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MLB: A Tally of League Standings Leaders Heading Into September

Posted by Andrew McKillop on August 26, 2011

Post Highlights

  • A little over 70% of teams that led the league standings on September 1st, have gone on to win the league pennant.
  • The last AL team to lead the league standings on September 1st and miss the postseason, were the 1978 Boston Red Sox.
  • The 2004 St. Louis Cardinals are the last team from the NL to convert a September 1st lead in the league standings into a pennant.

 

Baseball fans have a lot to be excited about when their favorite team leads the league standings heading into September.  Such a position almost certainly means a postseason berth, which could culminate in a league pennant and even a World Series title.


Listed below is a tally of how many times each franchise led the league standings heading into September 1st.

A Tally of League Standings Leaders Heading Into September

Notes: Standings that were counted before the games on 9/1 were used for this post.  I counted tied leads.

In 1981 MLB split the season into halves.  For the purpose of this article I didn’t break the season into halves, and counted the total records of teams on 9/1/1981.  I didn’t count the strike shortened season of 1994.

The AL tally goes back to 1901, while the NL tally goes back to 1876.  I didn’t include defunct franchises in the tally below, although they were a part of the study for percentages.

Legend: 1st – 9/1 (# of times the franchise led the league standings on Sept 1st), Avg GB (The average # of games the franchise has led the league on Sept 1st), Conv Chmp (# of times the franchise took a 9/1 league lead and converted it to a league pennant), Tot Chmp (# of league pennants won in franchise history), Dif (Difference between 9/1 leads and league pennants won)

American League
Team 1st – 9/1 Avg GB Conv Chmp Tot Chmp Dif
Yankees 35 7.1 91.4% 40 +5
Athletics 20 5.3 75.0% 15 -5
Red Sox 11 4.8 81.8% 12 +1
Tigers 10 4.1 90.0% 10 0
White Sox 9 3.3 66.7% 7 -2
Orioles 8 6.4 75.0% 7 -1
Indians 6 3.5 33.3% 5 -1
Twins 5 5.2 100.0% 6 +1
Blue Jays 2 3.3 50.0% 2 0
Angels 1 0.5 0.0% 1 0
Brewers 1 1.0 100.0% 1 0
Mariners 1 17.0 0.0% 0 -1
Rays 1 1.5 100.0% 1 0
Royals 1 6.0 100.0% 2 +1
Rangers 0 1 +1
National League
Team 1st – 9/1 Avg GB Conv Chmp Tot Chmp Dif
Cubs 21 5.8 61.9% 16 -5
Dodgers 21 4.3 71.4% 21 0
Braves 20 3.7 65.0% 17 -3
Giants 20 4.4 70.0% 21 +1
Cardinals 16 6.3 75.0% 17 +1
Pirates 13 5.6 61.5% 9 -4
Reds 10 5.0 80.0% 9 -1
Mets 5 5.3 40.0% 4 -1
Phillies 5 3.4 40.0% 7 +2
Astros 2 1.3 0.0% 1 -1
D-backs 2 0.8 0.0% 1 -1
Padres 1 0.0 0.0% 2 +1
Brewers 0 0 0
Marlins 0 2 +2
Nationals 0 0 0
Rockies 0 1 +1



Additional Facts

A little over 70% of teams that led the league standings on September 1st, have gone on to win the league pennant.

A little under 95% of the teams that led the league standings on September 1st by seven games or more, have gone on to win the league pennant.

A little under 42% of the teams that led the league standings on September 1st by only half a game or one game, have gone on to win the league pennant.


In 1902 the Pittsburgh Pirates had a 24 game lead in the NL standings on September 1st.  It’s the greatest September 1st standings lead in NL history.

In 1941 the New York Yankees had a 19.5 game lead in the AL standings on September 1st.  It’s the greatest September 1st standings lead in AL history.

In 2001 the Seattle Mariners had a 17 game lead in the AL standings on September 1st, but they ultimately failed to win the pennant that year.  It’s the greatest September 1st standings lead in AL history to not result in a pennant.

In 2006 the New York Mets had a 11 game lead in the NL standings on September 1st, but they ultimately failed to win the pennant that year.  It’s the greatest September 1st standings lead in NL history to not result in a pennant.

The last AL team to lead the league standings on September 1st and miss the postseason, were the 1978 Boston Red Sox.

The 2004 St. Louis Cardinals are the last team from the NL to convert a September 1st lead in the league standings into a pennant.


Reference: Baseball-Reference.com – Standings on Any Date Tool


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