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Injury-decimated Yankees ranked as division favorites in latest season projections

Although the rallying cry “next man up” technically means another man down, the makeshift Yankees have been finding ways to win.

And the latest odds and figures suggest the hottest team in baseball, comprised of several minor league call-ups, will maintain its success when the calendar turns to May this week.

With a record of 17-11 entering Monday (2nd in AL East), the Yankees — winners of four consecutive series — have an 83-percent chance of reaching the postseason and a 54-percent chance of clinching the division, according to FiveThirtyEight’s most recent season projections.

Based on win-loss simulations, FiveThirtyEight projects the Yankees will finish the regular season with 96 wins.  Last Monday, the team was pegged to win 93 games, and their odds to reach the playoffs and claim a division title were marked at 73-percent and 45-percent, respectively.

Since the beginning of April, the Yankees have sent a whopping 15 players to the injured list.  Their 13 players currently on the shelf leads all of baseball.  Yet somehow, the team has battled through overwhelming adversity, and managed to win 11 of their last 13 games.  With a sweep over the San Francisco Giants at Oracle Park on Sunday, the Yankees’ overall winning percentage (.607) is tied for third-best in the AL with the Houston Astros.

Just tread water until reinforcements arrive?  The Yankees don’t seem to be fond of that idea.

“We’ve got good players in that room and they all continue to step up and really embrace this thing,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone told reporters on Sunday.  “They’ve really taken to the ‘Next-man up.’  They’re coming in focused, they’re coming in ready and all doing their job really well.  I’m just proud of how they’ve rallied around one another.”

Fortunately for the Yankees, the injury bug hasn’t caught everyone.  First baseman Luke Voit is in the midst of an impressive 39-game on-base streak, and in 126 plate appearances this season, he’s slashed .283/.397/.538 with eight home runs, three doubles, 17 walks, and 25 RBI.

“Confidence in our locker room is through the roof,” Voit told the YES Network on Sunday.  “Every guy is coming in, doing their job, and it’s fun.  I couldn’t be happier for the all the groups of guys that we’ve got in there.  The guys are coming in and doing their thing.  We’re having a blast…

“It’s crazy what happens when you get an opportunity.  It’s kind of what happened to me last year, and all these guys are taking advantage of it and doing the best they can.  No one’s overdoing it either.  I don’t know how to explain it.  It’s just a lot of fun.”

As much as the Yankees have missed their ace Luis Severino — he’s expected to be sidelined with a right lat strain until July — starting pitching has really risen to the occasion.  In 28 games, their rotation owns a 3.51 ERA, which is fifth-best in the majors and third-best in the AL.  Right-hander Domingo German, who’s filled in as the Yankees’ fifth rotation option, won on Sunday in San Francisco and improved to 5-1 with a 2.56 ERA in 31.2 innings (five starts).

“It’s very satisfying to see how many guys come up and start contributing,” German told reporters.  “It’s fun to go through the journey together, especially at this level.  Being able to play good baseball, being able to win games, have those guys behind me and score runs for me, it’s very satisfying.  Understanding that we have a good chunk of the team missing… Seeing that, it’s fun and exciting.”

FiveThirtyEight also projects the Yankees will finish the season with a run differential of plus-145, which would rank second-best in the majors.  As for their elaborate Elo rating — a measure of “team strength based on head-to-head results, margin of victory, and quality of opponent” — the Yankees are marked at 1,568 (second-best in the league).

Over the last seven games, the Yankees have outscored their opponents 46-36 and stolen more bases (12) than hit home runs (9).  Suffice to say, it’s been a bizarre month.

“I think we’ve got a really good makeup in that room,” Boone said.  “It’s something that’s important to us, to have those kind of people.  And I think we have that in spades in there with guys that are tough, that are prepared.

“I’ve always felt with this team, through ups and downs, whatever, I feel like they’re really good at turning the page.  But I think there’s an extra focus right now with what we’re going through.  Guys are coming in ready for any kind of role, any kind of situation, and they’re delivering.”

The Yankees will wrap up a three-city West Coast trip with a two-game set against the Arizona Diamondbacks on Tuesday night at Chase Field.


If you want to connect with Tom Hanslin, you can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @TomHanslin.