A Yankee Look Back at Interleague Play and What Lies Ahead…
By C.J. Hangen
As the New York Yankees look to complete a sweep of the Cleveland Indians tonight let’s take a quick look back at their Interleague play in 2012 and examine the remaining schedule. Currently the team sits atop the AL East with a MLB best 45-28 record; largely due to how they performed against the NL. However, looking forward to the rest of the 1st half and entire 2nd half the Yankees have their work cut out for themselves if they expect to finish with the best record in baseball.
The 2012 Yankees finished Interleague play with a 13-5 record, despite dropping two out of three in their first series against the Cincinnati Reds. Three weeks later the Yankees started a stretch of 15 games against NL teams, which could be looked at as the turning point in the season. Before that span, the Yankees were 31-25 and in the middle of a very tight AL East battle. Now, after that stretch (and two wins vs. the Indians), the Yankees are percentage points ahead of the Texas Rangers in a battle for the best record in baseball.
During that 15-game period the Yankees managed to run off a 10-game winning streak, fueled by 9 quality starts. The Yankees went 8-1 at NL ballparks and 5-3 at home which suggests their Interleague success was not due to their home-field/AL advantage. In fact, it looks to be more of a case of the AL having superior talent. This year the American League won 142 out of 252 games; the highest winning percentage since 2008 and third-highest percentage since the inception of Interleague play in 1997. This greatly diminishes the fact that all of the teams the Yankees faced from the NL were above .500.
Of the Yankees first 73 games the team played, 30% came against NL competition. With no more interleague teams to beat up on the rest of the way things could get a little tight in the boogie down this summer.
To date, 29% of their schedule has been against AL East teams. However, of their remaining 89 games the team has 51 against the AL East; that’s 57% of their remaining games against AL East teams. Considering the team finished their first 21 games against the AL East one game above .500 (11-10) and that the entire AL East is above .500 it is a real cause for concern. The Boston Red Sox, at 39-35, are in fourth place in the AL East but would be tied for first place with the Chicago White Sox if they were in the AL Central.
After playing the surprisingly competitive Indians, the Yankees jump right into the fray with a four-game series against the AL Central leading Chicago White Sox, then go on the road for three games in Tampa Bay and finish their first-half in Boston with a four-game set. Things won’t get better after the All-Star break, as the Yanks play only 20 games against second-half opponents with records below .500.
So while all seems good in Yankee Universe, we should expect rough waters ahead. Hopefully the pitching can continue to be successful, Brett Gardner can get healthy, and we can start hitting with runners in scoring position, because the second half schedule does not leave much room for error.