The National League Divisions show stark contrast in quality

Sep 2, 2022; Los Angeles, California, USA; San Diego Padres relief pitcher Nabil Crismatt (74) looks on as Los Angeles Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner (10) crosses the plate for a run in the ninth inning at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

If you’re reading this, the probability is high that you are a Colorado Rockies fan and so you are already inherently aware of the concepts we are about to dive into.

Though, the framing around the local club is largely irrelevant as they currently sit in a different multiverse from postseason contention. Do not mistake this conversation as an attempt to in any way diminish the poor performance of the team or how hard they need to work to return to relevance.

Still, it can be fascinating to take a step back and view from the proverbial 35,000 feet how the landscape of the National League has stacked up in recent times.

To put it simply, which division in the Senior Circuit has been the most difficult to win?

It won’t come as a galloping shock to most to learn that the NL West has been the toughest over the last decade. The Central is just behind. And the East has been the easiest.

In the last 10 (full) seasons, the NL East has only had one team eclipse the 100-win mark and that was the Philadelphia Phillies all the way back in 2011. The Central has had two such teams and the West four.

The average number of games it has taken to win the East during this decade is 94.9, the Central 95.7, and the West 96.6.

That might not seem like a huge difference but over such a large sample size it is. A lot has changed since 2011, the year Ryan Braun beat out Matt Kemp for NL MVP honors and we were still in Phase One of the MCU.

This dynamic gets even more extreme, though, when we look at the last five years, giving us a better understanding of just how stark in contrast the quality of divisions has been.

Over the last half-decade, the East has taken an average of 93.4 wins to capture, the Central 95.4 and the West an even 100.

Yup. In recent times a team has needed to win about six and a half more games to take the West than the East. That’s pretty remarkable.

One extra bit of info that you may be wondering about is the pandemic-shortened 2020 campaign. Fewer games played meant that the win totals didn’t fit well into this data set but we can take a look at them separately here.

That year, the West was won with 43 victories, the Central with 34, and the East with 35. The pattern remains.

Of course, the obvious first conclusion to reach is that a lot of this simply has to do with the Los Angeles Dodgers who have been the class of the National League and, along with the Yankees in the AL, the big dogs of MLB for the entire stretch of time in question.

The San Francisco Giants, on the other hand, are the team with three World Series championships during the decade and the one the Dodgers got came in the season with a huge asterisk on it.

Having those two stalwarts of the game and league, two teams are are Top 5 all time in terms of winning percentage and who played games before TV was invented, have made the NL West comfortably and measurable the toughest division in the NL for a while now.

And it’s only gotten tougher lately as the Dodgers continue to refine their machine and the Padres have suddenly emerged as big spenders.

As far as this season goes, the New York Mets are making a run at a good year for the East. And former Rockie Nolan Arenado is likely to get his wish of finally winning a division as his St. Louis Cardinals sit seven and a half games ahead of the Milwaukee Brewers in the Central.

But they’re still 13 games behind the Dodgers.

SHARE