This year's AL East could make the Yankees the greatest fourth place team of all-time

The AL East is entirely up for grabs this year. So far, three teams (the Boston Red Sox, Baltimore Orioles, and Toronto Blue Jays) have all held first place at some point this season, and the matter is far from decided, as the Blue Jays, Red Sox, Orioles, and Yankees all still have a shot at a division title. There is no dominant team in this division--the best record of the bunch currently belongs to Toronto, who, at 73-56 (.566), would be a second-place team in any other division aside from the NL West. However, if current standings hold, the AL East will put three teams in the playoffs. Since the revamping of the wild card rules before the 2012 season, there have been two times that one division had three playoff teams (2013 and 2015, both by the NL Central).
Photo Credit: Joe Nicholson | USA TODAY Sports
But the interesting thing about this year’s AL East is this--it doesn’t only have three good teams. It has four. No, the Yankees aren’t a legit championship contender. But they do have a legitimate shot to propel this division to historic heights. Since Gary Sanchez was recalled from the minors on August 2nd, the Yankees have gone 14-9 for a winning percentage of .609. If they maintain this pace for the remainder of the regular season, they would finish with a record of 87-75 and a winning percentage of .537. Now, assuming that the three teams ahead of them held their places in the standings, the Yankees would beat the 2008 Blue Jays and 2008 St. Louis Cardinals for the best record by a fourth-place team, ever.

Now, let’s imagine that the Yankees improve upon their 14-9 stretch over the remainder of the season. It’s not entirely far-fetched; their roster is heavily reliant on young players who will continue to develop as they get major league playing time, and as long as Gary Sanchez keeps mashing, the Yanks have a good chance to win any game. Suppose that the Yankees, over the final 35 games of the season, manage to go 21-14. They’d essentially need to win three games for every two they lost, which doesn’t seem that crazy (of course, their bats could cool down, their starting pitching could implode, key players could get injured, etc.). But if the Yanks finished 87-75 and still failed to surpass Baltimore for third place in the division (as well as, most likely, the second wild card spot), they would be the best fourth-place team of all time.

I love when the Yankees make the playoffs. Really, I do. But as a statistical nerd who loves these kind of things, I’m quietly rooting for this scenario to play out exactly as I described. Yes, it would be disappointing to see the Bronx Bombers miss the playoffs, but there’s history to be made here. “Best Fourth-Place Team of All Time.” It’s got a nice ring to it, don’t ya think?

Article by: Peter Marshall
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