The Orioles/Yankees (tied), Indians, Astros, Nationals, Cubs and Rockies all lead their respective divisions after the first month of the season. In a sport with 162 games, does 1st place matter in May?

To find out if the first month of the season actually matters I pulled every team that was in first place in their division on May 1st from the Bet Labs database. Then went and found how many of those team won their division and made the playoffs at the end of the season.

Since 2005, of the 72 teams that were in first place on May 1st, 31 (43.1%) of them won their divisions at the end of the year. Of those 72 teams, 40 (55.6%) went on to make the playoffs.

Division leads don’t mean much in May. Nearly half the teams that start the season hot fail to reach the postseason. Parity could help explain this trend. This year only three teams (Giants, Blue Jays and Royals) were below .400 after the first month.

While early leads are no guarantee of success throughout the season, sitting atop the standings early has been an indication of title success. Of the past 12 World Series champions, seven were in first place on May 1st including each of the last four champs and five of the last six. Four of the five betting favorites to win the World Series this year are currently in first place.

Some of the teams leading their division right now will likely miss out on the playoffs but one of them might win the World Series.

Does 1st place matter in May?

YearTeamFinish in 1st?Make Playoffs?
2016OriolesNoYes
White SoxNoNo
RangersYesYes
NationalsYesYes
CubsYesYes
DodgersYesYes
2015YankeesNoYes
RoyalsYesYes
AstrosNoYes
MetsYesYes
CardinalsYesYes
DodgersYesYes
2014YankeesNoNo
TigersYesYes
AthleticsNoYes
BravesNoNo
BrewersNoNo
GiantsNoYes
2013Red SoxYesYes
TigersYesYes
RangersNoNo
BravesYesYes
CardinalsYesYes
RockiesNoNo
2012RaysNoNo
IndiansNoNo
RangersNoYes
NationalsYesYes
CardinalsNoYes
DodgersNoNo
2011YankeesYesYes
IndiansNoNo
RangersYesYes
PhilliesYesYes
CardinalsNoYes
RockiesNoNo
2010RaysYesYes
TwinsYesYes
AthleticsNoNo
MetsNoNo
CardinalsNoNo
PadresNoNo
2009Blue JaysNoNo
RoyalsNoNo
MarinersNoNo
MarlinsNoNo
CardinalsYesYes
DodgersYesYes
2008Red SoxNoYes
White SoxYesYes
AngelsYesYes
MarlinsNoNo
CardinalsNoNo
DiamondbacksNoNo
2007Red SoxYesYes
IndiansYesYes
AngelsYesYes
BravesNoNo
BrewersNoNo
DiamondbacksYesYes
2006Red SoxNoNo
White SoxNoNo
RangersNoNo
MetsYesYes
RedsNoNo
RockiesNoNo
2005OriolesNoNo
White SoxYesYes
AngelsYesYes
MarlinsNoNo
CardinalsYesYes
DodgersNoNo