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May leaders don't always finish on top

Who had the Cleveland Indians and Colorado Rockies as division leaders on May 1? Does being in first on May 1 guarantee October success? History suggests it depends on what year it is.

Teams in First Place on May 1
To Win Division

Since baseball started crowning six division champions in 1995, there have been 96 division champions.

And when one takes 1995 out of the equation, (since that season started in late April) 49 of the 90 champions were in first place on May 1. At only 54.4 percent, that is hardly guaranteeing a division title in October.

Last season alone, just two teams (Tampa Bay Rays and Minnesota Twins) won their division after being on top at the end of April. The National League saw none of its division leaders on May 1 (San Diego Padres, St. Louis Cardinals, New York Mets) go on to win their division.

Looking further, the results have been even lower the last 10 seasons.

Since 2001, only 26 of 60 (43.3 percent) eventual division champs were in first place on May 1. During that span, only once did even five of the six teams in first place win their division. That was in 2003, when only the Kansas City Royals failed to win their division.

In 2001, the Seattle Mariners were the only May 1 leader to win a division, and in 2002, the Arizona Diamondbacks were the lone representative.

But prior to 2001, the trend of was much different.

In the first five seasons of the new format (once again not counting 1995), 23 of 30 teams (a remarkable 76.7%) that won the division were in front on May 1. This includes 10 of 12 teams from 1998 and 1999. In both of those seasons, five of the six May leaders went on to win the division.

Entering the first day of May, the Yankees, Indians, Rangers, Phillies, Cardinals and Rockies lead their respective divisions.