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September's Best and Worst Pitchers

September's Best and Worst Pitchers

September's Best and Worst Pitchers
By Marc Lawrence

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 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.

Good September pitchers

Homer Bailey, Cincinnati Reds • 11-5

The Cincinnati starter had great promise as youngster, but injuries and inconsistencies have often sidetracked him. As per usual, Bailey is like a Moen faucet, running hot or cold and after a brutal August he will try and pitch like September’s past.

Joe Blaton, Los Angeles Dodgers • 10-3

Blanton won his first game in a Dodgers’ uniform in late August, after four miserable outings. Blanton’s “stuff” is not going to fool many batters (179 hits in 161.2 innings), instead he has to work the corners low and induce ground balls with runners on base to stay out of trouble. Despite being largely a No.4 or 5 starter, he’s been clutch when it counted late in the season.

Trevor Cahill, Arizona Diamondbacks • 10-5

The right-hander’s specialty is having batters hit ground balls. In hitter-friendly Chase Field in Arizona, this has not worked out so well for the 24-year-old. Cahill’s home ERA is a lofty 5.33. Where this Diamondbacks pitcher should be a better bet this month is on the road, where his earned run average drops to 2.79.

Matt Cain, San Francisco Giants • 10-3

This San Francisco ace is a proven big-game pitcher and his record this month supports the accolades. With a tight race with the Dodgers presumed in September, Cain is chewing up right-hand hitters who are batting a dismal .188 against him.

Freddy Garcia, New York Yankees • 9-4

The former Seattle Mariners sensation gets by more in guile then skill at 35 years old. Nevertheless, for five or six innings, Garcia will empty his bucket and deliver quality starts when his team needs him the most at crunch time. With a runner on first base, only three times in 17 innings against Garcia has the opponent scored, for a nifty 1.59 ERA in this exact situation.

Gio Gonzalez, Washington Nationals • 12-4

Washington would not be as far out front in the NL East without the excellent pitching of Gonzalez. The left-hander has not been as dominant the last month as we has earlier in the season, yet continues to get the job done. His unusual delivery continues to baffle batters on both sides of the dish, with righty’s sporting a .213 batting average and lefty’s slightly higher at .218.

Roy Halladay, Philadelphia Phillies • 12-4

Is Doc Halladay beginning headed towards a decline? We really will not know until next season, but there are signs the 35-year-old Denver native is slowing. After averaging .88 strikeouts per inning over a four-year period from 2008 to 2011, Halladay’s punch-out’s rate is down 10 percent this season. Was it the injury, age or something else? Watch him closely this month.

Cliff Lee, Philadelphia Phillies • 10-4

Like the Phillies, it has been a lost season for Lee. He’s been up and down like a Duncan yo-yo and his only three wins have come in his last 10 starts. Lee’s problems are easy to pinpoint. When the lefty has two runners on base, his ERA is almost 15.00. Because Lee’s command has been off, opponents are batting a robust .362 against him when ahead in the count. History says he will throw better in the final month of the season, stay tuned.

Roy Oswalt, Texas Rangers • 10-5

Oswalt is another hurler in his mid-30’s, still trying to hang on with diminishing skills. Oswalt has been forced back into the Texas rotation because of injuries and is unlikely to give more than 5-plus innings because of a balky back. Like several of the veteran pitchers listed above, he knows how to win when needed and can't be discounted just yet.

Rick Porcello, Detroit Tigers • 11-4

If Detroit is going to catch the White Sox or the other American League wild card clubs, having Porcello as a .500 pitcher will not cut it. The slender 6-foot-5 chucker needs a more harmonious two-seam fastball that induces ground balls, not line drives. Time for him to lift his game.

David Price, Tampa Bay Rays • 13-5

One can fully expect this top-shelf left-hander to throw extremely well like he has all season. Even being roughed up a bit in Texas in his previous outing, Price’s ERA is a razor sharp 1.95 in his last 10 starts. At the Trop this season, the Rays ace has 1.66 ERA.

C.C. Sabathia, New York Yankees • 11-5

Mr. Consistency among all pitchers in baseball. Sabathia’s record in 71 games over .500 since 2007 (108-37) and his WHIP has hardly varied at all in this time period, ranging from 1.14 to 1.23. Though the Yankees big man strikeouts are down from previous years, his ground ball-to-fly ball ratios are at a career high of 1.44-to-1. Anticipate the big lefty to be on his game like always.

Justin Verlander, Detroit Tigers • 13-5

The Tigers ace will not win another Cy Young, yet he will be a key component if Detroit returns to the postseason. The past suggests Verlander will do his part and though opposing batters have enjoyed more success against him then in 2011; their average is still not much above the Mendoza Line at .212.

Randy Wolf, Milwaukee Brewers • 10-4

Rumors continue to circulate this port-sider will end up in Baltimore for the playoff chase. The Orioles are attempting to look optimistically at Wolf’s past, compared to his 3-10 mark this season. For Wolf to succeed in Baltimore or Milwaukee, he need greater sink on his tosses to right-handed batters, who are slugging a hefty .325 against him.

Bad September pitchers

Mat Latos, Cincinnati Reds • 4-8

The trade for Latos has worked marvelously for Cincinnati, who was the first team to 80 wins this season. The big 6-foot-6 right-hander will now be called upon to help the Reds finish with the best record in baseball in the final days of the season. Just in his fourth major league season, Latos has faltered late, however, he’s never played with as talented a group.

Anibal Sanchez, Detroit Tigers • 5-11

After being pounded in his initial starts in MoTown, Sanchez has looked far more comfortable in a Detroit uniform his last couple of starts at the end of August. For the 28-year-old Venezuelan to be at his best, he has to keep the low 90s fastball down in the zone, where it has more movement and tighten up his delivery for the hard slider. Sanchez will fall in love with his secondary pitches, which is what gets him into trouble.

Chad Billingsley, Los Angeles Dodgers • 5-10

Dodgers CEO Stan Kasten said he "fears" that disabled starting pitcher Chad Billingsley could be lost for the season with an elbow injury, according to a Los Angeles Times report. Kasten's comment came less than a week after the club gave reporters a vague description of "elbow inflammation" as the reason for Billingsley's placement on the disabled list on August 25 after he underwent an MRI.

Gavin Floyd, Chicago White Sox • 3-9

The White Sox placed Floyd on the 15-day disabled list with a right elbow flexor strain on August 27. He was previously on the DL from July 8-23, with right elbow tendinitis and his return is to be determined.

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