By Marc Lawrence of Playbook.com
Like our waistlines after a tasty Labor Day barbeque, MLB rosters have expanded to accommodate the final month of the season. And as College Football and the NFL barge onto the scene, MLB pitchers take the final spotlight in hopes of leading their teams on to the playoff trail. Which ones can we count on and which ones figure to belly up? 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.
Enjoy the September rush to the playoffs…
GOOD MONTH PITCHERS:
Bailey, Homer • 11-5
If Cincinnati is going to catch Pittsburgh or St. Louis in the NL Central or host the Wild Card game, they will need Bailey to close strong like he has in other September’s in the past. Bailey is at his best when he is focused and gets his arm in the right slot which adds speed to his fastball and improves his cutter.
Blanton, Joe • 11-2
Has been taken out of the starting rotation after compiling a 2-14 record and 6.12 ERA.
Cahill, Trevor • 12-3
The right-hander has largely been ineffective all year (5-10, 4.39 ERA) and it is difficult to image he will make many positive contributions to Arizona in the final month of the season in spite of his past.
Fister, Doug • 10-5
Except for a rough period in early July, Fister has been consistent, giving the Detroit offense a chance by keeping his team in games. When he’s on, Fister’s two-seam sinks, the big curveball breaks downward and the change-up fades from right-hand hitters.
Gallardo, Yovanni • 12-4
Having the worst year of his career due to losing 2-3 MPH on his fastball. After four straight years of 200+ strikeouts, sitting at 114 entering this month playing on a mediocre club.
Garcia, Freddy • 7-3
On August 23 was traded from Baltimore to Atlanta. Most likely mop-up duty for the Braves if and when he sees the mound.
Gonzalez, Gio • 12-4
After a 21-win season a year ago, Gonzalez has come back to career norms. If the left-hander is to finish with a flourish, he will have to do better than have a 1.94 difference in road/home ERA like he has this year.
Guthrie, Mark • 10-4
Since his complete game back on August 5, Guthrie has allowed 38 hits over 24 innings and has not fooled many batters. Needs to get back on track where his pitchers were sinking consistently in the strike zone in the first part of the season.
Halladay, Roy • 11-4
After missing three and half months, Halladay has started twice and seen his ERA sink to a still unsavory 7.94. At 36 with continued shoulder and arm miseries the past few years, hard to imagine he turns into the pitcher of the past, nonetheless, he knows how to throw, which gives Harry (real first name) Halladay a chance.
Hammel, Jason • 7-3
Pitched August 29 in minor stint and is hoping for comeback for the DL to help Baltimore in a return to the postseason.
Holland, Derek • 11-5
A dependable starter who has a 2.78 ERA in his past 10 outings and is a true four-pitch starter. Besides a low to mid 90’s fastball, Holland ruins foes bat speed with a quality curve and changeup. Also does one of the better Harry Carry impersonations.
Hughes, Phillip • 8-4
Having a miserable campaign at 4-13 and body language suggests he lacks confidence. Nothing more than a two-pitch starter and opposing hitters sit on one pitch or the other. Might need a change of scenery unless he finds magic late.
Kennedy, Ian • 11-4
After a 21-4 campaign in 2011, Kennedy is under .500 since and was dealt from Arizona while they were still in the wild card race. Has been permitting about a hit an inning the past two years after being in the 0.835 range of base knocks per three outs the previous two years. Tough to hit when commanding both sides of the plate.
Lee, Cliff • 11-4
Lack of run support has caused this veteran lefty about four wins in 2013. Lee turned 35 in late August and can still dominate on occasion, just not quite as often. Could have helped a playoff contender, instead, stuck in Philly, though he likes it there.
Porcello, Rick • 9-4
Porcello lacks a real “out” pitch and has to rely on his fielders to help him. Playing in Detroit assures him of runs support, but for the most part, he keeps the Tigers in games and provides them an opportunity to win.
Price, David • 14-3
Price has been right since coming off the DL and has a 2.45 ERA in his past 10 starts. He owns batters in the left-side of the box who are hitting .190 against his tosses. Oddly, has an ERA almost one road lower on the road than at home which explains his bulldog intensity.
Verlander, Justin • 12-4
Not having a typical year, with punch-outs down and opponents hitting a slightly slower fastball with less movement. If the Tigers are near or clinch the AL Central in the latter stages of September, might not be a bad idea for manager Jim Leyland to have Verlander miss a start.
Weaver, Jered • 11-4
The Angels might be playing golf in early October; nonetheless, every five days until the end of the season, they will have a chance to win with Weaver climbing the hill. Incredibly reliable.
BAD MONTH PITCHERS:
Chen, Bruce • 5-11
After being very effective out of the bullpen, manager Ned Yost needed a fifth starter and returned the veteran Chen to the rotation. He pitched well for several starts, yet recently has been batted around of late and might be tiring and have similar late season results.
Francis, Jeff • 2-10
Doing one inning stints every five to seven days since being called up by Colorado at the end of July.
Hochevar, Luke • 4-9
Has worked out the Kansas City pen almost all year and might have found a niche with a 1.86 ERA for the year.
Wood, Travis • 3-10
Has pitched better than 8-10 record indicates and has 3.09 ERA, which is certainly respectable. The opposition is hitting only .214 against him; however, playing on another bad Chicago Cubs squad will not help Wood’s record no matter how well he throws.
Doug Upstone of Sports Watch Monitor.com contributed to this article.