By JERRY TAPP
If you are a baseball fan, do yourself a favor and check out the standings at the All-Star break. Did you notice the large disparity between the first place teams and the last place teams in five of the six divisions?
In the A.L. East, the first place team is 30.5 games ahead of the last place team; in the A.L. Central, the gap between the first place and last place teams is 27 games. In the A.L. West the gap is 20 games; in the N.L. East the first place team holds a 19.5 game lead over the last place team; in the N.L. West that margin is 17.5 games.
Over in the N.L. Central, however, the first place Cubs have a 4.5-game lead over last place Cincinnati, quite a contrast to the other five divisions. There are still a lot of games yet to be played this season and it’s unlikely that at the end of the season the first place team will outdistance the last place team by less than 10 games/ At least that’s how history has played out.
In 1994 Major League Baseball went to three divisions in each of the two leagues. Since then, there has been only one season in the last 25 years where the first place team that year won the division by less than 10 games over the last place team.
In the ‘94 season, which ended on August 11 due to a strike, the Texas Rangers were leading the American League West when the season abruptly ended. In last place in that division were the California Angels who were only 5.5 games behind the division-winning Rangers.
Here are the 12 times since 1994 where first place and last place in a division were separated by 15 games or less.
1994 A.L. West, 5.5
1995 N.L. West, 11.0 games
1995 A.L. West, 11.5 games
2006 N.L. West, 12.0 games
1994 N.L. West, 12.5 games
1998 A.L. West, 14.0 games
1997 N.L. West, 14.0 games
2008 A.L. Central, 14.5
1996 N.L. Central, 15.0 games
2005 N.L. West, 15.0 games
2006 A.L. West, 15.0
2015 A.L. East 15.0 games
With the Cubs holding a 4.5 games lead over the Reds on July 7, let’s look back over the past 25 years and see if there has been a closer race top to bottom on July 7 in the league since 1994…
… this N.L. Central race (top to bottom) is tied for the second closest race (as of July 7) in the last 25 years. In 2006, the first place Oakland A’s had a four-game lead over the last place Los Angeles Angels. Including this season, there have now been six divisional races where the margin between the first and last place teams in a division has been five games or less on July 7. Here are those six races:
1995: A.L. West, first place Texas had a 5-game lead over last place Seattle
1995: N.L. West, first place Colorado had a 4.5-game lead over last place San Diego.
2006: A.L. West, first place Oakland had a 4-game lead over last place Los Angeles.
2006: N.L. West, first place San Diego had a 5-game lead over last place Arizona.
2015: A.L. East, first place New York Yankees had a 5-game lead over last place Boston
2019: N.L. Central, first place Chicago Cubs had a 4.5-game lead over last place Cincinnati.
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