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Examining the Yankees’ magic number and the race for home-field

The Yankees are going to make the playoffs. The Yankees are going to win the American League East. No, I am not jinxing it.

FanGraphs currently have the Yankees’ postseason chances at 100 percent. To win the division? Also 100 percent. Of course, it is not actually 100 percent, but it surely is very close. That is where their magic number comes in.

As of Thursday morning, the team’s magic number to clinch the division was at 12. This means that any combination of 12 Yankees wins and Rays losses will give the Bronx Bombers their first division title in seven years. That means that the earliest they can clinch would be Wednesday, September 11th– if the Rays loses their next six games and the Yankees win their next six.

In case you were wondering, the low point for the team’s playoff odds was 79.7 percent on May 11. On this date, they were 23-16 and 1.5 games behind Tampa Bay for the division lead while holding down the first Wild Card. This was also their low point for the division odds at 36.2 percent.

So it’s safe to say that the Yankees will be playing baseball in October. They have the ability to rest some players if they choose. However, they will also need to ramp things up for other players: those coming of the IL. This group includes Luis Severino, Dellin Betances, Giancarlo Stanton, and Aaron Hicks. They all could return with only a week or two left in the regular season. With minor league seasons all but over, they will have to rely on sim games to get their reps in as well as being sure to get enough time at the major-league level before the close of the regular season slate.

Yet perhaps the most important aspect of the Yankees’ last 21 games is the race for home-field, especially in the American League. We all know what happened in the ALCS two years ago – the home team won every game. And even though the Yankees took two of three from the Dodgers in LA, it would obviously be nice to have home-field against them in the World Series (or against any team for that matter).

The Yankees, Astros, and Dodgers all have relatively easily schedules the rest of the way. The Yankees’ remaining opponents have a cumulative winning percentage of .481; the Astros are at .473; the Dodgers are at .472. That’s fairly even across the board. However, since the Astros took the season series 4-3, the Yankees have to win home-field outright – they have to finish at least one game ahead of Houston. They are currently 1.5 games ahead. Conversely, as aforementioned, the Yankees won their season series with the Dodgers so the tiebreaker would fall their way.

It’ll be interesting to see the mixing and matching Aaron Boone does over the next few weeks as he folds in returning stars and gives other ones rest. Two things are for certain: the Yankees are winning the A.L. East and the race for home-field is going to be critical and go down to the wire.