No team, in a span of mere hours, can place the likes of CC Sabathia on the disabled and then see the likes of Andy Pettitte break his leg and not have it exact a price in the standings. Indeed, the Yankees, because of those two injuries, will be a diminished team until health is restored for both. But before panic descends upon the Bronx and schadenfreude descends upon everywhere else, some perspective is in order.
Most significantly, the Yankees have room to breathe. At this writing, they have a 5.0-game cushion in the AL East, and the team closest to them, Baltimore, is ripe for regression in the coming weeks (sorry, O's fans, but that negative run differential is a troubling sign). The Yankees have a 6.5-game lead over their most serious competitors, the Red Sox and Rays. And speaking of the Red Sox and Rays, the Yankees going forward have a notably easier schedule than both. For those and other reasons, CoolStandings.com gives the Yankees a robust 82.9% chance of making the postseason. In all of baseball, only the Rangers have better odds.
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Another factor to keep in mind is that the injury to Sabathia's groin (which, medical experts assure us, isn't located within his left arm) isn't serious. It's a grade-1 strain, and Sabathia argued that deactivation wasn't even necessary. As well, thanks to the timing of the All-Star break, he'll miss just two starts. Sabathia, the undisputed rotation linchpin, will be back soon enough.
As for Pettitte, while he's been strong since his return to the majors, the Yankees' improved fortunes in the rotation have more to do with the upward trends of Ivan Nova, Hiroki Kuroda and Phil Hughes. Those three have combined for a 2.16 ERA across 96.0 June innings, and as a unit they've logged quality starts in 12 of their last 15 outings. If they continue pitching well, then Pettitte's absence will have little impact in the standings. David Phelps should be able to help out soon enough, and there's always the possibility of acquiring outside help leading up to the non-waiver trade deadline. Soon thereafter, Pettitte returns with an unexpectedly rested left arm.
There's also reason to believe the offense is going to get even better. The Yankees this season rank a strong fourth in the AL in runs scored, but their peripherals suggest they should be faring even better. For instance, the Yanks rank second in OBP and second in SLG. A function of their hitter-friendly home park? No: The Yankees are tied for the AL lead in OPS+, which is park-adjusted.
So why the disconnect between runs scored and all the rest? New York has performed poorly with runners in scoring position. Specifically, the team OPS and team batting average on balls in play each drop by almost 60 points in such situations. Despite what you might hear, this is not result of a skills deficit or a weak will or a heart as black as pitch or whatever. It's a statistical fluke that's the residue of a small sample size, and it's going to improve over time. The upshot, insofar as the Yankee rotation is concerned, is that they'll probably enjoy greater run support over the remainder of the season.
So far all these reasons, the Yankees' ultimate fortunes probably haven't been greatly altered by recent events. If, when spring training began, you told fans of the pinstripes that Michael Pineda would soon be lost for the season and that Mariano Rivera would shortly thereafter suffer the same fate, would those fans be happy with a 5.0-game lead in late June? Indeed they would.
Just as the Yankees survived those injuries, they'll survive these.