New-look Yankees storm back to .500 reviving the dream of playoff pursuit

Yankees captain Aaron Judge with rookie sensation Jasson Dominguez at Yankee Stadium on September 5, 2023, in a game vs. the Tigers.
AP Photo/Adam Hunger
Michael Bennington
Wednesday September 6, 2023

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The infusion of young talents has empowered the New York Yankees in a big way bringing them out of their worst nightmare of hitting the lowest ebb in four decades. As the team is currently displaying its finest baseball performance, including the first sweep of a series in Houston since 2013, the optimism over playoff hopes has revived.

The Yankees, now at an even 69-69 record, have achieved a .500 once more after securing their fourth consecutive victory and winning seven out of their last eight games. With just 24 games remaining in the season, they find themselves seven games behind the AL wild-card spot.

Yankees’ energized push sparks optimism

This recent surge has sparked excitement among numerous Yankees fans, who are now pondering whether this team might have a shot at making a comeback in the playoff race with only four weeks left in the regular season.

Indeed, there is a possibility, albeit a slim one. To turn it into a reality, the Yankees would have to achieve near-perfection in their remaining games.

The encouraging news is that the Yankees have key head-to-head matchups still on their schedule, offering a theoretical opportunity to narrow the gap. Next week, they face the Red Sox in a four-game series in Boston, a team currently holding the spot just ahead of them in the Wild Card race. Additionally, they have six more games against the Blue Jays, with one at Yankee Stadium and one in Toronto. The Blue Jays are currently only half a game ahead in the standings, making them another hurdle the Yankees must overcome to reach their desired playoff position.

Giancarlo Stanton, during the game of Yankees vs. Tigers.
Noah K. Murray / NY Post

Even in the event of a clean sweep in those three series, the Yankees would still find themselves with an incredibly narrow margin for error. As of Tuesday, the Rangers occupy the third and final Wild Card spot, projected to reach around 89 wins. Rounding that up to 90 victories, the Yankees would have to close out the season with a remarkable 22-3 record to meet that benchmark.

The Yankees’ recent performance is truly exceptional. But even under those circumstances, they would require some assistance from other teams experiencing late-season struggles to keep the possibility of a playoff berth open for them to exploit.

This is why, as of Tuesday night, FanGraphs assigns the Yankees a mere 0.4 percent probability of reaching the playoffs. Meanwhile, even following their remarkable sweep in Houston, Baseball-Reference projects the team making the postseason in only 0.1 percent of their 1,000 simulations for the remainder of the season.

While not entirely impossible, the odds are undeniably exceedingly slim.


A reality check

This isn’t breaking news. The Yankees, along with their fans, have been aware for weeks that they must perform extraordinarily well in the remaining games to maintain any hope of reaching the playoffs. Their dreadful road trip at the start of August, combined with a nightmarish nine-game losing streak, effectively quashed those postseason aspirations.

For those who hadn’t already accepted the prospect of the Yankees missing out on playoff baseball in October, which would mark their first absence since 2016, they were either uninformed about the team’s current standing in the rankings or unwilling to acknowledge the deep pit the Yankees had fallen into. This realization came well before the promotions of promising prospects like Jasson Domínguez, Austin Wells, Everson Pereira, and Oswald Peraza.

It’s these young talents, in addition to rookie Anthony Volpe, who are ready to infuse excitement into the final month of the season for the Yankees, regardless of their playoff chances. This burgeoning enthusiasm and influx of youth mirror the 2016 season, another year that appeared lost but culminated in the emergence of gifted youngsters. These same young players played a pivotal role in taking the Yankees to Game 7 of the American League Championship Series just one year later.

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