COMMENTARY | No matter which way you cut it, the New York Yankees are in a different class this season than in years past.
They may be three games back (four in the loss column) in the wild-card race as of games played Sept. 15, but this is not a team wowing anyone at the moment. Not many fans or analysts would list the Yankees as true World Series contenders this fall.
Over the past several weeks, the Yankees have crawled back into a wild-card race they may have no business being in. The striking difference between this team and the Yankees' more recent teams is that this one feels like a farce. The Yanks have a chance to earn a wild-card spot, but it is easy to suggest it will have more to do with other teams faltering over the final two weeks of the regular season than their own performance.
Twice this month the Yankees were coming off series victories -- a sweep of the Chicago White Sox and an impressive three out of four wins against the Baltimore Orioles at Camden Yards -- only to be slammed by the AL East-leading Boston Red Sox directly after. The Bombers were humbled in the Bronx, losing three of four to the Red Sox as the bearded crew tallied 34 runs in the series' first three games. Most recently, the Red Sox dampened the Yankees' postseason chances with a sweep at Fenway Park, outscoring the Yanks 22-7.
Yes, this Yankees team has shown resilience all season long. They've experienced injuries to some of their top players and have continued to fight back. Each time that they were written off, they strung some wins together and edged back into the race.
It does command some kind of respect to be in the postseason hunt considering the circumstances. However, when boiled down, it is not so difficult to see that the Yankees (11-10 in their last 21 games) are still alive because of the wild turn of events for the Texas Rangers and the Tampa Bay Rays. Each has gone 7-14 over the same 21-game stretch.
The Yankees have been able to hang around despite a rotation that has been awful in September. Check out these numbers for the Yankees' top four starters (three starts apiece) and ask how this team could possibly still make the playoffs?
Andy Pettitte - 18.1 IP, 3.92 ERA, .292 BAA & 1.36 WHIP
CC Sabathia - 20.2 IP, 4.79 ERA, .276 BAA & 1.50 WHIP
Hiroki Kuroda - 18.1 IP, 5.40 ERA, .267 BAA & 1.42 WHIP
Ivan Nova - 14 IP, 7.07 ERA, .298 BAA & 1.79 WHIP
They can't, or at least they shouldn't, if this continues. Worse for the Yankees is none of these pitchers has shown a glimpse of turning things around. If the starting staff cannot complete a performance reversal, the Yankees will miss the playoffs for the second time since 2008.
To their benefit, the Yanks may have the second-easiest schedule on paper behind the Indians. The Yankees play their next 9 of 12 games against clubs currently in last place in their respective divisions, and they have a three-game tilt against wild-card leading Tampa Bay. There is surely a chance the Yankees can rattle off 8-10 wins to finish out the regular season. But will it be enough?
Further, is there anyone out there who thinks the Yankees, should they reach the postseason and win the wild-card game, would beat any of the current division leaders in a five-game divisional series? The Yankees have given something for fans to root for in September, but the harsh reality is this team is not a true contender. They've got too many holes on the roster to stand toe to toe with the better teams in the league.
The Yankees may reach the postseason but seeing what I am seeing now, I cannot confidently suggest they'll have a chance to advance to the American League Championship Series. Eventually, the truths behind smoke-and-mirrors acts are revealed, and that has finally happened with the New York Yankees.
Chris Carelli is a freelance baseball writer/editor. He is a New York Yankees contributor published on Yahoo Sports and has previously written for Call to the Pen, Redbird Rants, Yanks Go Yard and Big Leagues Magazine. Chris is also the Director of Content Strategy for Sportsideo. For more baseball commentary you can follow Chris on Twitter.
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