The Milwaukee Brewers are less than one year removed from a National League Central title and a trip to the N.L. Championship Series. However, their 52-62 record and .456 winning percentage this year are putting them on a path of decline of historic proportions.
Major League Baseball went to six-team divisions in 1994, although that season was cut short by a work stoppage. From 1995-2010, there were 96 division winners. Of those 96, 19 of them (19.8 percent) saw their winning percentage drop below .500 the season following their division title.
The worst drop happened just last year. The Minnesota Twins won the A.L. Central in 2010 and then won only 38.9 percent (a 63-99 record) of their games the following season.
The Brewers current .456 winning percentage would give them the sixth worst drop for a team that won a division title the previous year. For the record, the 2011 N.L. East champion Philadelphia Phillies are also struggling through the 2012 campaign and are only 53-62 (.461 winning percentage) through games of August 13.
Following are the 19 teams since 1995 that won a division title and then dropped to below .500 the following year.
Winning percentage, team, year
.389: Minnesota, 2011
.444: Houston, 2000
.451: St. Louis, 1997
.469: Oakland, 2007; San Diego, 1997
.472: Seattle, 1998
.475: Texas, 1997;
.481: St. Louis, 2007
.494: L.A. Angels, 2010; L.A. Dodgers, 2010
With the best record in the majors and a 5.5 game lead in the National League East, the Washington Nationals are looking to win their first division title since the club moved to Washington in 2005. It would also be the first divisional title for the franchise (they were previously the Montreal Expos) since the Expos won the N.L. East in 1994.
The Nationals' long wait is not the longest division title drought in the majors. Both the Colorado Rockies and Miami Marlins have not seen their franchises win a division title since coming into the league (both in 1993), and the Kansas City Royals have not won a title since 1985 when they won the American League West (and went on to win the World Series that season).
Following are the last times each MLB franchise has won a division title.
1985: Kansas City
1993: Miami, Colorado (both franchises started in 1993)
1994: Washington (as Montreal Expos)
2001: Seattle, Houston
2006: Oakland, N.Y. Mets, San Diego
2007: Boston, Cleveland
2008: Chicago White Sox, Chicago Cubs
2009: L.A. Angels, St. Louis, L.A. Dodgers
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