By Marc Lawrence –Like the notches in our belt 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.
GOOD MONTH PITCHERS:
*Bumgarner, Madison • 9-4 / 4-1 H
Might not have the lowest ERA, but enters this month with a 16-6 record, with San Francisco 17-9 in his starts, with a +5.00 units mark when the big game left-hander takes the ball.
Cueto, Johnny • 9-4 / 6-2 H
Surprisingly, has not been all that effective with Kansas City. No real concerns, but no doubt manager Ned Yost wants to make certain Cueto is straightened out before heading in October.
*Fister, Doug • 11-4 / 5-1 H
For the most part has pitched poorly all season and was moved to the bullpen in August, where he has remained and is likely to stay for the disappointing Nationals.
*Gonzalez, Gio • 11-4 . 5-1 H
If Washington is to have any chance to catch New York, the Nats left-hander has to turn things around in a hurry, after surrendering 14 earned runs in only 12 1/3 innings over past three starts. Allowing hitters to bats .285 against him compared to .238 for career.
*Greinke, Zack • 13-4 / 7-2 H
Still the NL favorite for the Cy Young with a 1.61 ERA, WHIP of 0.85 and foes batting .189 against him. Masterful control a huge key with a 5-to-1 strikeout to walk ratio. Dodgers will need him to win NL West.
*Guthrie, Jeremy • 11-4 / 7-1 H
Having a tough season with an ERA over 5.50 in 23 starts and was moved to the bullpen in late August. The Royals could use another reliable starter for the postseason and are hopeful Guthrie figures it out.
*Hughes, Phil • 10-5 / 6-2 A
Went on DL in mid-August with back injury and the recovery has been slow. Earliest possible return is mid-September and effectiveness will really be a question.
Jimenez, Ubaldo • 9-3 / 6-0 H
You take the good and bad with this right-hander and he finished last month like Baltimore, plummeting. Chances of turnaround seem slim, but Jimenez unpredictable nature makes him 50-50 to duplicate past September’s.
*Kennedy, Ian • 12-3 / 8-1 H
Had a 2.30 ERA for the month of August but like Padres, Kennedy remains inconsistent which has largely been the path of his career.
Teammate Greinke might be having a better year, but Kershaw has an ERA under 1.00 over last 10 starts. As mentioned about Greinke, Los Angeles needs brilliance from their lefty to continue and win division. Chances are if Kershaw averages 10 K’s per start the rest of season, he will be first 300-strikeout pitcher in 13 years.
*Latos, Mat • 8-4 / 6-2 H
Has struggled since dawning Dodgers uniform and shows few signs of turning around. Not close to the same pitcher he was San Diego.
*Norris, Bud • 8-4 / 5-2 H
Was released by Baltimore in early August and is pitching out of the bullpen for San Diego.
Price, David • 12-5 / 9-3 A
Been a reliable starter for Toronto and his work ethic and leadership seems to have spread throughout the entire pitching staff. Not as hard a thrower as he used to be, but knows how to pitch and numbers this season are aligned with career figures.
*Scherzer, Max • 11-4 / 6-1 H
After arguably being the best pitcher in the majors the first three months of the season, Scherzer is coming off August in which he had a 6.43 ERA. Washington has no shot unless their ace regains prior form.
*Shields, James • 14-3 / 7-1 H
Shields has been more up and down, leaving pitchers up in the zone which is why home runs are up. Still a good No. 2 or 3 pitcher on any staff and might well finish strong for the Padres.
Zimmermann, Jordan • 14-2 / 7-1 H
Zimmermann like all the Washington starting pitchers has to come up monstrous the rest of the season and hope the offense can come through. As stated previously here, his win totals never match what kind of ability he seems to have.
BAD MONTH PITCHERS:
Burnett, A.J. • 5-11 / 1-6 H
Pittsburgh is targeting the Sept. 15-17 series against the Cubs as a potential return date for Burnett (elbow), the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports. The retiring righty was having outstanding year before elbow issues.
Eovaldi, Nate • 5-10 / 2-5 A
Enters August 14-2, but pitched into great luck and run support, sporting a 4.17 ERA and teams hitting .285 against his tosses. Let’s see how reacts to pennant pressure this month.
Feldman, Scott • 3-10 / 1-5 H
Has been amazingly effective since rejoining the Astros rotation on July 18th and lowering his ERA over a run (4.93 vs. 3.75). Still allows more than a hit an inning but been solid with runners on base.
Happ, J. A. • 4-8 / 1-3 A
Has done what has been asked of him since being acquired from Seattle by Pittsburgh. Pitch five to six innings, help the Pirates stay in the game and let the rest of the players shape the outcome. Could be lit up any time.
Hellickson, Jeremy • 4-10 /1-5 A
Went on DL on Aug. 20th with a bad hamstring and no clear cut date for return to Diamondbacks, after typical 9-8 season for Hellickson with ERA over 4.
Porcello, Rick • 4-9 / 1-5 A
Had good outing after coming off DL in late August, but still on track for worst season in big league career, with ERA more than one run higher than past performances.
Sale, Chris • 5-10 / 1-7 A
At times this season, thrown like a taller version of Kershaw and is another hurler with a chance at 300 K’s for season. Will look to continue to rise above playing for mediocre White Sox squad.
Samardzija, Jeff • 3-8 / 1-5 A
Has not pitched well since being traded by the Cubs a year ago and probably needs fantastic rest of the year to recoup some of the money he’s lost in becoming a free agent after season. Do not like his chances at improvement.
Vogelsong, Ryan 5-10 / 2-6 A • x
Was pulled from the rotation in July and only back in for San Francisco because of Matt Cain’s sore elbow. Starts this month having lasted past five innings in just one start out of past five.
Volquez, Edinson • 5-10 / 1-6 A
Has been more than Kansas City could have hoped for, having a second straight strong campaign. Volquez will try and maintain the status quo and try and be a factor in the playoffs.
Contributions from Doug Upstone of www.vegasproinsidersdaily.com.