As baseball enters its second half, the Boston Red Sox, Cleveland Indians, Houston Astros, Washington Nationals, Milwaukee Brewers and Los Angeles Dodgers might feel like they’re sitting pretty, with a share of the division lead at the All-Star break.
Since 1996, the first full season with at least one Wild Card, 79 of 126 division champions (63 percent) held at least a share of that division lead at the All-Star break.
The Astros lead the AL West by 16.5 games at the break this season. According to Elias Sports Bureau research, that’s the second-largest lead since the All-Star Game began in 1933 (division lead since 1969; league lead prior). Only the 2001 Mariners held a larger lead -- 19 games.
Since 1996, 12 of 21 World Series winners led their divisions entering July 1. The 2011 Cardinals had a share of the division lead at that point, and although they failed to win the division, they did win the World Series.
This is only the fourth time that three teams in the same division have been at or above .570 at the All-Star break.
The last time it happened was 2010, when the New York Yankees, Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays all posted winning percentages above .570 in the AL East. The Rays went on to win the division, with the Yankees as the Wild Card. The Red Sox finished seven games back.
Which teams stand in a significantly different place entering the second half in 2017 compared to 2016?
The San Francisco Giants are front and center. The Giants were 57-33 (.633), 6.5 games ahead of the Dodgers in the NL West last season at the break. This year, they are in last place at 34-56 (.378), and are 27 games behind the first-place Dodgers.
According to Elias Sports Bureau research, That .255 drop-off in win percentage is the second-largest ever. Only the 1970-71 Reds had a larger drop-off, plummeting from .705 to .446.
What it means to be in first place
In the American League, all of the division leaders at the break haven’t gone on to win their respective divisions since 2013 -- when the Red Sox, Detroit Tigers and Athletics did so. It has happened four times since 1996 in the AL.
In the National League, all of the division leaders at the break haven’t gone on to win their divisions since 2009, when the Philadelphia Phillies, Cardinals and Dodgers did so. It has also happened four times since 1996 in the NL.
Since 1996, only once have none of a league’s leaders at the break gone on to win their respective divisions: the NL in 2007. That year, the New York Mets, Brewers and San Diego Padres led at the break, but the Phillies, Cubs and Diamondbacks won their divisions.
There hasn’t been a season like that in the AL in that span.