By Marc Lawrence
Like the notches in out belt 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 crash 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 crash-test dummies? 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: pitchers with an asterisk (*) next to their named appeared on this month’s list last year. Enjoy…
GOOD MONTH PITCHERS:
Bumgarner, Madison • 10-4
A consistently good pitcher who can work side to side or up and down in the strike zone, with equal effectiveness. Bumgarner will set a career-high for strikeouts this season and very likely wins, while still being far below a base hit an inning.
*Fister, Doug • 11-3
After being brilliant most of the season, Fister has been a little off his game of late. Otherwise, he’s been sparkling all year and has excelled at keeping the ball down. He is currently on pace to set best-ever WHIP number in a season.
*Gallardo, Yovani • 11-5
Gallardo has pitched much better coming into September, with a 2.86 ERA in his past 10 starts. While not the strikeout pitcher he used to be, his command has been exemplary and should easily surrender the fewest walks in a season in his career.
*Gonzalez, Gio • 12-4
Injuries and inconsistency has plagued the left-hander, which is why he has allowed nearly a hit an inning, unable to fully command his wide array of pitches. Washington needs Gonzalez to find his game like in the past this month and have him ready to be a factor for the playoffs.
Greinke, Zack • 8-4
This Dodgers’ hurler has done everything necessary as the No. 2 starter and is as dependable as they come. If Greinke, Kershaw and Ryu stay on top of their game, the L.A. Dodgers could be headed to the World Series.
*Guthrie, Jeremy • 11-4
Never a great pitcher, for some reason has finished seasons strong in the final month of the year. If Kansas City is to win their division for the first time since 1985, Guthrie will have to do his part to contribute to their success.
*Hughes, Philip • 9-3
How important has Phil Hughes been to the success of Minnesota this season? When he’s started they are 17-10; when he is watching between starts they are 42-66 as August concluded. Based on the past, bettors should know how to bet on Hughes and the Twins the rest of the season.
*Kennedy, Ian • 14-1
For an average pitcher, Kennedy has closed the season like few with this incredible record. This season, his numbers are around career norms, but his sinker has had more bite with two strikes, fanning more than a batter per inning.
Latos, Matt • 11-4
The 6’6 Virginia native has been battling injuries all season and his team has floundered, which has been no fault of the right-hander. With the Reds going nowhere, good time for Latos to pad stats for his next contract.
*Lee, Cliff • 11-5
Season is over for the lanky lefty with what is essentially a bad elbow.
Milone, Tommy • 12-1
Moving from Oakland to Minnesota is probably going to curtail Milone’s September numbers, of which reported above represent three-year career numbers. The A’s gave Milone numerous chances. He just never came through. Subtract this month and the 6’0 lefty has a below .500 career record.
Scherzer, Max • 10-5
While not as domineering as his Cy Young season, Scherzer has been no less effective and did his part from seeing Detroit falling completely apart. Works fast, knows how to change speeds, and added another gear when it comes to getting hitters out with runners on base.
Shields, James • 12-4
Shields had his worst outing in sometime on Aug. 25 and knowing his bulldog determination that could be his last poor game of the regular season. Knows how to pitch and always around the plate. On pace to conceded his fewest walks in five seasons.
*Weaver, Jered • 10-4
No longer having great “stuff”, Weaver as a youngster always knew how to pitch by changing speeds and working the strike zone vertically. He will give the Angels a chance to win the AL West because he knows how to win.
Wilson, C.J. • 13-5
Since coming back from injury, not the same Wilson we are used to seeing. His control has been awful, catching too much of the plate with upper zone pitches and strikeouts-to-walks nearly even. It’s time for the port-sider to elevate his game at crunch time.
BAD MONTH PITCHERS:
Buehrle, Mark • 5-10
Unfortunately for Toronto, their season has mirrored that of Buehrle. The Blue Jays like the crafty lefty were super early, but as the season wore on, they started to show wear and tear and have been crumbling since. Lacking velocity, the 35-year old now wears down late in the season.
*Francis, Jeff • 3-7
Designated for assignment in late July by Yankees.
Harang, Aaron • 4-9
Though it seems Harang has pitched better this season than any time in recent years, his numbers are very similar to when he was with the Dodgers two years ago with fewer walks. Can he contribute in September?
Hernandez, Felix • 2-10
Having an absolutely marvelous season, batters are around the Mendoza Line (.202) hitting against King Felix. Very curious to watch how he pitches with playoffs on the line this month, which happens infrequently for the Mariners.
McCarthy, Brandon • 4-8
Cannot remember a pitcher having a bigger in-season turnaround after being traded. McCarthy has arguably become the ace of the Yankees staff, one decimated by injuries. Hence, would have to think McCarthy results will improve this time around.
Norris, Bud • 3-8
Having pitched on bad Houston teams and ineffective last year after coming to Baltimore, Norris has been fair this year for the Orioles. Always look to play on at home and play against on the road.
Contributions from Doug Upstone of vegasproinsidersdaily.com.