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Yankees embark on second-half of season as favorites to win AL pennant

Masahiro Tanaka with the win, Clayton Kershaw with the loss, and Aroldis Chapman with the save.  These happened to be the pitchers of record for this summer’s All-Star Game in Cleveland.

But could this trio of arms appear in the same box score again once the calendar turns to October?  The latest odds and figures suggest it’s very possible.

With an American League-best record of 57-31 entering the second-half of the regular season, the Yankees — who hold a comfortable first place lead in the AL East standings — are currently given an 87-percent chance of clinching the division and a 19-percent chance of winning the World Series, according to FiveThirtyEight.com’s most recent season projections.

The only team ahead of the Yankees?  Well, that would be the National League’s Los Angeles Dodgers, who have been given a league-high 99-percent chance of clinching their division and a 23-percent chance of winning their first Commissioner’s Trophy in over three decades.

So, if FiveThirtyEight.com’s projections hold true, this year’s Fall Classic will most likely feature the iconic matchup of New York and Los Angeles for the first time since 1981.

And it’s still rather astounding the Yankees are in such an advantageous position, considering they watched a whopping 20 players — including several stars — spend various amounts of time on the injured list during the first-half.

“As I just told the guys, they put us in a great spot here,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone told reporters on Sunday.  “But that’s all it is right now.  We got some unfinished business now.  We’ve got a long way to go, but we put ourselves in position to have a really special season… Hopefully these four days everyone gets some rest and recharges and we come out and continue to play really well starting on Friday.

“When I look at our team now, we’re capable of being the best team in the world.  Whatever ends up happening, hopefully it will make us better. But we know the guys in that room right now are capable of big things.”

Based on win-loss simulations, FiveThirtyEight.com predicts the Yankees will finish the regular season with 102 wins, while the Dodgers are marked at 103.

Of the 10 teams that reached the postseason last autumn, FiveThirtyEight.com expects six of them to return in 2019.  The four new teams are the Twins (projected 98-64 record, 1st place AL Central), Nationals (86-76 record, 2nd place NL East), Rays (92-70, 1st AL Wild Card), and Phillies (84-78 record, 2nd AL Wild Card).

FiveThirtyEight.com also incorporates a statistic called “Elo rating.”  According to their site, these ratings are a measure of “team strength based on head-to-head results, margin of victory and quality of opponent.”  The system also accounts for starting pitchers, travel distance and rest, and the average team rating is marked at 1,500.  Entering Thursday, the Yankees’ Elo rating is a major league-best 1,582 (Dodgers are second: 1,580).

The Yankees will open the second-half of the season on Friday night with a three-game set against the Toronto Blue Jays in the Bronx.

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

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