Sports Stats ‘on Tapp’ is a sports statistics blog published with a focus on stats that go beyond the numbers.
What’s interesting about the Dodgers run to the playoffs this season is that the team has shot to the top of their division without playing well within their division. The Dodgers are 23-27 (a .460 winning percentage) against division foes this year. What has helped has been solid performances against those teams outside their division; they are 22-11 against NL East teams, 19-8 against NL Central opponents, and 12-8 in interleague play.
Usually, teams that win divisional title don’t play under .500 within their division. In fact, since 1969 when baseball went from playing with no divisions within each league to two divisions per league (and eventually three divisions in each league which is the current format), only a handful of teams have won a division title after playing under .500 within their own division.
Here’s a look at those teams;
1974 Pittsburgh Pirates: Won the N.L. East with a 44-46 record versus division foes. Were 44-28 against N.L. West opponents.
1994 Texas Rangers: Won the A.L. West with an 8-22 record versus division foes. Were 21-20 against A.L. East opponents and 23-20 against A.L, Central teams. (Note: This was a strike-shortened season.)
1996 Texas Rangers: Won the A.L. West with an 18-21 record versus division foes. Were 42-20 against A.L. East opponents and 30-31 against A.L. Central teams.
2006 St. Louis Cardinals: Won the N.L. Central with a 39-42 record versus division foes. Were 16-15 against N.L. East opponents and 23-11 against N.L. West teams.
In addition, three teams played exactly .500 within their division and won division titles. The three: the 1972 Detroit Tigers (won the A.L. East with a 42-42 record against division teams and were 44-28 against the A.L. West); the 1983 Los Angeles Dodgers (won the N.L. West with a 45-45 record against N.L. West teams and were 46-26 against N.L. East teams); and the 2007 Arizona Diamondbacks (won the N.L. West with a 36-36 record against division teams and were 24-9 against the N.L. East and 22-20 against the N.L. Central).
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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.