"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Color By Numbers: Down the Stretch They Come

Like most championship thoroughbreds, the Yankees have always been fantastic closers. Since 1901, the team has entered September leading the pack in 41 seasons, and, in all but one, crossed the finish line first.

Yankees’ September Winning Percentages

Note: Red triangles represent first place finishes.
Source: Baseball-Reference.com

The only time the Yankees stumbled down the stretch was in 2010. After entering last September ahead of the Rays by one game, they extended the lead to three, but then lost eight of the final 11 to end the year one game behind Tampa. Under normal circumstances, such a late season swoon would have been viewed as a collapse, but that month the Yankees and Rays engaged in a much less entertaining version of an Alphonse and Gaston routine. The Rays tried to give the Yankees the division, but, unfortunately, they refused to take it.

Years in Which the Yankees Finished First Despite Entering September in Second Place

Year Record on 8/31 GB Trailing Record at Season’s End
2005 75-57 2.5 Red Sox 95-67
1978 77-54 6.5 Red Sox 100-63
1964 75-54 0.5 Orioles 99-63
1955 79-52 0.5 White Sox 96-58
1921 75-46 0.5 Indians 98-55

Source: Baseball-Reference.com

This year, the Yankees began the final month 1 ½ games behind the Red Sox, but quickly assumed the top position with a six game winning streak. Unfortunately, that burst has been slowed by two sluggish losses to the last place Orioles, but nonetheless, the Yankees remain poised to take their sixth division crown by coming from behind. Not surprisingly, two of the Bronx Bombers’ other comebacks also came at the expense of the rival Boston Red Sox, although none was quite like the epic reversal of fortunes that occurred in 1978.

A.L. East Pennant Race Graph, 1978

Source: www.alexreisner.com

So, how will the Yankees finish up this year? Because the current wild card format has all but assured the team will make the playoffs, it remains to be seen how hard they’ll battle for the top spot. However, it’s worth noting the Yankees have never advanced to the World Series when making the playoffs via a consolation, so perhaps Joe Girardi should consider going to the whip? After all, when you’re riding a front runner, it doesn’t make sense to relinquish the lead, does it?


1 Mr OK Jazz Tokyo   ~  Sep 8, 2011 11:57 pm

[0]Great stuff.

Btw, Mariners broadcaster just called Justin Smoak "Smokey" after his home run..this was profoundly irritating.

2 Boatzilla   ~  Sep 9, 2011 5:00 am

[1] I bet he really "smoked" one.

Man, Smoak been a disappointment. That's who they traded Cliff Lee, I repeat Cliff Lee for.

Of course, nothing compares to Adam Jones for Eric Bedard by a team that has been hitting-challenged for so long it's a crime.

What a colossal disaster that franchise has become.....with one of the higher payrolls in baseball, no less.

3 Alex Belth   ~  Sep 9, 2011 9:51 am

I agree, William, I think they should press on like the playoffs have already begun. Why settle?

4 William J.   ~  Sep 9, 2011 10:54 am

[3] The theme song says "everyone know they play to win because they're the NY Yankees". I like that better than "losing the battle to win the war".

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"This ain't football. We do this every day."
--Earl Weaver