The two Eastern Division races were inflamed with a new fire this week thanks to sweeps of the Red Sox and Mets by their closest pursuers. The Yankees closed to within four games of Boston and the indefatigable Phillies closed the gap to two games by taking four thrillers at home. With September starting this weekend I thought I’d take a look at how the teams match up for a stretch drive.
Jorge Posada - 371OBP/484SLG/846OPS in September vs. 379/477/856 Career
Jason Giambi - 407/556/963, 412/539/950
Robinson Cano - 387/656/1043, 345/491/836 – Cano is 415/612/1027 since the All-Star Break
Derek Jeter - 404/478/882, 389/462/851
Alex Rodriguez - 372/526/898, 388/577/964 – A-Rod has his worst totals in any month in September.
Hideki Matsui -395/491/887, 372/490/862 – Matsui’s 994 second-half OPS is 123 points higher than his career average
Johnny Damon – 338/419/757, 353/433/786
Bobby Abreu – 416/490/906, 409/501/910
Melky Cabrera has only played one September but was awful last season, posting a 661 OPS.
Jason Varitek – 310/384/695, 349/447/797 – Varitek’s career totals are better in the first half overall, he was injured last year in the second half and in 2005 slumped to a 514 OPS in September. He is on pace to play fewer games than in the past, however.
Kevin Youkilis – Last year was Youkilis’ only meaningful September action and, like Cabrera, his 646 OPS was dreadful. His second half OPS is 200 points below his first half output as well.
Julio Lugo – 360/427/787, 334/396/730 – Lugo’s recovered well from an awful June to post a 771 second-half OPS.
Mike Lowell – 327/463/790, 343/467/810
Manny Ramirez – 409/559/1008, 409/593/1002
Coco Crisp – 344/431/775, 329/410/739
J.D. Drew – 414/507/921, 389/498/887
David Ortiz – 368/542/910, 380/553/933
Dustin Pedroia is a rookie and only played as a call-up when rosters expanded last season.
The numbers show us that Robinson Cano’s second-half explosion is right in line with his past work down the stretch while the Red Sox have to be hopeful that Manny, Lugo and Drew revert to past form if they want to hold off the Yankees down the stretch. The two third basemen, on the other hand, hope that they do the opposite and keep up this year’s strong play. If Varitek can avoid his customary late-season breakdown there isn’t much that separates the two sides. The Yankees are definitely the hotter team, though, and timing is everything in a pennant race.
As for the pitchers, Andy Pettitte is 5-0 over his last two Septembers while key pitchers on each team – Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Jonathan Papelbon (one game last year, 10 as a middleman in 2005) and Hideki Okajima – are working their first big league Septembers of note. Other key hurlers on each side have had September results right in line with their career work so neither team seems to gain much of an advantage on that front. Nominally the Red Sox would appear to have an advantage but after the work done by the Yankee staff against them this week it’s hard to say that with much conviction.
Paul Lo Duca – 292/351/643, 338/412/751
Carlos Delgado – 397/553/950, 386/548/934 – Delgado slumped badly in August after spending July looking like a player who had turned his mediocre season around.
Luis Castillo – 357/323/681, 368/357/724
Jose Reyes – 323/388/712, 333/429/762 – Reyes is coming off his worst month of the season.
David Wright – 373/517/890, 386/529/915 – Wright had a 963 OPS last September and has hit .400 for August entering today’s game.
Moises Alou – 373/515/888, 368/515/884
Carlos Beltran – 362/475/837, 355/495/849 – Beltran had mediocre Septembers in his first two Met seasons.
Shawn Green – 366/484/850, 354/494/848
Neither Carlos Ruiz nor Chris Coste has been an everyday catcher in any month before this season. It bears mentioning that Ruiz had a stellar August, however.
Ryan Howard – 443/693/1136, 397/611/1007 – Howard’s sample sizes are limited but he closed like a beast in 2006 and started making a name for himself with 10 2005 homers.
Chase Utley – 364/501/865, 373/524/897
Jimmy Rollins – 343/481/824, 331/438/769 – Rollins famously hit in all 27 September games in 2005.
Abraham Nunez – 317/319/636, 313/316/628 – Wes Helms has a career 875 OPS in the ninth month.
Pat Burrell – 360/457/817, 367/483/850 – 1144 OPS since the Break.
Aaron Rowand – 326/405/731, 343/529/802
Shane Victorino and Jayson Werth are September neophytes.
The lack of deep resumes on the Philly side jumps out at you but the players who do have a pedigree are all very good with the exception of Rowand. The lower numbers for Reyes have something to do with his earlier, less productive seasons but he wasn’t very good last year and has been struggling of late. Wright and Burrell are two of the hottest hitters in baseball right now, if either cools off considerably it will make things very difficult for their club.
You have to give the pitching edge to the Mets, however. Tom Glavine, Oliver Perez, El Duque and John Maine have a huge edge in experience over the likes of Kyle Kendrick and J.D. Durbin. Jamie Moyer has been brutal for two months and the Phillie bullpen has been a work not in progress all season. The Phillie bats will have to overcome that obstacle as well as the teams in their path if they hope to go the final mile and catch the Mets. They simply can’t expect to consistently prevail because of questionable umpiring and scoring last in wild slugfests.