NL East > AL East? ... Almost
June, 1, 2012
By Sharon Katz | ESPN.com
Getty Images/Sarah GlennGiancarlo Stanton and the Marlins are helping the NL East rise.
For a brief recap of how we rank the divisions, click here.
It should be no surprise that the AL East and NL East are atop ESPN Stats & Info’s MLB Divisional Rankings through May 31st.
Both divisions have been nearly flawless through the first two months of baseball as every team in both divisions ended May over .500.
Nine of the top 15 teams in the most recent ESPN.com Power Rankings reside in the Eastern divisions.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, this was the first time that the entire AL East and NL East have been above .500 at the same time. Further, since Major League Baseball went to a six-division format in 1994, there have never been any two divisions with every team above .500 through the end of May.
The last time that every team in just one division had a winning record though this date was 2006 when all five teams in the NL West were above .500
But which of the two divisions is stronger from top to bottom?
An MLB First
According the ESPN Stats & Info’s MLB Divisional Rankings, the AL East and NL East are basically equal. The AL East currently holds a 0.4 point lead over the NL East as a result of its superior record outside of the division and victories over tougher opponents, but this lead could disappear quickly.
Entering the month, every team in the AL East was at least three games over .500 in games outside of its division, leading to a .577 non-divisional win percentage.
The NL East has also excelled outside of the division, going 55-36 (.604 win pct) in games outside of its division in the month of May.
Overall, both divisions have won close to 58 percent of its non-divisional games. No other division is above .500 in these games.
The AL East’s non-divisional win percentage is even more impressive considering who the teams have played. The four toughest schedules in Major League Baseball through May 31st belong to teams in the AL East.
As a result, every team in the AL East has an RPI in the top 12 (RPI is 25 % team winning percentage, 50 % opponents’ winning percentage and 25 % opponents’ opponents’ winning percentage)
The teams in the AL East may have played tougher schedules, but the individual players in the NL East have outperformed the players in the AL East thus far.
Three of the top five pitchers, according to ESPN’s Player Ratings, reside in the NL East. Brandon Beachy, Gio Gonzalez, Cole Hamels, Anibal Sanchez and Stephen Strasburg all have better ERAs than the top starting pitcher in the AL East, David Price.
Players in the NL East have also had more success at the plate. The NL East has two more players in the top 30 of ESPN’s Batter Player Ratings than the AL East.
The player that made the biggest jump in the month of May was Miami’s Giancarlo Stanton who held a share of the lead in home runs (12) and extra base hits (22) for the month.
Looking to June
June is filled with plenty of matchups between the top two divisions.
Beginning on June 8th, every team in the AL East plays at least four series against an NL East opponent before July 1.
Look for an interesting weekend on June 22nd as the Atlanta Braves head to Boston, the Tampa Bay Rays travels to Philadelphia, the Toronto Blue Jays go south to Miami, the Washington Nationals take on Baltimore and the New York Yankees head to Citi Field for the second Subway series of the month against the New York Mets.
Perhaps we’ll have a better answer on which division is strongest after those matchups are done.