With their third straight All-Star game victory, and 15th in 19 years, the Mike Trout-led American League has once again clinched home advantage for the World Series. Useful, for the team that makes it out of the Junior Circuit, to have Game 1 at home, and Game 7 if it gets that far. Especially so if the AL representative just happens to be getting an historically strong contribution from its starting designated hitter.
The Yankees are obviously a long way from being the team to take advantage of the All Star win. First they must make the postseason, then win two October series. Just after the midpoint in the year, we're a way from mathematically eliminating any team from contention, so technically any of the 15 American League teams could be hosting Game 1 against the best the Senior Circuit will have to offer. Naturally though, some teams have a better probability than others at this point. The Athletics and White Sox are on one end of the spectrum, effectively out of the running, and if we use Fangraphs playoff odds then the Yankees mark the opposite extreme.
The Yankees, in first place in the AL East at eight games over .500, are also projected to be one of the better teams going forward based on the combination of Steamer and ZiPS projections that fuel these estimates. To win, of course they must first get in, but their odds off making the postseason are at this point promising. A 3.5 game lead in the division may not seem like much at the break, but it will require someone to significantly outplay the Yankees down the stretch before it gets overhauled. Let's say the Yankees live up to their second half projections as a team that will go 40-34 the rest of the way; six games over .500. The second place Rays will need to go 13 games over .500 to tie up the standings. Obviously the onus is on the Yankees to play well going forward, but if they can do so the other teams in the division will have to be exceptional. New York will have more room for error than the other four teams. Helpfully the two other teams expected to have over .500 records in the second half - the Blue Jays and Red Sox - are also further back at 4.5 and 6.5 games respectively.
If they do make the postseason, it will further help that the American League as a whole is having a relatively down year. The Red Sox, Mariners, and Indians were all expected to contend this season but have largely fallen flat. Even if the Yankees appear a flawed team at this point, we can see why they might be projected to be the pick of the bunch. The Royals have come off a strong first half, but the projection systems aren't sold on their true talent at this point. Rather it is the Angels who are regarded as the most likely rivals. Possessors of elite talent, with aforementioned best player in baseball in Trout, as well as league home run leader Albert Pujols, the Angels don't have a lot of depth elsewhere in their lineup and in the rotation. Certainly they would be a threat in a postseason series, as would any team the Yankees meet in October, but the road to escape the National League looks the tougher one. The Dodgers, Nationals, Cardinals, and Pirates, all strong teams, could easily have to end up playing two of the other four to win the NL.
It should go without saying - though I'll mention in any case - that postseason odds are no guarantee, even taken in September so let alone now. Just last year, when the Angels, Dodgers and Nationals looked the best teams in baseball, it was instead the Royals and Giants contesting the Fall Classic. Both teams had to win a Wild Card play-in game just to enter the divisional round, but they rode well-timed hot streaks all the way through. However, personally I'd still like the chances of the teams that go in as favorites. Play it out enough times and the best teams will probably win, and so if I had to back a team to take the prize I'd go with the one looking the most promising. There is still the second half of the season to play, but the moment, it is the Yankees who Fangraphs has third behind the Dodgers and Nationals - and tops in the AL- in rest-of-season WAR as well as World Series odds.
At this point, any team of the 15 could win the American League. By the time we get to the postseason, it will be any of five. Should the Yankees be one of those five though, they might have as good a chance as any. Perhaps better.