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Disclaimer: If you think this is the official website of the New York Yankees, you're an idiot. Go away.

August 15, 2003

by Larry Mahnken

For the past few weeks, I've harped on the fact that the Red Sox are, right now, entering "The Stretch From Hell". While the Yankees aren't playing particularly easy competition, the Red Sox are playing exceptionally good opponents over the next two weeks, Seattle and Oakland. By entering this stretch three games behind the Yankees, it seemed that the Red Sox were on the ropes. If things went like I expected them to, they might be out of contention in two weeks. But things don't always happen like you expect them to, and sometimes, what you expect happen isn't what you should.

Baseball Prospectus made a few new stats available this week, and fabricated a report about Pete Rose to bring attention to them*. I'm not sure how to use all these stats, but one that appealed to me was the Postseason Odds Report. Prospectus projects the number of games a team will win the rest of the season by A) Establishing each team's quality by adjusting their Equivalent Runs Pythagorean Winning Percentage for opponent quality (I'm SURE my mother is going to call me know to explain what the hell that means), which is called "third-order winning percentage", or W3%, B) Establishing the strength of each team's remaining schedule from their opponents' W3% is, and C) using Bill James' log5 formula to project how many of those games they will win. This system projects that the Yankees will have the best record in baseball the rest of the season, and finish with the best record in the American League, and second-best overall. And it says the Yankees have a 94% chance of making the postseason.

Of course, this doesn't take into account injuries or roster changes, and is consequently a flawed metric, but it's still interesting.

Using Baseball Prospectus's method, the Yankees should expect to gain two games in this stretch, and considering that the Red Sox roster has gotten better in the past few weeks, a reevaluation of the Yankees' expectations may be in order. It is apparent that the Yankees shouldn't expect to put the Red Sox away in these two weeks, though they should expect to pad their lead a little. What these two weeks offer to the Yankees is an opportunity to put the Red Sox away, if they win a couple more games than should be expected, or the Red Sox lose a couple more than should be expected, and that it's VERY unlikely that the Red Sox will be in first place by the end of the stretch, or even three games back. But it could happen, it is just 14 games.

Last night, Bad Andy showed up for the first time in a while, although the heat might have had something to do with it. Still, while Pettitte pitched poorly, he and the Yankees got the win, so you can't complain too much. Oakland blew a win against Boston in the afternoon, so the Yankees lost an opportunity to expand their lead to four again. I really am starting to feel that this will go down to the wire, but it's also possible that it could play out just like the past few seasons, with the Red Sox facing a do-or-die series against the Yankees in early September.

Looking ahead to those two series versus the Red Sox, the matchups appear to slightly favor the Yankees--and the August 29th game appears to be Pedro vs. Clemens in Rocket's last regular season game at Fenway, or versus the Red Sox. Cool.

Here's how the rotations seem to work out

8/29 - Clemens/Pedro
8/30 - Pettitte/Burkett
8/31 - Wells/Lowe

9/5 - Pettitte/Burkett
9/6 - Wells/Lowe
9/7 - Mussina/Wakefield

I think if it works out this way, Pedro might get pushed back to pitch in the Stadium on the fifth, which actually makes the other two matchups in that series much more favorable to the Yankees. This all assumes that Boomer's back will be good enough to pitch well, or that Jose Contreras will pitch well when he comes back in his place. A pretty big assumption, I would say.

*I'm KIDDING. They didn't fabricate the report to bring attention to those specific stats, just the site in general.**

**I'm kidding about that, too.