The entire baseball season is important, but when the season is almost over, there seems to be a special intensity. Even though a loss in April matters as much as a loss in September, it doesn’t feel that way.
Most of that reaction probably comes from the fact that every loss is viewed under a microscope in September. We all know that one game can send a team home for the winter or usher them into a playoff run.
With this type of tension in mind, here are power rankings based solely upon the month of September. It doesn’t matter how well each team played during the rest of the season. We care about results in the clutch. I will provide their records from September for your reference.
This seemed like the year that the Pittsburgh Pirates would finally finish with more wins than losses. However, when August and, more importantly, September rolled around, they simply hit a wall.
Although it is not necessarily a done deal yet, it is pretty safe to say that the Pirates will finish the season below .500, just like they have every year since 1992.
The Colorado Rockies went down a bizarre path near the middle of the season. They decided to limit their four-man starting rotation to only 75 pitches per game.
While this was definitely a brash move, it really hasn’t made that much of a difference. The Rockies are still having a difficult year and have definitely missed the big bat of Troy Tulowitzki for most of the summer.
This was supposed to be the year for the Miami Marlins. After the major impression they made in the free-agent market last winter, everybody expected them to make a huge splash in the highly competitive National League East this season. That didn’t happen for most of the season, and September was no different. It was a disappointing end to a disappointing season.
The Boston Red Sox were having a decent season until they hit August. They started spiraling downhill, and that trend has continued into September.
After all of the drama that's surrounded this team all season, it seems Boston will need to do a lot of work over the winter to reconcile all of the difficult situations and get ready to compete next season.
The Chicago Cubs’ September started off on a six-game losing streak followed by a stretch where they won eight of 10 contests. Ever since that stretch, they have only won one game.
They do have great pieces for the future, like multi-talented shortstop Starlin Castro and first baseman Anthony Rizzo. However, this September has been very difficult for them, and they will look to put it behind them.
The Seattle Mariners are kind of like the Chicago Cubs in that they have great pieces for the future in guys like Dustin Ackley and, of course, Felix Hernandez.
Their September was similarly difficult, but it was characterized by a less a streaky play. Every three or four games, they would win one. So even though their record for the month ends up looking a lot like Chicago’s, the Mariners received the upper hand for more consistency.
The Toronto Blue Jays had been making strides the past few seasons to try to reach relevance in the American League East.
Even though they have struggled heavily as of late, they have had a very difficult stretch against the New York Yankees, Baltimore Orioles and Tampa Bay Rays.
Before that, September was going pretty well for them, so that is why they got the nod over some other teams with similar records for the month.
The Cleveland Indians had a terrible August. And while September has definitely been better, it really isn’t hard to do better than 5-24.
They have experienced some difficult losses this month to the substandard Minnesota Twins and the Kansas City Royals.
This season started off on a bright note, but a severe drop-off at the end of the season will put a bad taste on the end.
The Los Angeles Dodgers had a chance.
They played the St. Louis Cardinals head to head, and they only managed to split that series. They were defeated by both the Arizona Diamondbacks and the San Diego Padres at damaging points during the race. And playing sub-.500 baseball down the final stretch of the season doesn’t help make up ground in what actually turned into a highly competitive race for the National League Wild Card.
The New York Mets have the probable Cy Young winner in R.A. Dickey leading their rotation, but even he can only pitch every five days.
The Mets have been doing better lately, but they experienced a bit of a problem near the middle of the month where they dropped 12 of 13 games. This type of cold stretch is not what you want as you try to finish at this season on a positive note.
The Minnesota Twins are actually having one of the best months of their season in September, but it has still not been all that great.
When the Twins have lost in September, they've normally lost by pretty wide margins. While losing by 20 is essentially the same as losing by one, they are not really showing much power by losing so heavily.
The Kansas City Royals have been very streaky throughout September, and they have had some difficulty over the past week. That being said, they have been gaining momentum towards the latter part of the season.
Without this recent losing streak, the Royals would be putting together their second straight month above .500. While that might not necessarily be saying an awful lot, it is a promising sign for this franchise.
The American League Central was there for the Chicago White Sox to lose, and it looks like they might actually do it.
This team was in first place until September 25, but having a difficult September finally caught up to them, as they fell behind the Detroit Tigers.
They had a decent stretch in the middle of September, but it seems as if they might ultimately pay for the way they started and ended this month.
This is the first time that the Houston Astros will not be in last place in a power ranking. September has actually been a rebounding month for them, as they have won more games in this month than they had in July and August put together.
However, even as I say how much of an improvement this is for the Houston Astros, they have still suffered some rather large defeats, and they are not exactly powerful yet.
The San Diego Padres may only be at .500 for the month of September, but they have played very well against a very tough schedule. They have played well against the San Francisco Giants, the Los Angeles Dodgers and the surging Arizona Diamondbacks.
They're not even close to playoff contention, but management must be encouraged by the signs that this team has shown down the stretch.
The St. Louis Cardinals are almost definitely going to make the playoffs, but they have definitely done what they could to make it interesting. Because of some stumbles in the earlier part of the month, the National League Wild Card race has become relatively tight.
After the Pittsburgh collapse, the Cardinals were able to move in, and making the playoffs is ultimately what counts.
Everyone already knew that the Washington Nationals would win the National League East, but as of late, they have been playing somewhat average baseball. And it has not been helpful to have Stephen Strasburg shut down for the end of the season.
This team will need to figure out how to get back to its dominant form in order to roll through the playoffs like the Nationals have done during the rest of the year.
The Texas Rangers will hold onto the American League West title, but they have only been playing mediocre baseball throughout September. They had some trouble with the three teams in their division. Two of those three teams are pretty hot right now, so it was a good test for the Texas Rangers.
Hopefully, they will be able to straighten out whatever issues happened against those teams before in the playoffs.
I want to put the Detroit Tigers higher because they have overtaken the Chicago White Sox in the American League Central. That is a great accomplishment. But when you consider the fact that they started September by losing six out of nine contests, it becomes obvious that all of September has not been that great.
Nevertheless, they seem to be heading for a playoff spot. So despite some early struggles, September has been successful.
The Arizona Diamondbacks made a very nice run near the end of the season to even be considered in the playoff discussion. However, they created a pretty big hole, and the first week in September didn’t help that.
Ultimately, they began their comeback too late, and it didn’t end up being quite enough to help them into the playoffs. They still put together a pretty nice month, though, even if the result was less than perfect.
The Oakland Athletics have exceeded many expectations this year, and they actually had a very strong September. However, in the early part of the month, they were swept by the Los Angeles Angels, and that could have been a costly series.
They’re still holding strong to that playoff spot, but I had to drop their ranking because of their weakness in such an important series.
The Tampa Bay Rays had a difficult time handling the New York Yankees in the month of September, but outside of that, this month has been very successful. They’re currently on a very strong streak and are trying to make a final push into the playoff picture.
It is going to be a different quest over the final few days, but they are getting hot at the right time, even though there was a bit of a speed bump in the middle of the month.
The Cincinnati Reds have continued to sink a lot of playoff dreams this September. They swept the Pittsburgh Pirates, and they defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers and Philadelphia Phillies at key times during the stretch.
While this definitely was not their best month, they got their business done, held onto the top of the division and beat some tough teams along the way.
The Philadelphia Phillies went from a team that was entirely out of contention into a team in the wild-card picture because of a great September. Unfortunately, the hole that they had previously dug was too deep, and near the end of September, they stumbled against teams that they had to defeat.
Even though the end result will not be what the Phillies wanted, it is at least a sign that they still are capable of winning baseball games.
The New York Yankees are going to be in the playoffs again, and they definitely should do very well. However, throughout the month of September, they have had problems against the Tampa Bay Rays and Baltimore Orioles. Most of their wins this month have come against subpar teams like the Minnesota Twins or the Toronto Blue Jays, so they need to prepare to play tougher competition and succeed.
The Baltimore Orioles are playing their best baseball since 1996, and they have had a pretty strong September as they prepare for postseason baseball.
The only problem with their September is that a lot of their losses came against teams that they should have defeated, like the Toronto Blue Jays and Boston Red Sox. Their losses against the Oakland Athletics also could have been costly.
That said, it looks like they will survive this season and make it into the playoffs for the first time since 1997.
The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim made a valiant attempt at a playoff run behind an MVP-caliber season from rookie Mike Trout. But it doesn’t look like they’ll quite make it.
Losing three out of four to the Oakland Athletics and two out of three to the Texas Rangers did not help their cause, but the Angels still put up a very strong September that unfortunately will probably end just short.
The Milwaukee Brewers are going to end up a lot like the Philadelphia Phillies. They also made a valiant run in the wild-card race in September. However, also just like the Phillies, they have stumbled at the end of the month and will end up just outside looking in.
That said, the Brewers have played some great baseball and have beaten a lot of strong teams, so they definitely deserve credit for that.
I had a lot of tough decisions to make at the top of this list. The Atlanta Braves ended just off the top because of their sweep by the Milwaukee Brewers and the fact that they dropped some games against teams that they should have beaten, like the Colorado Rockies, Miami Marlins and Philadelphia Phillies.
At this level, though, it really feels like splitting hairs because the Braves have had a fabulous September.
The San Francisco Giants have not lost more than two games in a row for the whole month of September, and that is ultimately why I had to give them the top spot. They are playing some very strong baseball right now, and they need to keep up that consistency for playoff success.
Many teams had great Septembers, but the San Francisco Giants just kept on winning and have avoided any major ruts.