Throughout the MLB season, ESPN Stats & Info will take a monthly look at how the MLB divisions stack up against each other to settle the debate about which division is the best –- and worst.
The formula devised to determine which division is strongest from top to bottom accounts for strength of schedule, ESPN.com power rankings, non-divisional win percentage and individual player rankings.
Each team is given a score from 120 to four, based on those four variables (1-30 for each variable), and the total score is averaged by the number of teams in each division.
Based upon these ratings, the AL East was the strongest division in 2010 by a landslide; the AL East averaged 85 points, while the second-place division -- the NL East -- averaged 68 points.
The 2011 season has been marked by more divisional parity. Through one month of the season, the AL West and NL East are tied as the top division in baseball.
The NL East is tied for the best division in baseball largely because of the strong start of the Philadelphia Phillies and Florida Marlins. These two teams are ranked in the top five of all but one category that the formula measures. Philadelphia is ranked as the number one team in MLB by the ESPN power rankings and the division as a whole posts the highest RPI (measures strength of schedule) in baseball and win percentage outside of their division.
The AL West was helped by the MLB Player ratings which ranks four the top six pitchers in MLB coming from the division. Further, three of the top four teams in the division have a winning record when playing teams outside of their division (.535 win pct outside of AL West as of April 29), which is the second-highest win percentage outside of the division.
After being ranked as the worst division in baseball in 2010, the NL Central again is struggling in 2011. Despite St. Louis and Milwaukee ranking first and second respectively in the individual player performances, the division has struggled to win games thus far. Only St. Louis has a winning record outside of the division as of April 29, leading to the worst win percentage outside of the division in baseball (.450 win pct).
After just one unpredictable and unexpected month, there is still a lot of baseball to be played. Look for the next edition of the MLB Divisional Rankings to look drastically different as interleague play begins with a full weekend slate on May 20.