By John Shea @real_johnshea on May 16, 2014
The 2014 MLB season has reached the one-quarter mark. After 40-plus games of early action, teams across every division have begun solidifying themselves as concrete contenders. While some teams have taken advantage of subpar inter-division competition, other ball clubs have flat out dominated whoever they've matched up with on the diamond. At this point of the season, fans gain their first glimpse at which divisions are hot and which are not.
The AL East is renowned as the most ultra-competitive division in baseball, but all five teams have failed to supplant themselves as legitimate championship contenders in early action. The Orioles have snagged a slim division lead over the defending champion-Red Sox and forever relevant Yankees, but own a minus-nine run differential and are just three games over the .500 mark. At the moment, the Rays and Blue Jays are floundering in mediocrity.
The Tigers have exploded into the spotlight in early action, recording the best win percentage in baseball (.667) and third-best run differential (plus-45). They're also the only team over the .500 mark in their division. The cutesy preseason underdog pick, Kansas City, has been up-and-down through 40 games. The Twins, White Sox and Indians are all sub-.500, recording run differentials in the red. None of those teams appear playoff bound.
The NL East is one of the most well-balanced divisions in baseball courtesy of the surprisingly capable Marlins, who will assuredly plummet during the summer, and the Mets (21-21), who could be on the up-and-up with a slew of young pitching talent. This division belongs to the Braves, though. Atlanta owns the third-best record in the NL (22-17), despite owning a marginal plus-six run differential on the season. Don't sleep on the Nats.
The consistently dominant A's have proven themselves as worthy contenders yet again. This time, it's not a surprise. Oakland owns the best pitching staff in baseball, despite facing a critical bullpen problem in the ninth inning. They own the best run differential in MLB (plus-71) and are tailor-made for the postseason. The Angels are finally relevant (22-18) while the Rangers remain dangerous. The Mariners are also much improved. Sorry, Houston.
The NL Central flaunts the feelgood story of the season: the Brewers. Seemingly nobody picked the Brew Crew as contenders in a division that boasts three playoff teams from 2013, but they own the second-best record in the NL. To this point, the Cardinals, Reds and Pirates have all under-achieved. This division possesses four team that could potentially contend for playoff berths, although Pittsburgh appears more fluky by the day.
The NL West is quietly the best all-around division in baseball. The Giants have registered the most wins of any team in baseball (27) and also own the second-best win percentage (.643). The Rockies could be for real if their pitching holds up. They're the most explosive offensive team in baseball. This is the only division in MLB that boasts two teams with odds better than 67 percent of making the playoffs. Then, there's also the Dodgers.
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