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What it means to lead the division on August 1

The Houston Astros enter August with a 16-game lead in the AL West. AP Photo/Chris Szagola

As baseball enters August, the New York Yankees, Cleveland Indians, Houston Astros, Washington Nationals, Chicago Cubs and Los Angeles Dodgers lead their respective divisions.

Since 1996, the first full season with at least one Wild Card, 91 of 126 division champions (72 percent) held at least a share of that division lead entering August.

Historical Trends

Since 1996, 12 of 21 World Series winners led their divisions entering August 1.

The Dodgers (.705), Arizona Diamondbacks (.571) and Colorado Rockies (.566) are all at or above .560 in the NL West entering August.

This is the fourth time since 2000 that three teams in the same division have been at or above .560 entering August, according to Elias Sports Bureau research.

The last time it happened was 2010, when the AL East had the Yankees, Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays. The Rays went on to win the division, with the Yankees as the Wild Card. The Red Sox finished seven games back.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, it hasn’t happened in an NL division since 1997 when the New York Mets, Florida Marlins, and Atlanta Braves accomplished the feat.

Elias also notes that this is the third time there have been three NL West teams with .560-or-better win percentages entering August in the Divisional Era (Since 1969). The Dodgers, Giants and Reds did it in both 1973 and 1978.

What it means to be in first place (and by how much)

In the AL, all of the division leaders entering August went on to win their respective divisions last season: the Red Sox, Indians and Rangers. It’s happened six times since 1996 in the AL.

In the NL, the division leaders entering August haven’t all gone on to win their divisions since 2012, when the Nationals, Reds and Giants did so. It’s happened 11 times since 1996 in the NL.

Since 1996, there has not been a season in which none of a league’s leaders entering August went on to win their divisions.

In that span, all six division winners have held a share of first place entering August just three times: 1996, 1997 and 1999.

What about a large division lead? The Astros lead the AL West by 16 games entering August this season. That’s the third-largest lead in the World Series Era (division lead since 1969; league lead prior). Only the 2001 Mariners and 1995 Indians had a larger such lead.

The Giants are 35 games behind the first-place Dodgers in the NL West entering August.

That’s the largest lead the Dodgers have ever had over the rival Giants entering August in the 127 years the two teams have played in the same league.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the previous largest lead was 24 games in 1899. The previous largest in the World Series Era was 20 1/2 games in 1974.