When you have a history as long and as storied as that of the New York Yankees, there are a lot of great options to choose from when picking the best team in franchise history. Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and Murderers’ Row in 1927? That’s tough to beat. But Joe DiMaggio and the ’39 Bronx Bombers might have been even better. And we can’t forget about Derek Jeter and the 1998 Yankees — still the winningest single-season team (including playoffs) in MLB history.
The 2022 Yankees have placed themselves squarely in that conversation, too. On Monday, New York became the first MLB team this season to cross the 50-win barrier, well before anyone else was even close. (“Anyone else” includes the possible Subway Series-rival New York Mets, who sit second in wins but are still five shy of 50.) As with the ’98 Yankees, it took this year’s group just 67 games to reach 50 wins, which is tied for the seventh-fastest to the half-century mark for any American or National League team since 1901:
|Year||Team||Games||W||L||WPct||Elo At 50th W|
|1912||New York Giants||61||50||11||.820||1612|
|1939||New York Yankees||64||50||14||.781||1618|
|1928||New York Yankees||66||50||16||.758||1607|
|1998||New York Yankees||67||50||17||.746||1591|
|1904||New York Giants||67||50||17||.746||1590|
|2022||New York Yankees||67||50||17||.746||1589|
This year’s Yankees aren’t quite the franchise’s fastest pace-setters to start the season — trailing the 1939 and 1928 teams1 — but they’re very close. And as FanGraphs’ Jay Jaffe recently pointed out, they are keeping surprising pace with that fabled ’98 squad. If the Yankees keep winning at a .743 clip, they’d win 120 games, setting a new regular-season record for wins and clearing the 1998 Yankees’ mark by six victories. Regression to the mean says that probably won’t happen. But the Yankees have arrived at their great record this season honestly: Their pythagorean winning percentage (.721) ranks 12th-best of any AL or NL team over the first 70 games of a season since 1901, good enough to land them on 118 wins if they win at that pace for the rest of the season.
Our forecast model — which uses Elo ratings to simulate the remaining schedule — thinks the Yankees fall a bit short of that by season’s end. We currently project New York to finish with 108 wins, which would still be the best in baseball (by a seven-win margin over the L.A. Dodgers) but not the best ever — nor even the best of the past decade outright, as the rival Boston Red Sox won 108 games in 2018. So it’s a bit premature to think the Yankees will just keep winning at a record-breaking pace, especially with 92 games remaining. That said, however, it is still plenty possible for New York to shatter all of those benchmarks for victories.
One of the cool things about our model is that it is probabilistic, so in addition to returning the Yankees’ average end-of-season win total, it can also tell us the range of outcomes that go into that average. For instance, there’s a 93 percent probability that New York wins at least 100 games this season, easily the highest of any team. (The Dodgers are second with a 62 percent chance.) There’s also a 56 percent chance that the 2022 Yankees match or surpass those 2018 Red Sox’s 108-win tally, and a 43 percent chance they join the 1927 Yankees in the 110-win club.2
|Benchmark||Wins||Odds of tie or better||Odds to break|
|2018 Red Sox||108||55.9||49.3|
Looking at some of New York’s loftiest aspirations for this season, the odds get a little bit longer. Despite the similarities between the two teams’ starts to the year, there’s still only a 20 percent chance the 2022 Yankees will match the 1998 team’s final win total of 114. There’s also a 12 percent chance that they tie the 2001 Seattle Mariners — or, if you prefer, the 1906 Chicago Cubs — for the most wins ever in a regular season at 116, and an 8 percent chance they break that record. (There’s even a 3 percent chance the Yankees win an unbelievable 120 games — although essentially no chance to become the anti-Cleveland Spiders with 134 wins.)3 Those odds are somewhat remote, but having even an 8 percent chance to break the all-time wins record as we near the end of June is remarkable.
It’s a testament to how special this Yankee season has been so far. And maybe the most improbable part is that it wasn’t obvious going into the season that New York would lead the division, let alone contend for all-time honors. I (among others) hyped up the Toronto Blue Jays — a fine team, mind you — as favorites in the AL East, with the Yankees serving as but one of a few good contenders also jockeying for position within the division. New York was a flawed team last season with a lot of highs but also lows, and they weren’t among the most improved teams on paper during the offseason. But the front office was shrewd with the players it did add or let go and smart to ride with a talented core of players who have delivered above and beyond for the club this year.
Only time will tell whether New York remains this dominant throughout the season or cools off some before October. But its early season form has put this team in elite company among the greatest ever assembled in franchise history. And for a club with as rich a history as the Yankees, that’s really saying something.
Check out our latest MLB predictions.