The All-Star break has always been considered the halfway point of the baseball season, but the fact is that every team has played more than half of its games a week before that. A more accurate marker of the halfway point of the Major League Baseball season would be the Fourth of July.
Just here in 2016, every team has played at least 83 games, and most will reach ninety by the All-Star break. Two clubs, the Toronto Blue Jays and San Francisco Giants, have already played 85 games. By next Tuesday’s Midsummer Classic at San Diego’s Petco Park, both teams will have completed nearly sixty percent of their seasons.
The Fourth might be a better indication of the halfway mark of the season, but it provides a highly inaccurate picture of which teams will be champions of their divisions. Rarely do the teams in first place on Independence Day end up there at season’s end.
In the past five seasons, only nine division champions were in first place on the Fourth of July. The other twenty one division champions were looking up at at least one other team at the midway point, and some were even as far down as fourth place.
Back in 2012, not one of the teams in first place at the Fourth managed to win its division. Even more incredible, four of the eventual division champs (Detroit, Atlanta, Oakland and Baltimore) were in third place at the midway point that season.
The change at the very bottom occurs less frequently, but even so more than half of the teams in last place on the Fourth of July end up in the basement at season’s end. Of the thirty last place clubs at the Fourth of July over the last five seasons, seventeen ended up moving up at least one rung in their divisions.
For three of those seasons, exactly half failed to get out of the basement. But just two seasons ago, all six bottom feeders at the midway point finished ahead of at least one club in their divisions.
The odds are that whichever clubs are sitting on top on the Fourth of July will likely be replaced at the end of the season. That fact should change the way clubs have traditionally viewed the baseball calendar.
Instead of waiting until the mid-July All-Star break, the front offices of the teams should start preparing for the second half at least a week before then. First place teams right now have less chance of finishing on top than one of the teams currently chasing them, a scary thought for those general managers who have thus far considered 2016 a successful season.