I'm hoping that this post is irrelevant, but there is a good chance that it won't be. The Yankees will be playing the Houston Astros in the wild card game, and there is about a 50% chance that the Yankees will lose this game. The Yankees have their ace in Masahiro Tanaka on the mound, and the Astros have theirs in Dallas Keuchel. We've been through enough playoff shortcomings in the past 15 years to know that the New York media will try to draw some conclusions based on whatever happens, but I'm here to dispel these. Here are some sample narratives and why they're silly.
Narrative #1: The Yankees lost because they were slumping to finish the season.
The Yankees finished off the season in really poor fashion, going 1-6 in their last seven, and 15-17 since the beginning of September. Well, the Astros have been just as bad down the stretch, going 13-17 since the beginning of September, and threw away an AL West title ripe for the taking. If one were to make an argument that the reason the Yankees lost was because of losing momentum, then it conversely wouldn't apply to the Astros. Someone has to win this game. Momentum is also really hard to quantify, and there's a lot of evidence to show that the record down the stretch isn't as important as overall winning percentage.
Narrative #2: The Yankees were not built for the postseason.
There is no such thing as being built for the postseason. Read that sentence again, and internalize it. Back in 2006, famed statistician Nate Silver devised a Secret Sauce, or the recipe for postseason success. This consisted of three things: power pitching (starting pitcher strikeouts), closer value, and overall team defense. This is largely based on the anecdotal evidence that good pitching and defense wins in the postseason. To his surprise, it was wrong. You could get similar results from merely guessing as you would from using the secret sauce. The only thing that has ever correlated with winning in the postseason is, in fact, winning percentage.
Narrative #3: The Yankees "lived and died by the home run".
Baseball Prospectus created the Guillen Number, a metric named after Ozzie Guillen's 2005 White Sox, who were lauded for playing small ball. The Guillen Number is the opposite, and it measures the degree to which a team "relies" on the home run, meaning the percentage of runs that come from the home run. Looking at this year's results, the Yankees are third, so they are very reliant on the long ball. This doesn't matter!
Big ball does work in the postseason. Three-true-outcome hitters perform better on average in the postseason, and teams that hit more home runs and score a lot of runs tend to do the same in October. If you can hit a home run, then you can hit a double or a single, too.
Narrative #4: There wasn't enough desire to win that game.
This one is just ridiculously silly. There is a belief that teams that want it more, or are hungry for it, tend to win more in the postseason. This, of course, is wrong. How much experience you have, how much grit you have, and how clutch you are perceived to be has little effect on postseason results. Better overall players tend to do better.
So, what do we do with all of this information? Nothing, really. That's OK! We don't have to make conclusions based on one game, and it's just fine to conclude that one game merely means nothing. This game exists to knock off teams that didn't win the division, so variance is intended. The supposed best teams are not supposed to win in the playoffs. In fact, nothing is supposed to happen. This is often called a coin-flip game, and for good reason, so it should be treated as such. Just like we can't draw conclusions based on a short playoff series, we certainly shouldn't do the same for a single game. Judge this team based on its full body of work, which is pretty impressive given the preseason expectations.