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I hear so often that the Twins have won division titles in baseball's weakest division, the AL Central. I have never bought that, at least not in recent years.
In reality, it doesn't matter. A team can only play the schedule they are presented with. It's not like the college football scheduling where a team like the Gophers can schedule USD (South Dakota) or USC (Southern California). With the unbalanced schedule, this debate can be had and there may not really be an answer at the end of the day. That said, it's a topic that should at least be discussed.
But again, how important is it, really? I bet if you asked former Twins outfielder Marty Cordova right now how important things like where the AL Central ranks, or first-round playoff losses, or pretty much anything, he will remind us of exactly how important it is. You see, less than two weeks ago, Cordova's daughter was in a car accident and has been in a coma ever since. According to Cordova, "They’re hoping she’ll come back 100 percent, but there’s no way to tell what her brain is going to do. There’s no magic shot. There’s no surgery to help. Only time can tell."
So again, it's amazing how life has a tendency to again remind us of just how important the great game of baseball is in the grand scheme of things. But it is a nice escape, and today I will spend a little time investigating and ranking baseball's divisions. Again, this is only looking at the 2010 season. Please feel free to go back to previous years if you have some free time!
If a division is judged by its leader, it's best team, here is how the divisions fell in 2010:
1.) NL East - Philadelphia Phillies - 97-65, 2.) AL East - Tampa Bay Rays - 96-66, 3.) AL Central - Minnesota Twins - 94-68, 4.) NL West - San Francisco Giants - 92-70, 5.) NL Central - Cincinnati Reds - 91-71, 6.) AL West - Texas Rangers - 90-72.
Or, could one say that a division can only be judged by its weakest link?
1.) NL East - Washington Nationals - 69-93, 2.) AL Central - Kansas City Royals - 67-95, 3.) AL East - Baltimore Orioles - 66-96, 4.) NL West - Arizona Diamondbacks - 65-97, 5.) AL West - Seattle Mariners - 61-101, 6.) NL Central - Pittsburgh Pirates.
We can look at it by the divisions' overall record:
1.) AL East - 431-379 (.532), 2.) NL East - 416-394 (.514), 3.) NL West - 410-400 (.506), 4.) AL Central - 399-411 (.493), 5.) AL West - 312-336 (.482), 6.) NL Central - 462-510 (.475)
How about looking at the records against the other two divisions in its league? (AL teams won 110 out of 210 inter-league gamesin 2010. Not included because schedules way too different.)
1.) AL East - 206-154 (.572), 2.) NL East - 192-174 (.525), 3.) NL West - 195-180 (.520), 4.) AL Central - 172-188 (.478), 5.) NL Central - 188-221 (.460), 6.) 156-192 (.448).
How many teams in each division finished with a .500 record or better?
1.) AL East - 4 out of 5 (80%), 2.) AL Central & NL West - 3 out of 5 (60%), 4.) AL West - 2 out of 4 (50%), 5.) NL East - 2 out of 5 (40%), 6.) NL Central - 2 out of 6 (33%).
So there are five ways to consider which division is the strongest and/or weakest. If anyone wants to tell you that the AL Central is the worst division in baseball, ask them, "Based on what?" There is no way that the AL Central was the weakest division. Was it the best division? Of course not. Clearly the AL East and the NL East were likely the top divisions. The AL Central and the NL West likely would rank third and fourth, depending on how you want to look at it. The NL Central and the AL West were clearly worse than the AL Central in 2010.
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