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What this means to stay 1st place entering August

3: 53 AM UTC

Its August, the start of the stretch run. THE HOUSE Run Derby and All-Star Game have passed, the Trade Deadline is Tuesday and playoff-implication baseball is approximately to take center stage.

It could feel like in case a team isnt in playoff position at this time, it may be time and energy to worry. But is that true? For teams hoping to win the division, its definitely approaching crunch time.

Let’s check out what this means to stay first place entering August and what the playoff field may appear to be. Note, all stats below exclude the shortened 2020 season and instead look at full seasons for the impact and postseason implications.

What this means to stay first place (or not be there)

Since 1996 — the initial full season with a minumum of one Wild Card in each league — 111 of 150 eventual division champions held at the very least a share of these division lead entering August. Thats 74% of division winners.

Take notice, Yankees, Twins, Astros, Mets, Brewers and Dodgers fans — those will be the teams that currently lead their divisions.

Last season, five of the six division leaders on Aug. 1 continued to win their divisions. In the American League, the Rays, White Sox and Astros each won their divisions. In the NL, the Brewers and Giants each won their divisions, however the Mets, who led the East entering July, missed the playoffs.

Since 1996, 14 of the 25 World Series winners, excluding 2020, led their divisions entering August. But neither of the final two winners completely seasons the 21 Braves and 19 Nationals did. The Braves first took sole possession of the NL East in mid-August, as the Nationals were a Wild Card team.

Comebacks and the ones 2021 Braves

Think about the potential comebacks? Just two teams have gone to win the planet Series after being below .500 entering August — the 1914 Boston Braves, who have been 44-45, and the 2021 Braves, who have been 52-54. Which means that the 2021 Braves .491 winning percentage entering August was the cheapest of any eventual World Series champion.

Before 21, the cheapest winning percentage entering August to win the planet Series in the Divisional Era (since 1969) was .528 (57-51) by the 2011 Cardinals.

And when we look at simply making the playoffs? The cheapest winning percentage for a team entering August that continued to help make the playoffs in a non-strike-shortened season was .436 (44-57) by the 1973 Mets, who continued to win the National League pennant and showed everyone that Ya Gotta Believe. (Again we have been excluding 2020 with both these notes).

Overall, 13 teams have made the playoffs in a non-shortened season where they entered August below .500.

This years leaders and competition

Of the years current division leaders entering August, each has already established at the very least a share of this lead entering August at least one time in the last two full seasons, too.

Three teams lead by at the very least 10 games entering August this season: the Dodgers (12 games), Astros (12 games) and Yankees (11 1/2 games). Its just the 3rd time because the split to three divisions per league that at the very least three teams had a 10-or-more-game lead entering August.

In addition, it happened in 2017, with the Astros (16 games), Nationals (14 games) and Dodgers (14 games). And in 1998, with the Yankees (15 games), Cleveland (10 1/2 games), Braves (14 games) and Padres (13 games).

As well as the Dodgers, Astros and Yankees, the Mets also previously had a 10-game lead. Its the 3rd season in the Divisional Era (since 1969) where four or even more teams had 10-plus game division leads at some time before Aug. 1, based on the Elias Sports Bureau. In addition, it happened in 2019 (HOU, LAD, MIN, NYY) and 1998 (ATL, CLE, NYY, SD).

October is quickly drawing closer, but theres still baseball left to be played. Fans of the six division leaders may take some comfort in realizing that, historically, almost three quarters of these teams have gone to win their divisions. And for fans of teams that arent in playoff position, theres still a lot of hope — while 74% of the teams continue to win their divisions, which means 26% usually do not, too. The 2021 Braves successes should provide a lot of hope.

Now, most of us reach watch and see what goes on.

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