On the morning of August 17, the NL West standings are as follows:
San Diego Padres 59-59
Arizona Diamondbacks 56-64
LA Dodgers 54-64
San Francisco Giants 52-66
Colorado Rockies 45-75
The NL West champion is in very real danger of finishing with a losing record. Is there any precedent for this in Major League history? Sort of.
Baseball has a labor stoppage and the season is divided in two. Each division has a first half and a second half champion. The Kansas City Royals won the second half of the AL West with a record of 30-23, but had an overall record of only 50-53. Kansas City is dispatched in a 3 game sweep by the New York Yankees in the Division Series round of the playoffs.
In the first season of baseball’s new three division format, the AL West was home to a quartet of losers. Unfortunately, 114 games into the season, the players went on strike preventing the first playoff appearance by a losing team in a full season’s worth of games. It is highly likely that the winner would have finished the year with a losing record. Here are the standings as of the strike:
Texas Rangers 52-62
Oakland A’s 51-63
Seattle Mariners 49-63
California Angels 47-68
So how likely is it that the NL West champion will be a team with a losing record? Let’s analyze the top 3 teams.
Through 118 games San Diego has played 59 games at home and 59 games on the road. At home they are 32-27, while away from home they are 27-32. So who is left on the schedule? They play only 11 more games currently against teams with winning records: 2 on the road at Florida, 3 at Atlanta, 3 home games Houston, and 3 home games against Washington. The majority of San Diego’s remaining schedule consists of an equal mix of home and road dates against NL West opponents. If San Diego can take car of business against its similarly flawed NL West brethren they should finish the year a little north of the .500 mark.
Through 120 games Arizona has played 59 at home and 61 on the road. However, they have a better road record (29-32) than home record (27-32). The Diamondbacks play only 9 more games against teams with winning records: 2 on the road at St. Louis, 4 against the Mets in Phoenix, and 3 against Philadelphia in Phoenix. Arizona’s remaining schedule also consists of mostly home/road dates against division rivals. However, they must win almost 60% of their remaining games (25 out of 42) to simply finish with a non-losing record.
Through 118 games the Dodgers have played 59 at home and 59 on the road. At home they are almost dead-even (29-30) while on the road they are only 25-34. Their remaining schedule consists of 9 games against teams with winning records: 2 at Atlanta, 4 at Florida, and 3 against Houston in LA. Like their main competition, the backend of their schedule consists of an equal mix of home and away games against division rivals. To finish 81-81 the Dodgers must go 27-17 the rest of the way.
If the NL West champion is to finish with a winning record it will be San Diego. Arizona and LA have fallen too far below the .500 mark to finish the year with more than 81 wins. And while there is no hisorical baseball comparison for a team winning their division with a losing record over a full season; they certainly wouldn't be the first entity from out west to win when they really lost.