In June, not all division leads are equal

The New York Yankees defeated the Oakland Athletics for the ninth consecutive time, their longest such win streak against the A's since the 1964-65 season.

More importantly though, the win puts the Yankees in sole possession of first place of the AL East as they head into June.

Out west, the Arizona Diamondbacks had their seven-game win streak snapped by the Florida Marlins, but still head into the month of June with a half-game lead over the San Francisco Giants in the NL West.

With both the Yankees and Diamondbacks entering the month with a lead of one game or fewer, it would seem their chances of winning the division would be pretty similar.

History suggests otherwise though:

At the end of April, it was shown that since 1996 -- the first full season of current postseason format -- 49 of the 90 eventual division champions were in first place on the morning of May 1 (54 percent). As for being in first place after the season’s second full month?

Number of Teams in First Place on June 1
Won Division

Lately, that depends on what league you are in.

Overall, 56 of the 90 division champions (62 percent) held at least a share of the lead at the end of May. 62 percent is a better success rate than what the April leaders enjoyed, but it hardly guarantees a division title in October.

Last season alone, only three of the six eventual division champions (Tampa Bay Rays, Cincinnati Reds, Minnesota Twins) held at least a share of the lead the morning of June 1. Only once, in 1998, did all six divisions champions come from the June 1 standings.

Looking deeper, being on top on June 1 means a lot more in the American League than in the National League recently.

Since 2007, one-third of the eventual division champions in the National League were division leaders at the end of May. None of those went on to win the World Series. In 2007, none of the June 1 division leaders in the NL (New York Mets, Milwaukee Brewers, Los Angeles Dodgers/San Diego Padres tie) went on to win the division (note: the Diamondbacks were percentage points behind Dodgers and Padres).

By comparison, the American League has had much more stability. Since 2007, 75 percent of the AL division champions were in first place after the season’s first two months. This includes all three in 2007 and 2008 and two last year (Rays, Twins). The 2007 Red Sox and 2009 Yankees went on to win the World Series.

This bodes well for the Cleveland Indians, Yankees and Texas Rangers. As for the Philadelphia Phillies, St. Louis Cardinals and Diamondbacks … check back at the end of June.