Memorial Day is always a good checkpoint for the Major League Baseball season, and the standings on that holiday usually are an excellent barometer of what the postseason field will like look. After all, 52 percent of teams in first place on Memorial Day since divisional play began in 1969 went on to the playoffs.
Since baseball added the first wild-card spot in 1995, around 60 percent of teams either leading their division or their league’s wild-card standings on the holiday have made the playoffs. That’s obviously not good news for the Red Sox. They have seen their baseball futures odds at Bovada plummet in the wake of that 10-game losing streak. Boston is now +550 to win the AL East, ahead of only Tampa Bay, and +1400 to win the AL pennant. The streaking Blue Jays are +190 AL East favorites.
That’s not to say there hasn’t been a precedent for a team well back in the division and wild-card races to find success. The 2003 Marlins, for example, were 11 1/2 games behind Atlanta in the NL East and 9 1/2 games back in the wild-card race on Memorial Day, but won the World Series.
On Memorial Day 2013, these were the division leaders in baseball: Boston, Detroit, Texas, Atlanta, St. Louis and Arizona. The wild-card leaders in the AL were the Yankees and Oakland, while in the NL it was Cincinnati and Pittsburgh. The only teams listed among all those clubs to miss the playoffs were the Yankees, Rangers and Diamondbacks.
The Los Angeles Dodgers were last in the NL West and 7 1/2 games behind Arizona on Memorial Day last year, but won the division by 11 games, the largest margin in baseball. The Red Sox, Rays, Reds, Pirates and Indians made the playoffs, and now they are all well under .500.
The biggest division favorite in baseball by far is Detroit at -1200 to win its fourth straight AL Central crown. It’s possible the Tigers will be the only club to finish over .500 in the division, and they are the only team in there with a positive run differential. Kansas City is a distant second at +750 to win the Central.
Oakland, the two-time AL West champion, has the best run differential the majors and is a -150 favorite in the West. With the Rangers losing Prince Fielder for the season, the Athletics’ main competition is likely to come from the Angels, who are +200.
Could there be an all-Bay Area World Series between Oakland and San Francisco like in 1989? That series is best known not for Oakland’s sweep but the earthquake before Game 3 that delayed the Fall Classic 10 days. The Giants are surprising leaders in the NL West over the Dodgers. But L.A. remains the division favorite at -110 and NL favorite at +300. San Francisco and Oakland are both +450 to win their respective pennants.
The most surprising division leader, if it’s not Toronto, is Milwaukee in the NL Central after finishing 74-88 last year. The Sox know how good the Brewers are as they were swept by Milwaukee at Fenway in early April. Milwaukee is +750 to win the pennant and +1600 to win the World Series, both still fairly long shots.