Like our waistlines after a tasty Labor Day barbeque, MLB rosters expand to accommodate September, 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. The question is which ones can we count on and which ones figure to be candidates for offseason Weight Watchers meetings?
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 SEPTEMBER PITCHERS:
Carlos Carrasco, Cleveland Indians • 11-4 (7-2 H)
Carrasco is once again finishing the season with a flourish. Since July, he has really gotten in an excellent groove and is on pace to have his fourth straight strong year as a starter. Playing mostly weak opponents all month, Carrasco and Cleveland should pile up more wins this month.
Cole Hamels, Chicago Cubs • 13-4 (7-2 H)
Hamels has stepped right into the Chicago Cubs rotation and has been motivated by the chance to get back to the playoffs. Cubs coaches have fine-tuned Hamels pitch selection and as a result his ERA is 0.69 with Chicago.
J.A. Happ, New York Yankees • 11-4 (9-0 A)
Happ is another hurler dialed in with a team that is heading to the postseason. The All Star left-hander was having a good season and has thrived in the Yankee pinstripes with an ERA under 2.40. Likely, more winning days ahead.
* Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers • 12-4 (6-2 A)
Remember all the talk of the “sky is falling” about Kershaw? Let's face it his ERA was almost 3.00, which by human standards is fantastic. But not for Kershaw, evidently. Since coming off the DL he's been dealing and guess what, his ERA this season now matches his career norms. Look for more W's in September.
Jon Lester, Chicago Cubs • 13-4 (7-2 H)
After a few bumpy starts in July and August, Lester has gotten back on track and looks to be ready to be the clutch pitcher he's been throughout his career. The lefty has actually been tougher on the road, with more strikeouts, fewer walks and lower batting average allowed as compared to at Wrigley.
Carlos Martinez, St. Louis Cardinals • 11-5 (6-2 A)
Not sure what to expect from Martinez at the moment. He's not pitched since July 30th and been on the DL with shoulder inflammation. His ERA has steadily been rising since June and his walks are way up. Stay tuned.
Max Scherzer, Washington Nationals • 13-4 (7-0 A)
As great as Mad Max has pitched since 2013, this year is setting up to be his masterpiece, even on a .500 team. Scherzer's at a career-low for ERA, opposing batters are hitting under.190 against him and have an OBP of under .250. This is not supposed to happen to 34-year-old pitchers. #magnificent
Luis Severino, New York Yankees • 10-1 (4-0 A)
The Yankees ace was pitching like Scherzer before running into trouble the middle of July. There is no doubt he struggled for a long stretch, however, upon closer inspection, his WHIP, batting average allowed and ERA are very close to career norms. Look for Severino to be fine this month. Note: the 10-1 record is also career mark for Severino.
* Stephen Strasburg, Washington Nationals • 9-1 (3-0 A)
Once again, Strasburg, after a stellar start, landed on the DL. He's made a couple of late August starts and not been impressive. Typically he finds ways to win games late in the season, even without his best stuff. But can this occur every year?
Josh Tomlin, Cleveland Indians • 10-3 (6-0 A)
Tomlin was terrible early for the Tribe and was sent to the bullpen and later landed on the DL. Unless he comes back and is fantastic, the 33-year might only get a spot start or two to see if he can make the playoff roster.
* Justin Verlander, Houston Astros • 12-4 (7-2 A)
The Astros right-hander is on pace to produce a magnificent season like he did in 2011-12 and with Detroit. Like the other great pitchers that are Verlander's age, he made the adjustment and has continued to be outstanding.
BAD SEPTEMBER PITCHERS:
* Chris Archer, Pittsburgh Pirates • 3-13 (1-9 A)
It turns out Archer is anything but an ace as his career continues to spiral downward. All those years of him just pitching "in tough luck" cannot hide the fact his record is well below .500 and with an ERA to match. Look for more of the same this month.
Ivan Nova, Pittsburgh Pirates • 3-10 (1-5 A)
Month by month, Nova has had an 'incredible' season. His first month he's at a 3.37 ERA, which is followed by 7.51. Nova rebounds exceptionally at 1.75 in June and July he's back up to 5.53. August gave us 4.44. September?
* Chris Sale, Boston Red Sox • 5-10 (2-5 H)
Boston fans and backers have to be concerned with Sale being on the DL twice since July. Their near perfect season could take a major hit if Sale is not pitching well come late September before the playoffs. Buyer beware.
Jordan Zimmermann, Detroit Tigers • 3-7 (2-5 H)
Zimmerman was on the “Play On” September list last year, but a winless September in 2017 bounces him to the “Play Against” category this season. Similar to other pitchers on this list, Zimmermann is a roller-coaster ride. Here we go again!