It’s the first of August and that can only mean good news for the Yankees, White Sox, Rangers, Braves, Cardinals and Padres. Historically speaking, the numbers show that teams leading their respective divisions on August 1 are pretty good bets to be winning that division at the end of the season.

Don’t believe me? Well let’s just take a look at the numbers. Since 1995 when MLB went to its six-division format (actually began in 1994, but there were no playoffs due to the strike), teams leading their division on Aug. 1 end up winning the division 82 percent (74-for-90) of the time. I’ll be honest, I knew the numbers were in favor of it, but until I researched it I never thought it was that high.

Breaking it down by league:

American League teams win the pennant 78% (35-for-45) of the time.
National League teams hold onto the division lead 87% (39-for-45) of the time.

Here are some other interesting notes:

– Two AL division leaders on August 1—Seattle in 2000 and Detroit in 2006—did not go on to win their division, but they still made the playoffs by earning the wildcard. So that adds two more teams to the numbers of division leaders making the playoffs.

– Speaking of the wildcard, the team that holds the wildcard spot on August 1 ends up as the wildcard 47 percent of the time. That’s decent news for the Giants and Rays, who currently hold those spots in each league.

– A very interesting finding is that it’s rare to see teams that are leading the wildcard race on August 1 come back to win the division at season’s end. There’s been only three in 15 years, which is 30 tries (10 percent) with both leagues. Oakland did it in 2000 when Seattle was the division leader and fell to the wildcard in October. The Diamondbacks did it in 2001, which was the year they won the World Series, and Cleveland made up the ground in 2007 to win the AL Central pennant.

– The National League had a bit of a run in the late ’90s. Every Aug.1 division leader ended up winning the division in the final two months from 1996 through 2000. The same occurred from 2004 through 2006 for the NL. The AL was generally more inconsistent with its biggest streak coming two straight years in ’98-’99.

– Last note is that the last three teams in the AL to blow the division lead in the final two months after leading in early August have all been the Detroit Tigers. The ’09, ’07 and ’06 Tigers all lost their divisions, including a blown 7.5 game lead over the Twins in ’06. Ouch.

So does this mean the division leaders today are shoe ins for the playoffs? Absolutely not. Anything can happen especially with the plethora of close division races currently taking place. The largest division lead is Texas over the A’s by 8.0 games in the AL West. The next closest is the Braves 3.5 lead over the Phillies while the Cardinals-Reds and the White Sox-Twins are each within a half game of each other. The Yankees hold a two game lead over the Rays in the AL East, and the Padres only have a 1.5 lead on the Giants. But historically speaking, it may not be wise to bet against 80 percent of them making the postseason.

Advertisements