Thursday, January 22

West is decidedly NOT best

Can someone help out the NBA's Pacific Division?

I was just browsing the standings to see where Golden State sat, in anticipation of the Cavs' Friday night visit to Oracle Arena, and noticed that they were in 3rd 13-30. Huh? It's true: the Lakers sit at the top at 33-8 (.805) followed by Phoenix at a respectable 23-17 (.575), and then it just falls off the face of the planet. Golden State claims third with their blazing .302 winning percentage, just edging out Sacramento (10-33, .233) and a typical campaign from the LA Clippers (9-32, .220). What a wasteland of a division! The Lakers should continue to be able to fatten up their record playing those bottom three turkeys all season; they currently sit at 9-1 against other Pacific foes.

The Central, where the Cavs lurk, isn't super-strong this year, but it is tops in the Eastern Conference with a .521 winning percentage, and our last-place team (Indiana) would be third in the Pacific. As for the Pacific, well, they sport an aggregate win percentage of .423, even with the Lakers' NBA-best mark of 33-8 buoying them. Without LA (the good one), the Pacific sits at .318 (the Central is .456 minus Cleveland). Wow. Let's check out the rest of the NBA:

Central .521
Atlantic .505
Southeast .514
Northwest .474
Pacific .423 (!)
Southwest .563

Actually, the Cavs' division is fairly solid, posting the second-best overall mark out of the NBA's six. The East is actually the tougher conference this season, as each of its conferences is above break-even point. The Southwest (aka the NBA's Texas and a Coupla Other Teams Division) is where the competition is at on that side of the Mississippi.

What this look at the NBA standings got me to wondering is: how does the Pacific compare to the worst divisions in other sports? Let's find out. First, MLB:

AL East: .538 (87 wins on average)
AL Central: .501
AL West: .486

NL East: .490
NL Central: .515
NL West: .462

Not a lot of surprises there. Even in an off-year for the Yankees, the AL East was still baseball's most powerful division, racking up a .538 mark. Keep in mind that, compared to basketball, winning percentages tend more towards .500 in baseball, even with four to six teams being aggregated. The AL Central is remarkably competitive/mediocre, however you want to put it: the division was exactly one game over .500 for the season and no one finished more than seven games above or below .500. The Tribe was a paragon for the AL Central this season with its 81-81 mark.

Elsewhere, the major surprise is how stunningly bad baseball is being played out west, even with the LA Angels outperforming their Pythagorean by about 30 games. To put it in easier to understand terms: the NL West is exaactly as bad as the AL East is good. Maybe the LA Clippers should join the NL West.

What about football? With more divisions and fewer games per team, the NFL is likely to have the biggest winners and losers among its groupings, even with teams playing 38% of their contests intradivision:

AFC North: .492
AFC South: .594
AFC East: .594
AFC West: .360 (!)

NFC North: .391
NFC South: .625
NFC East: .602
NFC West: .344 (!)

What the hell is going on in the Western United States? I mean, you've got everyone in the NBA's Pacific tanking except for the Lakers, the two worst divisions in baseball, and this absolutely putrid performance from the NFL's westernmost franchises. Can you believe that a .344 division produced a Super Bowl team? It's nuts!

The AFC North is a clear haves-and-have-nots division. I won't go into who's who, only that it takes a lot of success elsewhere to make Ohio's NFL performance this season look repsectable. The NFC East was widely regarded early in the year as the NFL's best, and indeed it posted a .602 mark with no one under .500, but the NFC South actually bested it. The AFC South and East tied with 38-26 marks; the South was a little more top-heavy and the East more balanced. The NFC North's mark is largely a reflection of the historically bad Detroit Lions, about which nothing more needs to be said.

But oh, those west-coasters. It bears repeating that San Diago won this division at 8-8. Read that again if necessary. That would have gotten them fourth place in four (half!) of the NFL's divisions, and third in two others. Simply amazing. The NFC West (the only other place where the Chargers would finish higher than third) was slightly worse, with only the NFC Champion Cardinals at or above the .500 mark and the division's dregs dragging them down a bit more.

As for Cleveland, it seems we're positioned in some middle-of-the-pack divisions. The NBA's Central is respectable top-to-bottom but not dominant, and the Cavs are clearly the class of the group. The Al Central is a complete toss-up at this point, and is certainly the Tribe's for the taking if they can muster 90 wins or so in 2009. The AFC North is deceptive with its near-.500 aggregate number; the Browns have lots and lots of work to do before they find themselves challenging for an AFC North title or even bringing the group's win percentage up rather than down.

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