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Friday, September 2, 2011
NL East slides, NL West rises in rankings

By Sharon Katz

The previous edition of the ESPN Stats & Information Divisional Power Rankings discussed the close race between the AL East and NL East for divisional supremacy. Through July 31, the NL East had outperformed the AL East in two of the categories that we measure (non-divisional win percentage and strength of schedule) and was comparable in the other two. After four months of baseball, the NL East trailed the AL East by 4.2 points and appeared to be rising to the top.

Despite strong months by the Philadelphia Phillies (18-7) and the Atlanta Braves (17-9), the NL East slid in the rankings in August and now trails the AL East by 12.4 points. Its slide was a result of poor performances by the bottom of the division, resulting in a .481 win percentage against non-divisional opponents in the month of August.

Specifically, the Florida Marlins lost 14 of 17 games that they played against teams outside of the NL East in August (lowest win percentage outside of the division of any team in MLB). The Washington Nationals (6-11) and New York Mets (4-9) also struggled in non-divisional August games.

Injuries to top NL East performers Jose Reyes and Brian McCann hurt the NL East in the player ratings, while the ascension of NL West players such as Clayton Kershaw and Troy Tulowitzki helped the NL West jump into third place in the rankings. San Francisco had a rough month, dropping out of first place in the division and going 9-15 outside of the NL West, but the rest of the division had a successful month.

Every team in the division besides San Francisco rose by at least three positions in the ESPN.com Power Rankings since the last release of these rankings, largely because they all posted winning records outside of the division in August.

The Milwaukee Brewers were unstoppable in August (21-7) and helped the NL Central climb 2.8 more points. Look for the Brewers in a National League divisional showdown as Philadelphia travels to Milwaukee on September 8 for a four-game series. Other inter-divisional matchups to keep an eye on are Texas at Boston beginning September 2 (Boston took three of four last month in Arlington) and Atlanta at St. Louis beginning September 9.