1) Tough schedule: 6 against the Jays, 3 against the Sox, 1 against the Rays, 3 against the Rangers. That's 13 of 24 games against top-5 AL opponents.
2) Injuries: Losing Pettitte has hurt. Strangely enough, the Yanks have still outscored every team in the American League in August (116 runs). But the starters have come up wanting, and Andy's absence from the rotation has aggravated the problem.
3) Bad Luck: Our run differential in August is +23, meaning we've scored 23 more runs than we've allowed. Boston's is -1. Yet they're 14-10, we're 12-12. With that kind of healthy run differential (again, the best in the American League), we can reasonably expect to fare better than .500. It hasn't happened, and that's a shame, but the odds dictate that we'll soon be back to our winning ways. The Royals series was a great example of this 'bad luck.' The series was a split, and the two losses were both by a run. It's not that the Yanks aren't scoring; they're just not always scoring when they need to.
In this post, I showed that it's not crucial for a team to be world-beaters in August. It doesn't have huge predictive value on how they'll fare in the playoffs or the World Series. But let's see about September. Here are the records of every World Series team in the final month of regular season baseball (excluding the 2 or 3 games that happen in October):
Tampa Bay: 13-14
St. Louis: 12-16
St. Louis: 16-12
New York: 18-9*
San Francisco: 18-8*
* - Win % was better than their overall season win %
^ - Best record in their league
So let's do a comparison between the August and September records of world Series teams since 2002.
Future World Series teams with a record .500 or worse:
Future World Series teams who underperformed by their season standard:
Future World Series teams that had 'exceptional' month-long runs (4 games or more over .500):
Future World Series champions with a record .500 or worse:
Total combined record of World Series-bound teams:
August: 265-187 (.586)
September: 266-173 (.605)
So it's evident that September is far more predictive of post-season success than August. That's to be expected, since it's important to peak late, and teams that excel in September are likely to carry that success over into October. Conversely, teams with a poor August are more likely to recover momentum in time for the playoffs than teams who have a poor September. An interesting anomaly is 2006, when both St. Louis and Detroit had losing records in August and September. That's the year, you might remember, when everyone thought the Yankees would kill Detroit in the divisional round, but Kenny Rogers started throwing spitballs and ruined our season.
Regardless, the good news is that the Yanks shouldn't fret too much about a 12-12 August record. The bad news is that September gets really, really tough. Check out the schedule, italics are road games:
2 Oakland, 3 Toronto, 3 Orioles, 3 Rangers, 3 Rays, 3 Orioles, 4 Rays, 3 Red Sox, 3 Blue Jays
27 games, and 18 of them (67%) are against good-to-great teams. 12 are on the road, including a rough 9-day trip. Now check out Tampa's September:
1 Toronto, 3 Orioles, 3 Red Sox, 3 Blue Jays, 3 Yankees, 3 Angels, 4 Yankees, 3 Seattle, 3 Orioles, 1 Royals
27 games, but only 14 against good-to-great teams, and 15 are on the road. Overall, their schedule is much easier, and with the AL East currently tied, the Yanks need to create some cushion in the next 6 days. Because if we're still tied when September 1st rolls around, smart money is on Tampa to take the division.
Last thing: two days ago, I got some crap in the comments for implying that Jose Bautista, the Blue Jays sluggers, was using PEDs. Of course I have no concrete evidence for this, but after looking at the stats, the evidence is pretty compelling. I'm actually more convinced than I was while writing that post, where the accusation was offhand and half-joking, that something's amiss.
Don't worry, this will be quick. As of September 5th, 2009, here were Jose Bautista's career home-run numbers:
1,656 at-bats, 49 home runs. That's one home run every 34 at-bats.
At the time, he was 29 years old. Here's how he's fared in the year since that day:
540 at-bats, 50 home runs. That's one home run every 11 at-bats, and an average just shy 60 home runs for a full season.
You'll notice he's more than doubled his career home run total in just 6 months of baseball. And these are just his home run numbers. The rest of the power numbers, including OPS, are similarly out of proportion.
In other words, the guy was a mediocre journeyman his entire career, and suddenly, at age 30, he put together one of the greatest stretches of home run hitting in baseball history. And he did it in what everyone is calling the "year of the pitcher."
Yeah, nothing suspicious here. I'm sure Cito Gaston just gave him some good advice in the batting cage.
I give it less than a year before we know the truth.