As baseball enters its second half, the Red Sox, Indians, Astros, Phillies, Cubs and Dodgers lead their respective divisions. But how much does that really matter? We look back to see what history tells us.
(It is worth noting that this year's season started earlier and the All-Star break was later than normal, meaning that teams have played more games in the first half than they typically do. This means there's also less time left to make up or gain ground in these divisional races.)
Since 1996, the first full season with at least one wild card, 85 of 132 division champions (64 percent) held at least a share of that division lead at the All-Star break.
Since 1996, 13 of 22 World Series winners led their divisions at the break. The 2011 Cardinals had a share of the division lead at that point, did not win the division, but did win the World Series.
The Red Sox (.694) and Yankees (.653) are both above .650 at the All-Star break -- and are, of course, both in the AL East.
This is the first time a division has had two teams with a .650 or better winning percentage at the All-Star break.
The Royals (.284) and Orioles (.289) both have winning percentages below .300 at the break. It's the second time in a non strike-shortened season that there have been multiple teams with winning percentages below .300 at the break, since the first All-Star Game in 1933. The other time was in 1935, when the St. Louis Browns (.275) and Boston Braves (.288) did so. That makes this the first time that there have been two such teams in the same league -- as the Browns were in the AL and the Braves in the NL.
WHAT IT MEANS TO BE IN FIRST PLACE
In the National League, there hasn't been a season when all three of the division leaders at the break went on to win their divisions since 2009, when the Phillies, Cardinals and Dodgers did so. It's happened four times since 1996 in the NL. In the American League, it's happened five times total in that span and as recently as last year.
Think that a look at the standings now can tell you who will be on top when the season ends? Not so fast. All six division winners have held a share of first place at the All-Star break just once ... and that was in 1996.
But the standings certainly tell us something. Since 1996, only once has none of a league's leaders at the break gone on to win their divisions: in 2007 in the NL. That year, the Mets, Brewers and 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 the span since 1996.
The Orioles are a whopping 39½ games out of first place at the break. Part of that is that they've been given more games to work with -- and therefore potentially lose -- but their deficit is also significantly larger than any prior one since divisional play began in 1969.