On the second day of June, the Yankees, Twins, Indians, Astros, Nationals, Brewers, Rockies and Diamondbacks might feel as if they’re sitting pretty, with a share of the division lead as the season enters the summer months.
But the longevity of that divisional prowess is not a given.
Since 1996, the first full season with at least one wild card, 73 of 126 division champions (58 percent) held at least a share of that division lead entering June.
Does it feel as if teams are more bunched up this year? They are. There is just one team with a winning percentage below .400 entering June this season: the .333 Philadelphia Phillies. This is the first time since the first full season with at least one wild card that there’s been at most one team with a winning percentage below .400 entering June.
But that’s not all. There’s also just one team with a winning percentage above .650: the .704 Houston Astros. This is the first season in that span with just one team on the below-.400 side and one team on the above-.650 side of the spectrum.
Since 1996, 11 of 21 World Series winners led their divisions entering June. The 2014 Giants and 2011 Cardinals each had a share of their respective division’s lead at that point, did not win the division, but did win the World Series.
The Dodgers (.611), Diamondbacks (.600) and Rockies (.600) are all at or above .600 entering June — and all are in the National League West.
The only other time that one division had three teams with .600-or-better winning percentages entering June was in 2013, when the NL Central had the Cardinals, Reds and Pirates. All three teams made the playoffs, with the Reds and Pirates facing off in the wild-card game.
Which teams stand in a significantly different place entering June 1, 2017, compared with June 1, 2016?
On the bright side…
The Twins have spent 33 days with at least a share of the division lead this season. That’s more days than they did from 2011 through 2016 combined. They last won a division title in 2010.
On the other side…
The Cubs were 35-15 (.700), 6½ games ahead of the Pirates in the NL Central last season entering June. Entering June, they were 25-27 (.481), 2½ games out of first and behind two teams.
The Giants were 33-21 (.611), 4½ games ahead of the Dodgers in the NL West last season entering June. Entering June, they were 22-33 (.400), tied with the Padres for last place — 11½ games out.
What It Means To Be in First Place
In the American League, all of the division leaders entering June haven’t gone on to win their respective divisions since 2008 — when the Rays, White Sox and Angels did so. It’s happened four times since 1996 in the American League.
It’s been even longer in the NL. All of the division leaders entering June haven’t gone on to win their divisions since 2003, when the Braves, Cubs and Giants did so. It’s happened three times since 1996 in the NL.
Since 1996, only twice have none of the AL’s leaders entering June have gone on to win their divisions: in 2012 and 2015. It’s happened twice in the NL, too: in 2007 and 2014.
All six eventual division winners have held a share of first place on June 1 once since 1996: in 1998. That season, the Yankees, Indians, Rangers, Braves, Astros and Padres each held outright leads entering June 1.
In that span, only once has one team held a division lead from June 1 through to the end of the season: in 2014, when the Tigers did it.