MLB Division Leaders: AL Central & NL East Down to the Wire

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New York Mets starting pitcher Jacob deGrom delivers during the first inning of the second baseball game of the team's doubleheader against the Pittsburgh Pirates in Pittsburgh, Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2022.
(AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
Rachael Millanta @rachaelmillanta Sep 08, 2022, 5:00 PM
  • The winner of each division advances to the playoffs, plus six Wild Card teams.
  • AL Central and NL East standings show both divisions are too close to call.
  • The Guardians, Twins, and White Sox are in contention to win the AL Central.
  • The Mets and Braves are in contention to win the NL East.

This late in the season, fans can usually make an educated guess at which teams will advance to the playoffs. While the Wild Card standings often have some late movement to keep those following World Series odds on their toes, it’s typical to see a winner from each of the six divisions forge ahead of their rivals by a respectable margin.

Indeed, that’s what’s happened in the AL East (New York Yankees), AL West (Houston Astros), NL Central (St. Louis Cardinals), and NL West (Los Angeles Dodgers). 

But what about the AL Central and NL East?

AL Central

Cleveland Guardians70-65-175
Minnesota Twins68-67+400
Chicago White Sox69-68+275
Kansas City Royals56-82N/A
Detroit Tigers52-85N/A

The irony of the AL Central standings is that if the top three teams were playing in any other division, they’d all have been effectively eliminated from contention months ago. All three teams have records that place them out of Wild Card contention, so their only hope of advancing to the playoffs is by winning the rather abysmal division.

The Cleveland Guardians and Minnesota Twins have both spent time leading the division this season, but never by too impressive a margin. 

The Chicago White Sox have arguably been the most disappointing team in the entire league, especially considering they were hyped up as contenders to win the 2022 World Series. Additionally, their late-season “comeback” has been less of an impressive turnaround and more of just a contrary refusal to go away.

Even including Dylan Cease’s almost no-hitter last week, nothing happening in the AL Central this season is history-making. There’s now less than a month left in the regular season, and no matter who wins this division, the advancing team will be one playing barely over .500. 

Please, hold your applause.

If I had to pick today, I think the White Sox are the most likely team to pull off a rather undeserved division win at the last second — and I know a lot of readers are going to think I’m entirely delusional for saying that. 

The Chicagoans have been slowly climbing their way back from near-certain elimination, even showing some genuine strong play over the last few weeks. The underwhelming team could still surprise us all in October. 

With manager Tony La Russa out on indefinite medical leave, bench coach Miguel Cairo has taken over, and he seems to be doing something right. Admittedly, sometimes they still look like they couldn’t hit water if they fell out of a boat, but it’s just too early to write the 2022 White Sox out of the playoffs.

Despite the rather underwhelming stats across the division, anything can happen in the postseason, and one of the top three teams will be playing to win it all. 

The AL Central is still very much anyone’s game. I’d tell you to keep an eye on these teams, but considering how they’ve all been playing this season, it’s probably best if you wait for a while.

NL East

New York Mets87-51-275
Atlanta Braves86-51+190
Philadelphia Phillies75-61+100000
Miami Marlins55-80N/A
Washington Nationals48-89N/A

If you’d asked me a few months back, I’d have told you that the Mets were a shoo-in to win the NL East. Their rather incredible payroll has been proving to be a decent investment, with the team leading the division all season — but can they hold on?

On June 1, the Atlanta Braves were 10-plus games back, but they have closed the gap admirably. Now only one game back, they are holding onto the top Wild Card spot in the NL, so even if they don’t manage to knock the Mets out of the top spot in the division, they will advance into the postseason comfortably.

Unlike in the AL Central, the top two teams in the NL East have both had phenomenal seasons. Regardless of who wins the division, that team will definitely be a team to watch in October.

Personally, I think the Mets will hold on to their lead to finish on top of the NL East. 

They’re a strong team who’ve admittedly been less reliable lately, but they haven’t fallen apart by any means. Since June 1, New York has gone 18 games over .500 — Atlanta is just really, really good, and the team only happened to find their feet in the second half of the season.

Should the Mets have swept the Washington Nationals last week without issue? Sure. But when you’re all but certain to reach the playoffs, either as a division winner or Wild Card team, now is exactly the time to have your rough patch. It’s better it’s happening now than October, and I know the Mets can turn it on when they want to.

The Braves are the defending World Series champions, and they will do everything they can to make it a second year in a row. The Mets aren’t going to let them do that without a fight. 

This is a division to watch — they’ll be playing down to the wire.

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About the Author

Rachael Millanta

Read More @rachaelmillanta

Rachael Millanta is a Web Content Writer for BetMGM focusing on Major League Baseball and the National Hockey League. Her work has been published in SB Nation, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, and Slackjaw Humor. Originally from Sydney, Australia, Rachael now resides in Chicago, Illinois.

Rachael Millanta is a Web Content Writer for BetMGM focusing on Major League Baseball and the National Hockey League. Her work has been published in SB Nation, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, and Slackjaw Humor. Originally from Sydney, Australia, Rachael now resides in Chicago, Illinois.