And Down the Stretch They Come

The Yanks, Rays, and Red Sox each have 30 games left on their regular season schedules, including a heavy dose of games against one another.  So much can happen from one day to the next that running hypothetical scenarios is admittedly pretty fruitless.  But as a fan I also find it irresistible.  I can't avoid looking one series or week ahead and thinking "what if they were this far back or ahead by then?" or "what is the likeliest route for them to get back into this?" or "by when would they need to shore this up to be ready and healthy for the post-season?", etc.  Indicative of an idle mind? Probably. A complete waste of time? Undoubtedly.  But enjoyable nonetheless.  So, doing my best to wear the fandom of each of the ALEast contenders I looked at their respective match-ups over this final month, and came up with the below.

Red Sox: Remaining Home/Away: 15/15; Average win-percentage of remaining opponents: .516; Of note: 6-game west coast trip; 6 games left vs. the NYY (all among final 9 games of the season); all 7 of their 2010 match-ups with the White Sox still to go.  Implication: Unlikely to make playoffs, but most likely scenario is probably to catch the Yankees by getting to within at least 6 by mid-Sept and relying on the following 6 head-to-head match-ups plus the Yanks' heavy load of games vs. the Rays and Toronto – the only two AL teams with winning records vs. NY.

The Sox' current 3-game losing streak that began against the Rays in what was an agonizingly tight 3-game set at the Trop has put them in a position of having to rely on others to keep their playoff chances alive.  They now trail both the Yanks and the Rays by more games than they have left to play against either team.  Their best shot at making the post-season is probably to catch the Yankees against whom they have 6 games left to play (compared to only 3 vs. the Rays), and to root for the Rays to take at least 4 of the 7 games they have left against New York.  Beyond the well-documented, much-discussed, and still severe injury-handicap, Boston's task is made harder by the fact that they are the only one of the three ALEast heavyweights with a West Coast trip left on their schedule and a full 6 games against the Manny-infused Chicago White Sox, who still have plenty to play for.  If I were a Sox fan who had not yet given up on this season, I would be hoping the Sox can get through next week's home series against the Rays and return home on September 16 from their 6-game stint in Oakland and Seattle no more than 6 back of the Yankees.  The Yanks will be entering arguably their toughest stretch of the year – including 6 vs. Boston, 4 vs. Tampa Bay, and 3 vs. a Toronto team that, at 7-5, has fared better vs. the Yanks than any AL-opponent this year.  Boston would be banking on making up the bulk of ground in those final two weeks.  I don't see Boston catching Tampa Bay, which has the easiest path ahead of the 3 contenders.

Yankees: Remaining Home/Away: 15/15; Average win-percentage of remaining opponents: .523; Of note: only 5 games outside of AL East left; long current homestand vs. rough final two weeks; Implication: Build a cushion of at least 3 games over the Rays by the time they meet Tampa Bay at the NYS on Sept 20.  If the Yankees are tied or behind the Rays come Sept 23 it's unlikely they will take the division given the relative match-ups for both teams from that point on.

The Yankees are in the early part of their longest homestand of the season, and looking at the upcoming schedule, they need to take advantage of it if they want to keep Tampa Bay from taking the division.  Unlike the Sox and Rays, the Yanks' last 30 games are spent almost entirely in the ALEast.  Other than the series with Oakland that wraps up tomorrow, they have a 3-game set vs. the ALWest-leading Rangers in Texas and that's it.  The rest of their schedule includes 6 games each against ALEast foes Toronto (their toughest opponent to-date), Baltimore (on whom they have feasted to the tune of a 8-2 record in the pre-Showalter era), and Boston, plus 7 against Tampa Bay (the only AL team other than Toronto against which the Yanks have a losing record).  By the time they conclude their last series against Tampa Bay on Sept 23, they need to have put a good cushion between themselves and the Rays, including hopefully owning the tie-breaker (they are currently 5-6 vs. Tampa Bay) because while NY moves from that series to 6 vs. Boston and 3 vs. Toronto, the Rays finish the season playing 3 of the worst 4 teams in baseball: Seattle, Baltimore, and Kansas City.

Rays: Remaining Home/Away: 13/17; Average win-percentage of remaining opponents: .489; Of note: TB is .500 or better against every AL opponent and the 10 remaining games they play outside of the ALEast are all against losing teams with their easiest stretch being the final 9 games of the season; Implication: Remain no worse than 2 games back of the Yankees through the final series with NY on Sept 20-23 and they will still have a good shot at taking the division.

Since there are no Rays fans on this site (and hardly any in Tampa Bay) we needn't spend much time on what a Rays fan need root for, but it is essentially the reverse of the Yanks.  Take the lead or at least hang close enough to NY through their final 4-game series at the NYS on Sept 20-23, get the tiebreaker by winning the season series, and take advantage of the easiest schedule of the three – esp in the final 10 days – to wrap up the division.

Final note on scenarios: If what is currently the most likely scenario plays out and the Yanks and TB emerge as the only ones really vying for the division and the WC, then it will be interesting to see how NY manages things, especially if it comes down to the final series of the year.  Probably more than any team entering the playoffs the Yankees need to go into October with their rotation set up in order.  Having to rely on CC to win a final game to clinch the division could very likely turn into a Pyrrhic victory if it means he isn't available to start Game 1 of the ALDS.  In that scenario we may find out just how important it really is to win the division vs. simply making the playoffs with a rested CC.

10 comments… add one

  • “the Rays finish the season playing 3 of the worst 4 teams in baseball”
    should read…
    “3 of the worst 4 teams in the AL”.
    The Pirates out-stink everyone right now and Arizona has a worse record than Kansas City. Sorry about that.

    IronHorse (YF) September 1, 2010, 12:31 pm
  • “…So much can happen from one day to the next that running hypothetical scenarios is admittedly pretty fruitless. …”
    you mean it’s too early to start talking magic numbers? ;)
    “…we needn’t spend much time on what a Rays fan need root for…”
    uh, they will reprioritize and begin rooting for the bucs who kickoff their regular season on sun sept. 12
    i too had taken a peek at the remaining schedule, not as in depth as you, but had the same reaction…the yanks won’t have an easy time of it…they need to beat up oakland and baltimore in the games they have remaining with them…it’s not new for the schedule-makers to have so many in-division games during the last month of the season, but this season really highlights it because of the hot pennant race and the overall strength of the AL east…toronto is a pretty darn good 4th place team, and the red sox still get my adrenaline flowing, even if they have struggled…and even if they don’t qualify for the tournament, i expect them to have a lot to say about who does…

    dc September 1, 2010, 1:01 pm
  • Another interesting aspect of all this:
    Even though the Red Sox are undoubtedly dead and gone this year, it will be of interest to me how they play out those last games against Tampa and the Yankees with re: to each of those teams standing in the division. If the Yankees are up three games, do the Red Sox put in the rest of Pawtucket and Lowell to face Tampa?
    Like the Dolphins playing spoiler to the Jets or Pats every year when they’re 6-9 on the year?
    :) Kidding Krueg.

    Brad September 1, 2010, 1:27 pm
  • I was thinking about the same vis-a-vis the Red Sox though not so much from the perspective of them trying to help or hurt either the Rays or the Yanks more than the other. After all, I’m not even sure which one the would more dislike right now. The Rays have really killed them this year to the tune of a 10-5 record against them and what felt to me – last week – like the first (not the last) nail in the coffin for the 2010 season. No, I was thinking more about the fact that whereas the Sox will still ostensibly be in it next week, they could be completely out of it before they ever start those 6 games vs. the Yankees and so I could see the playing a lot of young call-ups at that stage.
    Of course, given the Yankees’ annoying and long-standing penchant for drilling ace pitchers and then getting drilled by the no-name call-ups they’ve never faced before, I’m not sure it would make much difference. But yeah, by the time Boston and NY square up for 6 games, the Sox might be double digits out and then I have no idea how they’d play it out.

    IronHorse (YF) September 1, 2010, 1:42 pm
  • But yeah, by the time Boston and NY square up for 6 games, the Sox might be double digits out and then I have no idea how they’d play it out.
    It’s going to be interesting. They could also be two out, and knocking hard on the door. Not that I think that’s going to happen, but weirder things have happened.

    Brad September 1, 2010, 1:56 pm
  • Felix Dubront being sent home to Boston to get an MRI on his neck (per Francona on EEI). Something in his neck is pulling or grabbing him when he throws.

    Brad September 1, 2010, 1:57 pm
  • We split with the Patties every year and have won the last 3 against the Jets…I’m not sure what you are talking about Brad???? ;)
    The thing I like about the last month is that it’s up to us. If we win, AL East Championship #234,687 is ours, if not…Wild Card.
    ARod coming back. Berkman coming back. (who cares) ACEVES coming back. Pettitte coming back?
    We should be fine but we’ll probably implode and lose in the ALDS.

    krueg September 1, 2010, 1:59 pm
  • “They could also be two out, and knocking hard on the door” Absolutely Brad – and I didn’t mean to dismiss that. In fact I tried to be clear in the original post that I still see that as a possibility, though I think the schedule makes it more likely that – if they are to storm back – it will be mostly in the final two weeks when they face the Yanks directly X 6 and when the Yanks have to contend with TB and Toronto.
    Krueg, that last post was dangerously optimistic of you…
    Am bagging work tomorrow to catch the game with my father-in-law. Can’t have 6 day games in 7 days go by and not indulge. Looks like I’ll get CC vs. GET-OFF-MY-MOUND Dallas Braden. Too bad A-Rod is out of action still.
    Oh, and in case we didn’t make it absolutely clear in the other post: SIT DEREK JETER NOW JOE! Dude is still #1 in all of baseball in ABs and second in PAs. I would really like someone in the press corps to ask Girardi how he can justify that given Jeter’s age and the position he plays (not to mention his performance to-date). It is stupid. Just plain stupid.

    IronHorse (YF) September 1, 2010, 2:08 pm
  • We split with the Patties every year and have won the last 3 against the Jets…I’m not sure what you are talking about Brad???? ;)
    Krueg, I’m just busting balls man. Trust me, I go into every year knowing that the Broncos are going to split with SD and Oakland no matter how bad or good they are.
    Also, please do not forget that Jesus wears Tebow pajamas, okay?
    Trusy

    Brad September 1, 2010, 2:20 pm
  • I tempered it IH with the inevitable collapse! ;)
    I forgot you were a Broncos fan Brad…you had your time. At least your guy won 2 superbowls, well, TD and the defense did but still two more than #13!

    krueg September 1, 2010, 5:02 pm

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