Every time you say you're done with the 2014 New York Yankees they manage to pull you back in with a little glimmer of hope. Everybody was writing their obituaries of this year's Yankees after two embarrassing losses to the Houston Astros on Tuesday and Wednesday, but they have come back to win four straight games and sit only three games in the loss column behind the Seattle Mariners for the second wild card spot. Obviously, they have a lot to prove and four wins over the Astros and White Sox is not the greatest accomplishment. However, they did have some magic with two walk-off wins and a meeting among the position players and hitting coach Kevin Long might have sparked something:
They can prove this week whether or not they will stay in the race for the remainder of the season when they play three other wild card contenders on the road in Kansas City, Detroit and Toronto. The last time the Yankees had a big series against a contender was in Baltimore and they failed miserably.
The 1995 Yankees were 53-56 at one point in the season and were 4.5 games behind three teams in the AL wild card race. Like this year's team, they were trying to make the playoffs in the final season for a Yankee legend. They rallied to make the postseason for Don Mattingly, as they went 26-9 over their last 35 games. Can the 2014 Yankees do something similar for Derek Jeter? They will not have to be as dominant as the '95 Yankees. 22-12 over their remaining 34 games would get them to 89 wins, which should be enough.
The '95 Yankees were the better team, with a 78-66 Pythagorean record that nearly matched their actual record. The '14 Yankees are playing seven games above their Pythagorean record due to great pitching at the end of games by Dellin Betances and David Robertson.
Neither team can be confused with world beaters though. The '95 Yankees had the far better offense with Bernie Williams, Paul O'Neill and Wade Boggs having way better seasons than any '14 Yankee has had, but they were not a powerhouse offensively. The '95 Yankees were fifth in the AL in runs scored (749), 12th in home runs (122), sixth in wOBA (.345), fourth in wRC+ (106) and sixth in OPS (.777). The '14 Yankees are 14th in runs scored (499), ninth in home runs (114), 12th in wOBA (.308), 12th in wRC+ (92), and 12th in OPS (.692).
The '14 Yankees have the better starting pitching depth, as the '95 Yankees had little behind David Cone and Jack McDowell. Jimmy Key was injured, Andy Pettitte was not Andy Pettitte yet, Sterling Hitchcock was horrible and Mariano Rivera was a failed starter. The '14 staff has been solid across the board with Michael Pineda, Brandon McCarthy, Hiroki Kuroda, Shane Greene and Chris Capuano all providing consistency lately.
The vast difference between the two pitching staffs are in strikeouts. the '14 Yankees pitching staff has a 8.48 K/9 rate compared to a 6.36 K/9 rate for the '95 team. Also, the '14 Yankees have a 3.72 FIP compared to 4.62 for the '95 Yankees, so almost a full run better.
Both teams have their flaws for sure with the '95 Yankees' pitching and the '14 Yankees' hitting. The '95 Yankees were able to come together for an unbelievable stretch run and parlay that into a dynasty, which is the big difference between the teams. The '95 Yankees were a young team on the rise, and the future of the Yankees right now is murky.
The '14 Yankees will have to continue with the recent clutch hitting and great pitching they have gotten in this four game win streak to do what the '95 Yankees did. They're going to need McCann, Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran to be the players that they were brought in to be. They're going to need Masahiro Tanaka to come back and provide something. They're going to need to have McCarthy, Greene and Capuano continue to pitch over their heads.
It's a lot that needs to happen and it seems unlikely still, but stranger things have happened. The Yankees certainly are not trying to catch any juggernauts. Seattle's offense is about on par with the Yankee offense, and Detroit has been in a tailspin recently. There is at least a ray of hope that the '14 Yankees can pull off a similar run for Jeter that the '95 Yankees did for Mattingly. After earlier last week when it looked over, that's about all you can ask for.