MLB standings weirdness: Who's in first place in the AL East, the Yankees or the Red Sox?

Two and a half months into the 2018 season, the AL East race is playing out exactly as expected. The New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox are two of the best teams in baseball while the other three clubs are far back in the division.

Pull up our new and improved MLB standings page, take a gander at the AL East, and this is what you'll see:

Wins

Losses

Win %

GB

Yankees

43

20

.683

1

Red Sox

47

22

.681

--

Rays

32

35

.478

14

Blue Jays

30

38

.441

16.5

Orioles

19

48

.284

27

The Yankees in first place, the Red Sox right behind them, and the other three teams far behind them. Yep, looks normal.

Except the Yankees are one-game back as well? It's not just us here at CBS Sports either. The standings page at MLB.com also lists the Yankees as one-game behind the Red Sox despite being in first place. What's going on here?

What's going on is a discrepancy in games played. The Red Sox have played 69 games this season. The Yankees have only played 63, the fewest in baseball. That is not due to the schedule. The Yankees have already had five games postponed and another suspended due to inclement weather this season. They have several doubleheaders coming.

Who is in first place then? The Yankees, officially. The team with the highest winning percentage is officially in first place, always and forever. The games behind column is not official. It's a show-me stat that gives you an idea how far away each team is from first place, and it accounts for the difference in games played with half-games. Here's the math:

  • Red Sox have four more wins than the Yankees, which equals "plus" four half-games. 
  • Red Sox have two more losses than the Yankees, which equals "minus" two half-games.

Two half-games from wins cancel out the two-half games from losses, leaving behind only two half-games from wins, or one full game. That is Boston's one-game lead in the games behind column. Got all that? Ultimately, there are two important numbers here:

  • Winning percentage: Officially, the team with the higher winning percentage is in first place.
  • Loss column: Instead of looking at the games behind column, look at the loss column. Teams can always add wins but they can't take away losses. The Yankees have a two-game edge on Boston in the loss column right now.

Officially, the Yankees are in first place because they have the highest winning percentage. And, officially, it is June 14, and today's standings don't matter in the grand scheme of things. When it's all said and done, both the Yankees and Red Sox will play 162 games, and the team with the best winning percentage after 162 games will get the AL East title.

CBS Sports Writer

Mike Axisa joined CBS Sports in 2013. He has been a member of the BBWAA since 2015 and has previously written about both fantasy baseball and real life baseball for MLBTradeRumors.com, FanGraphs.com, RotoAuthority.com,... Full Bio

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