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Friday, July 18, 2008
Does first-half success lead to World Series titles?

By Brett Edgerton
ESPN Research

At the All-Star break, the Angels and Cubs shared the best record in baseball at 57-38, a .600 winning percentage. If you think that win percentage seems a little low for the best team in baseball, you're correct. Not including the four years (1959-62) in which two All-Star Games were played, this is the lowest win percentage ever for the best team at the All-Star break.

We went through and checked the standings at every break since the first All-Star Game in 1933. A few of the interesting findings:

• The best first-half teams in each league have met in the World Series only five times in the past 35 years, the last time in 1996 (Yankees versus Braves).

• Only three of the past 14 World Series champs had the best record in baseball at the break, but two of those have come in the past three years ('05 White Sox and '07 Red Sox).

• An AL team has shared or held the best record in baseball at the break in nine of the past 11 seasons.

• This is the first time the Cubs have ever had or even shared the best record in baseball at the break. But they've had the best record in the NL at the break three other times (1937, 1969 and 2001). None of those squads made the playoffs. As for the Angels, they've led the AL at the break only one other time (1989, when they also had the best overall record). The Halos finished in third place and eight games behind the eventual World Series champ A's in the AL West that year.

• The best winning percentage at the break belonged to the 1998 Yankees at .753. Other teams over .700: 2001 Mariners (.724), 1942 Dodgers (.712), 1952 Dodgers (.708), 1944 Cardinals (.708), 1939 Yankees (.707), 1970 Reds (.705) and 1986 Mets (.702).

• Only one eventual World Series winner had a losing record at the break: The 1964 Cardinals were 39-40, but went 54-29 in the second half and rallied from 11 games down on Aug. 23.

Below is a chart listing the best records in each league since divisional play began in 1969. An asterisk means the team missed the playoffs, and boldface in the World Series champion column indicates that team had the best overall record in the majors at the break.

BEST RECORD IN EACH LEAGUE AT THE ALL-STAR BREAK
American League National League Eventual World Series champion
2008 Angels, 57-38 (.600) 2008 Cubs, 57-38 (.600) ?????
2007 Red Sox, 53-34 (.609) 2007 Padres*, 49-38 (.563) Red Sox, 53-34 (.609)
2006 Tigers, 59-29 (.670) 2006 Mets, 53-36 (.596) Cardinals, 48-39 (.552)
2005 White Sox, 57-29 (.663) 2005 Cardinals, 56-32 (.636) White Sox, 57-29 (.663)
2004 Yankees, 55-31 (.640) 2004 Cardinals, 54-33 (.621) Red Sox, 48-38 (.558)
2003 Mariners*, 58-35 (.624) 2003 Braves, 61-32 (.656) Marlins, 49-46 (.519)
2002 Yankees, 55-32 (.632) 2002 Braves, 56-32 (.636) Angels, 51-35 (.593)
2001 Mariners, 63-24 (.724) 2001 Cubs*, 51-35 (.593) Diamondbacks, 51-36 (.586)
2000 White Sox, 55-32 (.632) 2000 Braves, 52-36 (.591) Yankees, 45-38 (.542)
1999 Indians, 56-31 (.644) 1999 Braves, 55-34 (.618) Yankees, 52-34 (.605)
1998 Yankees, 61-20 (.753) 1998 Braves, 59-29 (.670) Yankees, 61-20 (.753)
1997 Orioles, 55-30 (.647) 1997 Braves, 57-30 (.655) Marlins, 50-36 (.581)
1996 Yankees, 52-33 (.612) 1996 Braves, 57-30 (.655) Yankees, 52-33 (.612)
1995 Indians, 46-21 (.687) 1995 Braves, 44-25 (.638) Braves, 44-25 (.638)
1994 Indians, 51-33 (.607) 1994 Expos, 54-33 (.621) No World Series
1993 Blue Jays, 49-40 (.551) 1993 Giants*, 59-30 (.663) Blue Jays, 49-40 (.551)
1992 Blue Jays/Twins*, 53-34 (.609) 1992 Reds*, 51-35 (.593) Blue Jays, 53-34 (.609)
1991 Blue Jays, 49-34 (.590) 1991 Dodgers*, 49-31 (.613) Twins, 47-36 (.566)
1990 Athletics, 51-31 (.622) 1990 Reds, 50-29 (.633) Reds, 50-29 (.633)
1989 Angels*, 52-33 (.612) 1989 Giants, 51-36 (.586) Athletics, 52-36 (.591)
1988 Athletics, 54-34 (.614) 1988 Mets, 53-34 (.609) Dodgers, 48-36 (.571)
1987 Yankees*, 55-34 (.618) 1987 Cardinals, 56-30 (.651) Twins, 49-40 (.551)
1986 Red Sox, 56-31 (.644) 1986 Mets, 59-25 (.702) Mets, 59-25 (.702)
1985 Blue Jays, 55-35 (.602) 1985 Cardinals, 52-33 (.612) Royals, 44-42 (.512)
1984 Tigers, 57-27 (.679) 1984 Padres, 49-34 (.590) Tigers, 57-27 (.679)
1983 Blue Jays*, 43-33 (.566) 1983 Braves*, 49-31 (.613) Orioles, 42-34 (.553)
1982 Brewers, 48-35 (.578) 1982 Braves, 51-33 (.607) Cardinals, 48-39 (.552)
1981 Athletics, 37-23 (.617) 1981 Dodgers, 36-21 (.632) Dodgers, 36-21 (.632)
1980 Yankees, 51-27 (.654) 1980 Astros, 45-33 (.577) Phillies, 41-35 (.539)
1979 Orioles, 59-31 (.656) 1979 Expos*, 50-35 (.588) Pirates, 46-39 (.541)
1978 Red Sox*, 57-26 (.687) 1978 Giants*, 52-34 (.605) Yankees, 46-38 (.548)
1977 White Sox*, 54-36 (.600) 1977 Dodgers, 59-33 (.641) Yankees, 50-42 (.543)
1976 Royals, 51-31 (.622) 1976 Phillies, 56-25 (.691) Reds, 53-33 (.616)
1975 Athletics, 55-32 (.632) 1975 Reds, 61-29 (.678) Reds, 61-29 (.678)
1974 Athletics, 55-41 (.573) 1974 Dodgers, 63-34 (.649( Athletics, 55-41 (.573)
1973 Athletics, 56-42 (.571) 1973 Dodgers*, 63-37 (.630) Athletics, 56-42 (.571)
1972 Athletics, 56-35 (.615) 1972 Pirates/Reds, 55-33 (.625) Athletics, 56-35 (.615)
1971 Athletics, 56-31 (.644) 1971 Pirates, 57-31 (.648) Pirates, 57-31 (.648)
1970 Twins, 54-28 (.659) 1970 Reds, 62-26 (.705) Orioles, 54-33 (.621)
1969 Orioles, 65-31 (.677) 1969 Cubs*, 61-37 (.622) Mets, 53-39 (.576)