The Bronx Bombers do have some issues (i.e. erratic play from Masahiro Tanka, their supposed ace; an offense that has been inconsistent of late outside of Aaron Judge). But we shouldn’t write them off as one of the top contenders in the AL. After all, summer slumps have been common for recent World Series winners.
Let’s recap the low-points of the past ten champions:
- 2016: The Cubs had a 5-15 skid just before the All-Star break. That didn’t stop them from winning a league-leading 103 games.
- 2015: Similar to the Yankees this year, Kansas City had a 2-9 stretch in June before surging to the AL Central title with ease in the second half.
- 2014: The Giants didn’t just have a bad couple of weeks. They had a bad month. It started with a 1-9 slump in mid-June, and culminated in a 7-20 mark until July 8th. They still Bumgarnered their way to the title.
- 2013: Technically, Boston managed to avoid a summer slump. But they still had a 2-9 stretch in May before finishing with the AL’s best record.
- 2012: Unlike their championship team two years later, San Francisco never had a long skid en route to their second title; yet there two instances in July where they went 2-7 and 1-7, respectively.
- 2011: St. Louis’ 9-18 skid starting in mid-June was highlighted by a seven-game losing streak to begin the slump. The Cardinals still recovered in time to sneak into the postseason.
- 2010: The Giants went 4-12 to finish June. They still won their first of their three titles in the decade.
- 2009: It’s tough to find a truly poor stretch for one of the most dominant teams in recent memory, yet the ’09 Yankees did have a 4-9 skid in June.
- 2008: The Phillies posted a 3-11 mark at one point in June. They still coasted to the club’s first World Series since 1980.
- 2007: Unlike most of the teams mentioned above, the ’07 Sox never suffered a brutal dip in their play; but they did go only 1-6 and 2-6 to begin the months of June and July, respectively.
Based on the aforementioned struggles of the previous ten World Series champs, it’s clear that a small skid isn’t cause for panic. What’s most important, rather, is that a team continues to rank highly in a number of key indicators.
So in the case of the Yankees, their chances of making a deep October run remain solid because they still rank highly in many of the most important metrics, despite their recent slide. First, their run differential is still second-best in the AL, behind only Houston. They continue to outpace Boston and Cleveland, the only other two teams likely to win the pennant, by a wide margin.
Moreover, they’re one of only two teams in baseball to rank in the top ten in WAR in offense (1st), pitching (6th), and fielding (8th), according to Fangraphs (the other is the Dodgers). That’s impressive. And to stress how significant this is, I predicted the reigning AL-champion Indians would make an unexpected run to the World Series last year in early June because they also were one of the only teams in baseball to rank in the top ten of each of these important categories.
Does that mean the Yankees will follow in the footsteps of Cleveland? Not necessarily. The Astros are clearly the favorite in the AL, while the Indians and Red Sox possess the pitching to reach the Fall Classic, as well.
However, it’s natural for opinions to sour on a team that’s currently 2-10 in its last twelve. But as long as the key metrics hold up, the Yankees could be the next team to win the World Series despite an uncharacteristic, irrelevant summer slump.