On May 5th, I wrote about how the easiest part of the Yankees' schedule was right around the corner. At this point, the team was a putrid 9-17, and it seemed like the whole team could unravel at any moment. Luckily that did not happen: in the month of May they went 16-13, and up to June 23rd, they have gone 11-9 this month.
Unfortunately, though, that isn’t good enough. If a team is 9-17 to start the season, one needs to go 81-55 the rest of the season to hit 90 wins. That could be unreasonable, but even to get close to the wild card spot, the team would need to go at least 76-59.
I wrote in that article that in the month of June, they would face opponents that had, at the time, a cumulative projected winning percentage of .487; in particular, they would play the Rockies, Twins, and Angels a total of 15 times. We’re through a total of 12 of those 15, and the Yankees have won eight, which isn’t too bad. They absolutely punished the Angels by winning four straight, and they also performed admirably by winning three of four against the Twins. Losing two of three to the Tigers, though, as well as wasting a ten-run performance against the Rockies on June 14th, makes the difference between this being a decent month and a great month.
I’m under no illusions here. I’m aware that teams aren’t bad because they waste prime opportunities; they waste prime opportunities because they’re bad. Maybe things look a bit different if they didn’t come out of the gate so slowly, but it happened and there is nothing that can be done about that. Now, the team is tasked with trying to dig themselves out of a hole that they can’t possibly get out of, let alone in the contentious A.L. East. The Red Sox, Blue Jays, and Orioles are all primed to contend for the division (all are at least six games over .500), and then there are the other decent wild card contenders, like the Royals, Tigers, and Astros.
From now on, the road does not get any easier. They’re lucky enough to face the Padres and White Sox to start off July, but then they’ll have to face the Red Sox, Orioles, Indians, Giants, Mets, and Blue Jays for most of that month and August (33 games in total). That... isn’t easy. Not only would it be unreasonable to expect them to go even slightly above .500 in that stretch, it would be even more unreasonable to expect results like we wanted in June.
This doesn’t mean that all hope is lost. I’m not one to advocate selling off assets as of now, because literally anything can happen in such a long season. Other teams in the division can slump, some can sustain injuries, and the Yankees could go on a run. Crazier things have happened. The 2015 Mets were only three games over .500 at the trade deadline, as were the 2014 Royals. They surely shouldn’t have sold.
The Yankees needed a 90th percentile outcome in June for things to really rebound, and let’s say that it was a 50th or 60th percentile outcome. That’s decent, but it’s just a testament to how much that slow start can bury you. Now that they have only partially recovered, they have to face great teams (without many off days), while they have a roster of players who, because of their age, could very well slump down the stretch. I never rule out contention until that window has fully closed, but they’ll need a small miracle to have a chance.