By Marc Lawrence
Much like our waistlines after a tasty Labor Day barbeque, MLB rosters have expanded to accommodate September, the final month of the season. And as College Football and the NFL crash onto the scene, MLB pitchers take the final spotlight in hopes of leading their teams on to the playoff trail. The question is which ones can we count on and which ones figure to be candidates for offseason Weight Watchers meetings? Check it out.
Listed below are hurlers that have enjoyed a two-to-one or better success ratio in team starts the last three seasons during the month of September. On the flip side, we’ve also listed pitchers that struggle in September team starts, winning 33% percent or less of their efforts. To qualify pitchers must have made a minimum of 10 starts, with at least one start each September over the last three years. Note: * designates a categorical repeat appearance by this pitcher, maintaining status quo from last season’s September’s list. Enjoy the games.
GOOD MONTH PITCHERS:
Arrieta, Jake • 12-2 / 8-1 H
For nearly two full seasons, Arrieta has been as good as it gets in baseball as a starting pitcher. While strikeouts have been down a bit and walks are up of late, at this time it hard to find fault with a hurler who has opposing batters hitting below .200 against him and has a 2.84 ERA to start the month.
Cole, Gerrit • 14-3 / 6-0 H
The Pittsburgh ace has frankly had a mediocre injury-plagued season and on August 27th had an MRI on his elbow, which revealed no damage. If Pirates the are going to snare a third consecutive Wild Card bid, they will need the Cole of the past two years. Note: Cole’s record also represents his MLB career team start mark during the month of September.
*Grenike, Zack • 13-3 / 7-1 H
Greinke’s ERA is higher than past year’s but pitching in thinner air of Arizona has contributed to this. While the Diamondbacks have little too play for, expect Grienke to be tough as nails like usual.
Hamels, Cole • 12-5 / 6-2 H
Need a big game pitched in September? It’s hard to go wrong with Hamels, whose ERA of 2.91 is well below career mark of 3.26. Still owns lively fastball and changeup is knee-buckling. A true professional.
*Jimenez, Ubaldo • 12-1 / 6-0 H
Still toeing the rubber every five days or for Baltimore in spite of mid-sixes ERA. Baltimore has few options and Jimenez is not trustworthy in the bullpen either. Orioles need big month from their big man to reach the playoffs and this is his best month.
*Kershaw, Clayton • 12-3 / 6-1 A
Kershaw threw in simulated game on August 30 and later said “feeling really good” and if all goes well, the Dodgers hope Kershaw can pitch in September and beyond in some role, which only makes the Dodgers a bigger threat. Best pitcher in baseball.
Kluber, Corey • 10-3 / 5-1 A
Has been back to Cy Young form since the All-Star break with an ERA under 2.00 and Cleveland has won his last six outings. When he commands both sides of dish with fastball, for whatever reason, his curveball has more break. A true established ace for the Tribe trying to win the division.
Koehler, Tom • 10-5 / 5-1 A
Been very effective in a quiet way nationally, but has been extremely dependable for two months leading to this month for Miami, supplying six to seven solid innings per start. If he’s throwing strikes inside to batters, he’s tough to hit. Note: Koehler’s record also represents his MLB career team start mark during the month of September.
Peavy, Jake • 11-3 / 5-1 H
Went on DL in late August with lower back strain. Had been working out of bullpen most of August and future status with San Francisco is as cloudy as the weather in the Bay.
*Price, David • 12-5 / 7-2 H
After a largely below season in Boston, Price has been much sharper in latter stages of August, which is what the Red Sox need. What has changed is Price became more effective in keeping the ball lower and is getting more fly ball outs as a power pitcher, which are genuinely more routine.
*Scherzer, Max • 11-4 / 6-3 H
After a somewhat slow start, Scherzer has been getting better and better and base hits allowed are well below innings pitched (128 vs. 190), yet walking few batters (45), especially compared to strikeouts (238). Back to pacing around mound like the king of the jungle.
*Shields, James • 13-4 / 8-0 A
It has been a wild ride for Shields this season, with numerous hideous outings blended in with several sharp ones. At this stage, hard to think the 34-year righty can duplicate the past seasons.
Strasburg, Stephen• 9-4 / 5-1 A
Starts the month on the DL after some very ugly starts last month. If Washington is to do anything in the postseason, Strasburg needs to regain early season form, which features moving fastball and big breaking curve.
*Zimmermann, Jordan • 11-4 / 6-2 A
If rehab assignments go well, September 10th is target date for return. Zimmermann has not been very effective for quite some time and easy to forget he had ERA of 2.45 in mid-May, compared to current 4.44.
BAD MONTH PITCHERS:
*Hellickson, Jeremy • 2-10 / 1-5 H
All things considered, Hellickson has not had a bad year in Philadelphia. However, upon closer inspection, most of his numbers are now near career norms and if that ends being the same this month, real bet against potential.
Leake, Mike • 5-10 / 1-7 A
The Cardinals right-hander has been a lot like his teams, when Leake has been good, he and St. Louis have generally won, when not they have too often lost badly. Cards are hoping not to see a repeat performance from the veteran.
Ross, Tyson • 3-11 / 1-6 A
Started on Opening Day and has not been seen since for San Diego with bum shoulder. Still trying to work way bad through rehab. Probably best to forget 2016.
*Sale, Chris • 2-12 / 0-8 A
It is almost unimaginable Sale could have a record like this in September, yet he does. Part of it is the White Sox offense is too unreliable and Sale’s miscues end up being quite costly. Let’s see what the final month brings for the big lefty.
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