of games and quality of opposition. Monday's off day was their first in 17 days, and so far this season, they've only played 12 games against teams with losing records. Normally you hope to play .500 ball against the contenders, and the Yankees have gone 9-8 against teams that started Monday with a share of their division lead.
Even more encouragingly, the Bombers have gone 16-13 against the AL East. In a division as evenly matched as the East, and considering the strength of teams who look poised to take the two AL Wild Card spots, I fully expect that the only East team that makes the postseason will be the division winner. With a full third of their remaining games against the same four opponents, the Yankees' early statement sets a high bar.
All the usual small sample size caveats apply. Maybe Mark Teixeira's power will vanish in the second half like it did last year. Maybe the sub-.300 OBP club of Carlos Beltran, Brian McCann and Stephen Drew will continue to struggle while eating up a huge share of at-bats. Maybe Masahiro Tanaka's rehab will hit a string of roadblocks, and Michael Pineda will buckle under the strain of being the Yankees' ace. But I think Pineda is an ace, and Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller are the best 1-2 bullpen combo in baseball, and this lineup is deep enough to make up for problems from some of its (many) fragile parts. I think those April Yankees are still in the clubhouse. Heading into tonight's games, they're a team with a share of first place in the East.
Last year, their last day in first was May 21. In 2013, their last day in first was May 26. This is a better team than either of those teams, and they're just a small winning streak away from proving it.