(In addition to appearing at The Captain’s Blog, this post is also being syndicated at TheYankeeAnalysts.)
Aside from the uncomfortable sight of seeing the Yankees listed beneath the Red Sox, the most dissatisfying part of the standings is the team’s 15-20 record against opponents currently above .500. Although there are still well over 100 games to play, could the Yankees’ relative struggles against winning teams be a bad omen for the rest of the season?
Yankees’ 2011 Record Against Above-.500 Competition
Note: Based on current record of opponents, not at time games were played.
It’s worth noting that the Yankees’ poor record against better opponents is largely attributable to the one-sided season series with Boston. Nonetheless, the team’s current winning percentage of .429 against this segment would rank among the lower quartile in franchise history. There’s still plenty of time to improve upon that mark, but if the trend continues, the Yankees might be making alternative plans when the calendar turns to autumn.
Surprisingly, over their 111 season history, the Yankees have a losing record against winning teams. However, a large portion of the franchise’s struggles against better opponents occurred prior to the acquisition of Babe Ruth. Since the Babe first donned pinstripes, the Yankees have a much more respectable .522 winning percentage against the league’s stiffer competition.
Ending the year below .500 against teams above the break-even mark wouldn’t be unprecedented in Yankees’ history. In fact, 48 Yankees’ teams, or 43%, have come up lacking in this regard. However, only four from that group went on to make the playoffs, and only the 2000 squad won the World Series. The other three teams (1995, 1997 and 2010) made it into the post season as the wild card.
In addition to the 2000 Yankees, 11 other clubs with sub-.500 records against winning teams won the World Series, including last year’s Giants and two teams (1926 Cardinals and 2001 Diamondbacks) that bested the Bronx Bombers in the Fall Classic. In aggregate, World Series champions have posted a winning percentage of .569 against top competitors.
Cross Section of Records (Yankees and MLB) Against Above-.500 Competition
|Yankees’ WS Champs||1154||802||0.590|
|Yankees’ Playoff Teams||2003||1495||0.573|
|All MLB WS Champs||4326||3276||0.569|
|Yankees’ Since Babe (1920-Pres)||3427||3144||0.522|
|Yankees’ in NY (1903-Pres)||3996||3980||0.501|
|Yankees’ Franchise History (1901-Pres)||4059||4090||0.498|
There’s nothing earth shattering about the revelation that the Yankees’ historically perform better against quality competition in seasons when they have more success overall. In fact, the only thing needed to come to such a conclusion is common sense. That’s why the team’s current sub-.500 record against its chief playoff rivals should at least be a minor concern. Even if the Yankees do wind up surviving what has become an increasingly mediocre American League, the inability to win more consistently against better competition could come back to haunt them in October.