The Monsters of September, a.k.a the Kansas City Royals, rolled on again this weekend, taking two of three from the Chicago White Sox. They were fueled by a complete game shutout from struggling Luke Hochevar on Friday night and six more innings of domination on Sunday from Robinson Tejeda.
The weekend's results pushed Kansas City's September record to 11-7.
Now, we have all been fooled before: exactly one year before. Just last fall, the demoralized Royals team rallied in September to roll to an 18-8 record and seemingly put the team on the road to respectability.
This year's subsequent 60-88 record is proof to not be too enthralled with what happens in the season's final month.
While Royals fans have learned that lesson the hard way when it comes to a team's overall record, does one dare trust individual statistics in September as an indication of what the future holds? Or do we view September numbers with the same skepticism as most do when it comes to spring training performances?
This becomes a particularly relevant question when it comes to someone like Tejeda, who has only tossed 22.1 innings to the tune of a 0.81 earned run average this month over four starts.
Let's take a look back at some recent notable Septembers and the following year's result.
Two years ago, Jimmy Gobble pitched 10 innings in September, struck out 12, and allowed just eight hits in posting an earned run average of 1.80 and a WHIP of 0.90. The following season, Jimmy allowed a WHIP of 1.96 and an ERA of 8.81.
While Gobble's September was a false indicator, two other Royals pitchers had months that did actually indicate what we could expect out of them in 2008.
Zack Greinke, who had spent much of the season in the bullpen, was back in the rotation and posted a 2.33 ERA over 27 September innings, striking out 24 along the way. He came back in 2008 and threw over 200 innings with a 3.47 ERA.
Brian Bannister, by contrast, had a horrible September of 2007. After spending much of the season in the running for Rookie of the Year honors, Bannister collapsed in September, posting a 7.30 ERA over 25 innings during which he struck out just six batters. Brian's 2008 was little better as he struggled through 32 starts with an unsightly 5.76 ERA.
On the offensive side of the game, Tony Pena Jr. hit .333 in September of 2007 and surged to an .816 OPS for the month. Those number meant absolutely nothing as TPJ was the single worst offensive player in the game in 2008 as he noddled his way to a .398 OPS in 95 games of action.
David DeJesus had a dismal September that year, hitting just .193 and slugging a meager .313. Yet he came back in 2008 and had his best year (.307/.366/.452/.818).
The poster child for September skepticism is pitcher Kyle Davies. It was just last September that Davies was brilliant (31.2 innings, 2.27 ERA, just 22 hits allowed). That performance earned him the No. 3 spot in the 2009 rotation even before spring training began. After a promising couple of starts early, Davies has since struggled to a 5.27 ERA over 22 starts in 2009.
Of course, Greinke also had a great September in 2008 (2.18 ERA over 33 innings) and parlayed that into being the best pitcher in baseball in 2009.
Offensively, as much as the Royals put stock in Davies' September, they seemed to give little credence to Ryan Shealy's seven home run month and .603 slugging percentage. Given little chance to earn a job in the spring (as the Royals had traded for Mike Jacobs over the winter), Shealy returned to Omaha, got hurt, and missed all of the season's final four months.
Mark Teahen teased us with a September batting line of .313/.340/.490/.830 but fell back in 2009 to what has become his standard level of performance: .274/.328/.411/.739.
However, Billy Butler's .738 September OPS of last season gave us little indication that Billy was about to whack over 70 extra base hits in 2009 and emerge as a legitimate middle of the order bat.
If anything, the brief analysis above tells us that simply looking at the last month of the season is not enough to gauge the value of a given player in the coming year.
That said, here are some big September numbers to chew on:
Robinson Tejeda: 22.1 innings with a 0.81 ERA (just nine hits allowed)
Zack Greinke: 0.45 ERA over 20 innings (not really a surprise)
Kyle Davies: 1.06 ERA in 17 innings pitched with just 10 hits allowed. CAUTION: 14 walks versus just 10 strikeouts.
Willie Bloomquist: .396/.442/.500/.942—Trey Hillman and Dayton Moore are already finding an everyday 2010 spot for him.
Billy Butler: 1.051 OPS
Alberto Callaspo: 1.073 OPS
John Buck: 1.027 OPS
Miguel Olivo: 1.216 OPS
Reason for hope? Or just another tease? Time will tell.
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