|The 'Amazin' A's' are part of a resurgent AL West. (Getty Images)|
It's taken as an article of faith these days that the American League East is the toughest division in baseball. That's with good reason: the East, home to the deep-pocketed Yankees and Red Sox and resourceful Rays, has claimed the AL wild-card berth in eight of the last nine seasons and typically lorded over all comers in inter-division and inter-league play.
In 2012, however, the AL West has asserted itself, what with the Rangers' and Angels' looking like certifiable World Series contenders and the A's pacing the wild-card chase. The forgotten Mariners have also fared much better of late; as noted in the Lineup, they presently own the longest winning streak in baseball. Indeed, "Left Coast" baseball is getting more bandwidth of late, and the AL West is truly distinguishing itself. But is it the best division of all?
In order to answer this question as definitively as possible, let's take a look at how each division, in the aggregate, has fared against the other divisions in its league and also in inter-league play. Beyond that, let's also look at each division's total run differential (i.e., runs scored for all teams in the division minus runs allowed for all teams in the division) and how many teams in each loop have managed a positive differential for the season. To the digits ...
|Division||vs. East||vs. Central||vs. West||Interleague||Run diff.||Teams w/ + Run diff.|
Not only is the AL West the lone division to have a winning record in every category (i.e., versus the other league and versus the other two divisions in its own league), but it also boasts -- by a gaping margin -- the best cumulative run differential of any circuit. As well, it's the only division in which each team has scored more runs than it's allowed. Perhaps most impressive is that 0.536 winning percentage against the mighty AL East.
While there are substantive differences in the interleague schedules (the AL West had a somewhat easier go of it than did the AL East) and there's much baseball yet to be played, you can argue -- compellingly -- that the AL West has overtaken the AL East, at least at this moment in time, as the most brutal division in all of baseball.
To put a finer point on it, if the season were to end right now, then three of the four teams in the AL West would make the playoffs. Mull that over for a moment.