The old cliche says you can’t win a division in April, but you can lose it. Getting off to a slow start makes it that much harder to be in good position come September and October. But if that’s the case, the opposite is also true. The better you are in the beginning, the better position you’ll (likely) have at the end. The Yankees have a chance to be in great position going forward if they take advantage of their March and April schedule. And they can achieve that by doing something predictable: beating bad teams.
.As they normally do, the Yankees open against the Orioles for three games. Less than a week later, they start a four game set with Baltimore. At the end of April, they play the Tigers seven times–four in Detroit, three in the Bronx. Fourteen out of 32 games are against two of the worst teams in baseball. That alone should give the Yankees a firm footing and buy them cushion for their other, possibly tougher opponents like the Rays, A’s, and revamped Reds. While the Yankees can do something predictable and passive like that, they can also do something equally predictable, but way more active: riding Gerrit Cole.
In their March/April stretch, the Yankees have four days off: March 27 and April 3, 16, and 27. The way these off days are positioned will allow the Yankees to give Cole up to eight starts in the month, if they pitch him on regular, four days rest each time. Presuming Cole starts Opening Day on March 26, he can then pitch again on March 31 and April 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, and 30.
This will require adjusting other pitchers’ routines a bit, but it might be worth it to get Cole that many starts. The schedule gets tougher in May, with a run of Boston (home), Tampa (away), and Houston (away) from May 8-17, with no days off. The Yankees will need the cushion that both a soft schedule and their ace can and presumably will provide.
Winning a bunch in March and April guarantees the Yankees nothing in terms of winning the division come September/October, but it will put them in stronger position to do so. While they may not have the crunch time feel of September, these games still count the same in the standings. Thus, the Yankees should take advantage of the schedule and take advantage of their shiny, new ace.