Brewers end “division leader on September 1” drought

Milwaukee Brewers

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Sports Stats ‘on Tapp’ is a biweekly blog published every Wednesday and Sunday with a bonus posting “SIX STATS…” published every Friday.

Prior to the beginning of the 2011 MLB season, six teams had never led their division on September 1 since 1994 when baseball went to three divisions in each league. The six: Toronto, Kansas City, Florida, Pittsburgh, Milwaukee and Colorado. The Milwaukee Brewers, however, will wake up tomorrow, September 1, and find themselves in the unfamiliar leader slot in the NL Central with one month remaining in the 2011 season.

In the 102 races since 1994 (17 years times six divisions), 82 (80.4%) of the teams that led their division on the morning of September 1 went on to win the division that year. Ironically, last year three teams that had the division lead the morning of September 1 did not win the title, the first time three September 1 leaders failed to win the division in a season since that first year of six divisions.

(WE INTERRUPT THIS BLOG FOR A TRIVIA QUESTION: Can you name the three teams that led their division on September 1 last season but did not win the title? Answer at the end of the blog.)

Here’s a look at how far division leaders were ahead of their closest pursuer on September 1 and if they won the division that year. Based on the numbers below we see that of the 56 teams that had a lead of five or more games on September 1, 55 of those won the title that year. The only blemish was in 1995 when the California Angels had a 7.5 game lead in the AL West on September 1  but lost out to the Seattle Mariners for the AL West crown.

Sept. 1 leader games ahead in standings                                 Times                       Titles

0.5, 1 or 1.5 games ahead                                                                             16                                 10

2 or 2.5 games ahead                                                                                     9                                   2

3 or 3.5 games ahead                                                                                    10                                  6

4 or 4.5 games ahead                                                                                    10                                  8

5 or 5.5 games ahead                                                                                    10                                 10

6 or 6.5 games ahead                                                                                     8                                   8

7 or 7.5 games ahead                                                                                    11                                  10

8 or 8.5 games ahead                                                                                     6                                   6

9 or 9.5 games ahead                                                                                     0                                   0

10 or more games ahead                                                                              21                                 21

(Note: In one division race, 2007 NL West, two teams (Arizona and San Diego) were tied for the lead on Sept. 1. Arizona won the division.)

TRIVIA ANSWER: The three teams that had division leads last year on September 1 but did not win the title were the New York Yankees, Atlanta Braves and San Diego Padres.

Did you know: Of the 30 teams that had a division lead of three games or less on September 1 since 1994, 16 did not win the division that season.

2 responses

  1. Jerry I wonder what division leader in modern baseball, had the biggest crash.

    1. Paul: I put “largest Sept. 1 collapse in major league baseball history” in the search engine and got quite a few articles to choose from. Two of interest that you might want to check out: “The 17 Most Pathetic Pennant Race Collapses in MLB history” and “The 10 Worst Baseball Pennant-Race Collapses.” Maybe some time in the future I’ll go back and complete the September 1 list and check when there were two divisions in each league and back to 1969 when there was only an American League and a National League and no divisions. That’s for another time. Thanks for reading! Tapper

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