A 7-game lead on July 1: A good omen?

July 1

When the calendar turned over to July last Friday, each of the 30 MLB teams were at or near the mid-point in their season. The sports pages showed two divisional leaders with leads of seven games or more over their closest competitor… a good sign, right?

In the last 20 seasons (since 1996), there have been 16 teams that had a divisional lead of at least seven games at the start of the day on July 1. Of those 16, how many do you think won the World Series that year? How many do you think failed to make the playoffs that year? That answer in a minute.

This year the Chicago Cubs had the biggest division lead of the six divisions with an 11-game advantage over the St. Louis Cardinals in the National League Central. In the America League, the Texas Rangers were 8.5 games ahead of division rival Houston in the West. The other four division leaders on July 1 (Washington, San Francisco, Baltimore and Cleveland) had leads of five or six games.

So, does having a lead of seven games or more on July 1 translate to a World Series appearance? Of those 16 teams with divisional leads of seven games or more on July 1 since 1996, only three went on to play in the World Series that season; all three, however, did win the championship (Boston-2007, White Sox -2005 and the Yankees-1998). Only two of those teams (the 2007 Brewers and 2003 Mariners) had a lead of seven games or more on July 1 but did not make the playoffs that year.

Here’s a look at how well the 16 teams with a lead in their division of seven games or more on July 1 did in the post-season that season. (How big a lead they had on July 1 is noted in parenthesis.)

Won World Series
Boston, 2007 (10.5 game lead)
Chicago White Sox, 2005 (10.5)
N.Y. Yankees, 1998 (10)

Lost in the playoffs before the World Series
St. Louis, 2015 (8)
N.Y. Mets, 2006 (10.5)
St. Louis, 2005 (8.5)
N.Y. Yankees, 2004 (7.5)
Atlanta, 2002 (8.5)
Seattle, 2001 (20)
Chicago White Sox, 2000 (9.5)
St. Louis, 2000 (8.5)
Cleveland, 1999 (12.5)
Cleveland, 1998 (8.5)
Atlanta, 1998 (8.5)

Did not make the playoffs that season
Milwaukee, 2007 (7.5)
Seattle, 203 (7)

If Cubs fans are looking for some good mojo concerning their team, consider this: Of the six teams that had a division lead of 10 games or more on July 1 since 1996, three won the World Series that season.

 

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