NL Central is gaining on AL East

For the second month in a row, the AL East holds the top spot in the ESPN Stats & Information’s Divisional Power Rankings, but the NL Central is making a strong push for first.

ESPN Stats & Info
MLB Divisional Rankings

The Tampa Bay Rays led the way for the AL East with a 18-10 record in the month of May, including a 10-2 record in games outside the division. The New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox and Baltimore Orioles all finished the month at or above .500, and ranked in the top 12 of the ESPN.com Power Rankings.

Unexpectedly strong starts from Baltimore’s hitters and Boston’s pitchers have led to the AL East ranking atop the portion of the rankings that measures player production, too.

The biggest mover this month was the NL Central. The Pittsburgh Pirates, St. Louis Cardinals and Cincinnati Reds all finished at least 10 games above .500 in the month of May. The biggest reason for their success was pitching. All three teams posted an ERA of 3.30 or lower during the month. The only other team to post an ERA lower than 3.30 in May was the Yankees (3.25). As a result, the NL Central ranked atop MLB with eight pitchers ranked in the top 30 of the player ratings.

The NL East dropped nearly four more points in May and remains in last place. Even though the Atlanta Braves are ranked fifth in the Power Rankings and Matt Harvey ranks second in the pitcher ratings, the division can’t overcome the Miami Marlins going 5-24 outside the NL East and the New York Mets' -49 run differential.

Though the Mets swept the Yankees for the first time in the Subway Series, they still lost 11 out of 20 games outside the division in May.

Next month, scheduling might have a greater impact on the rankings with the NL Central set to face struggling non-divisional opponents. The Cardinals face three of the bottom four teams in the ESPN.com Power Rankings -- Miami, NY Mets, and Houston -- between June 11 and June 26. Tune in next month to see if the NL Central can overcome the AL East.

For any explanation of the rankings system, click here.

ESPN Stats & Information's MLB Divisional Power Rankings