September risers, fallers
Which notable hitters turn in far different stats during final month of season?
What is it about the season's final month?
Yes, proponents of "sample size" arguments will point out that most anything can happen in a month's time. It's true that fluky things can happen in a mere 30 days -- Ricky Nolasco is the No. 7 player overall on our Player Rater past-30 split -- but the fact remains that some players, for whatever reason, have a puzzling track record of success (or failure) in the regular season's final month.
Perhaps it's the lure of the playoff race, the cooling temperatures or simply players beating up on competition that has mentally "turned the page" to next year. But in examining the historical statistics -- beginning with the past three seasons (2010-12), for these purposes -- I found that several players have an inexplicably extreme career September/October split.
Let's start with the players available in a larger percentage of ESPN leagues who have favorable September histories, then conclude with players owned in a larger percentage (or in many cases 100 percent) who have troubling final months.
Standout Septembers[+] EnlargeAP Photo/David GoldmanB.J. Upton has been a big disappointment this season, but maybe he can finish with a flourish.
B.J. Upton, OF, Atlanta Braves: He's in the midst of a miserable year, ranked the No. 283 hitter on our Player Rater. To put into perspective the weight of his .200 batting average, consider that he's on pace for 471 plate appearances; only 33 players in history have registered a lower average in a season with at least that many PAs. But if you're an Upton owner -- all in-49.5-percent-of-ESPN-leagues of you -- there's hope:
• Career September/October: .264/.344/.465, .809 OPS, .352 wOBA
• Overall career: .250/.331/.412, .743 OPS, .327 wOBA
Another way to put it is that Upton has managed at least a .732 OPS and .322 wOBA in every September since 2006, but he did so in only seven of 25 months (10-game minimum) the remainder of the year from 2009-13. Why Upton has a track record of late-season success -- and let's add that he's a lifetime .267/.324/.554 hitter in 25 postseason games, so it's clearly a time-of-year thing -- is unclear, but sure enough, he's 8-for-17 with two doubles and one home run in his past four games, offering further encouragement. The Braves might be toning things down with a 15-game lead and magic number of 10 in the division, resting regulars, but in Upton's case they have every reason to trot him out there and get him straightened out before October. He's fighting for a playoff role.
Justin Smoak, 1B, Seattle Mariners: So far, so bad. Smoak is 2-for-10 through three September games, and is riding a .109 slump (6-for-55) with zero home runs in his past 17 contests. That said, his final-month track record is difficult to ignore, especially in comparison to his earlier-year performance:
• Career September/October: .321/.395/.520, .910 OPS, .398 wOBA
• Overall career: .229/.316/.383, .699 OPS, .309 wOBA
Smoak has batted .300 or better in every one of his three Septembers in the majors, but has never batted higher than .289 in any other month of his career. Being that he once again appears part of the Mariners' future plans -- he has set personal bests in terms of slugging percentage (.406), OPS (.753) and wOBA (.335) -- he should continue to get the bulk of the at-bats at first base; he has started 100 of the team's 138 games overall and 30 of their past 31 there. Here's another reason he's worth a look in the 88.7 percent of ESPN leagues in which he's available: He's a significantly better hitter against right-handers than left-handers, and his Mariners face a projected seven right-handed starters in eight games through Sept. 11, then from that date forward face opponents who have a combined four lefty starters out of 25.
Marco Scutaro, 2B/SS, San Francisco Giants: Back issues have dogged Scutaro for much of the year, so that he sports a .296 batting average today should be regarded somewhat remarkable. Even in his advancing years, he has proved one of the most adept in the majors at handling the bat.
• Career September/October: .298/.353/.433, .786 OPS, .343 wOBA
• Overall career: .277/.341/.389, .730 OPS, .324 wOBA
Consider that Scutaro's .298 September batting average is 18 points higher than in any other month, and in the past two Septembers he has batted .387 with 21 RBIs (2011) and .402 with 24 RBIs (2012). And if you're entertaining the argument that, "Oh, but his team isn't going anywhere," remember that his 2011 came during the Boston Red Sox's epic, 7-20 September collapse. Scutaro, owned in only 69.3 percent of ESPN leagues, is that safe, prop-up-your-lineup's-back-end hitter, especially so in September.[+] EnlargeJoy R. Absalon/USA TODAY SportsApparently the long grind of the season doesn't catch up to Matt Wieters in September.
Matt Wieters, C, Baltimore Orioles: He's owned in all but 1.7 percent of ESPN leagues, so this isn't a straight, "go-pick-him-up" example, but Wieters' fantasy owners might not truly appreciate his history of September dominance:
• Career September/October: .293/.365/.495, .860 OPS, .368 wOBA
• Overall career: .255/.320/.420, .740 OPS, .322 wOBA
In no other month does Wieters have as good as his September 10.4 percent walk rate, and two of his best single-month home run outputs have come in September (seven in 2011 and six in 2012). A noted second-half performer, Wieters has eight home runs and 22 RBIs since the All-Star break, first and fourth among catchers during that span, and he's already 5-for-12 with a homer in three games this month. Just as he was last year, when he batted .296/.389/.541 with six homers as a middle-of-the-order hitter for the contending Orioles, he's critical to the team's playoff hopes this season.
Nate McLouth, OF, Baltimore Orioles: He's also integral to the Orioles' playoff hopes, but his fantasy owners -- those in 94.0 percent of ESPN leagues -- might have doubts about his playing time after the team acquired Michael Morse on Aug. 30. Here are some facts that should allay your concerns:
• Career September/October: .288/.380/.498, .878 OPS, .379 wOBA
• Overall career: .251/.336/.420, .756 OPS, .331 wOBA
In fact, McLouth has managed at least a .355 on-base percentage and .420 slugging percentage in every one of his six Septembers in the majors, yet has achieved those only 10 and 11 times in the 34 other months of his career (10-game minimum). He has been an outstanding find for the Orioles, who grabbed him off the scrap heap in June 2012, posting .269/.340/.421 numbers and averages of 16 home runs and 37 stolen bases per 162 games played for the team since then, and he's sure to get all the starts in left field against right-handed pitching going forward. As for those games against lefties that Morse might start, remember McLouth's importance as a late-inning defensive replacement; as there are more right-handed pitchers in baseball, there should be plenty of times McLouth comes on mid-game and sneaks in a stray at-bat or two.
Nick Hundley, C, San Diego Padres: His could be the sneakiest track-record-to-know of them all, as Hundley is available in all but 0.2 percent of ESPN leagues, and practically no one knows these following facts:
• Career September/October: .294/.336/.485, .821 OPS, .354 wOBA
• Overall career: .239/.299/.392, .691 OPS, .302 wOBA
First, a caveat: Hundley's September success has been the result of smaller sample sizes, as he had 90, 78, 43 and 78 plate appearances in that month from 2008-11 before missing the final month of 2012 with a knee injury. Still, it's difficult to overlook the fact that he has slugged at least .500 in each of his past three healthy Septembers, or that he's a .304/.344/.500 hitter with three home runs and 10 RBIs in his past 16 contests. Fantasy owners in 12-plus-team, two-catcher leagues could do a lot worse for a No. 2 backstop, especially because Hundley is playing for a role in 2014.
Sorry Septembers[+] EnlargeDavid Banks/Getty ImagesIt may be hard to rely on Mark Trumbo the rest of the way.
Mark Trumbo, 1B, Los Angeles Angels: He hit home runs in three consecutive games Aug. 17-19, but since then, Trumbo has fallen into a dreadful funk, batting .167 (8-for-48) with only two doubles, no home runs and 17 strikeouts. Late-season slides are nothing new for Trumbo, whom we constantly hail a midseason sell-high candidate:
• Career September/October: .207/.227/.352, .580 OPS, .252 wOBA
• Overall career: .251/.299/.469, .769 OPS, .329 wOBA
Most distressingly, Trumbo sports 31.3 percent strikeout and 2.0 percent walk rates in his career from Sept. 1 forward, and those numbers have shown a precipitous decline from July to August to September during his three full years in the bigs. He has managed at least an .800 OPS in eight of 15 months the rest of the year; he had .703 and .554 numbers in 2011 and 2012. Trumbo also has one other obstacle in his path: His Angels don't sport as potent an offense as they once did, their 79 runs the past three weeks ranking 16th in the majors (they ranked seventh in runs before the All-Star break). That means slightly less runs/RBI appeal before even getting to his track record of rising strikeout and declining power rates.
Justin Morneau, 1B, Pittsburgh Pirates: There's no reason for Pirates fans, or fantasy owners for that matter, to hail the Morneau trade as a coup; it's puzzling that anyone would use the phrase "considerable upgrade" (and many have). He's valuable depth for the team at low cost, sure, but the Pirates picked the absolute worst time of the year during which to acquire his services:
• Career September/October: .252/.332/.400, .732 OPS, .317 wOBA
• Overall career: .278/.347/.485, .832 OPS, .354 wOBA
Now, a couple of points: Morneau represents the most valuable cross-league hitter FAAB target for NL-only owners all year, and I even placed a losing $82 bid on him in Tout Wars this past weekend (several owners had mountain piles of FAAB remaining); he could also be rejuvenated by fresh circumstances in the heat of a pennant race. He's also going to play, as the primary reason people used the word "upgrade" is they don't respect previous platoon mate Garrett Jones as much as they should.
That said, Morneau's September track record is ominous. He hasn't had an OPS greater than .696 in September since 2006; he also has averaged one home run per 36.4 at-bats in the month, compared to one per 20.2 at-bats the rest of the year. Plus, if you know anything about PNC Park's dimensions, you're aware that it's one of the few venues that represent a negligible bump for a left-handed slugger like Morneau. He goes from a ballpark with a 23-foot wall and 328- and 367-foot distances in right and right-center to one with a 25-foot wall and 320- and 375-foot distances in those spots.
Brian McCann, C, Atlanta Braves: He has enjoyed about the best season one could've asked of a catcher who missed the first 30 team games of the year recovering from shoulder surgery; McCann ranks 11th among catchers on our Player Rater. But as is the case with many catchers, the lengthy summer can take its toll.
• Career September/October: .259/.329/.410, .739 OPS, .321 wOBA
• Overall career: .278/.350/.476, .826 OPS, .355 wOBA
McCann once enjoyed productive Septembers -- he batted .304/.347/.663 with eight home runs and 27 RBIs in the final month of 2006 -- but in the past three years has turned in OPS beneath .650 in each. He's batting .226/.261/.345 in his past 22 games and with his Braves a lock to make the postseason, there's every reason to give their 29-year-old catcher and heart-of-the-order hitter additional rest in September. After all, they have important playoff roster decisions to make, and they could use a longer look at backup candidates Gerald Laird and Evan Gattis.[+] EnlargeSteve Mitchell/USA TODAY SportsFreddie Freeman has struggled in Septembers past, but will his breakout this year counteract that?
Freddie Freeman, 1B, Atlanta Braves: He has been one of the most under-the-radar breakthrough stories, ranking eighth among first basemen, 29th among hitters and 44th overall on our Player Rater to date, but the unfortunate reality is that his September history hints at an unhappy ending:
• Career September/October: .216/.296/.383, .679 OPS, .293 wOBA
• Overall career: .280/.353/.459, .812 OPS, .352 wOBA
Now, putting excessive stock in those numbers might be unfair, as they come from effectively a two-season sample and during his great 2013 he has batted 37 points higher than he did in his previous two-and-change. That said, Freeman's strikeout rate in September is 23.7 percent, quite a bit higher than his 20.6 percent mark the remainder of the year, and perhaps most important, he plays for a team sure to be resting its regulars. The Braves could give Joey Terdoslavich some time at first base in the coming weeks, or more likely, they'll recall Ernesto Mejia -- he's on the 40-man roster, after all -- to be Freeman's occasional fill-in.
• Career September/October: .214/.346/.391, .737 OPS, .326 wOBA
• Overall career: .239/.367/.496, .863 OPS, .370 wOBA
To be clear, that's a tongue-in-cheek statement, but there's certainly something to Dunn's history of late-season swoons. Also consider this: He's a lifetime .223/.352/.451 hitter (.803 OPS) with a .348 wOBA in the month of August, that representing easily his second-least productive month of the year. Dunn is a historically streaky player who could fall prey to a substantial slump at any moment; he's a .130 hitter with two home runs but 24 K's in 54 at-bats in his past 14 games. If there's any argument to be made in his defense, it's this: His White Sox play 15 of their final 25 games at U.S. Cellular Field, plus four more at Baltimore's Camden Yards, so at least he'll have the ballparks playing in his favor.
September 2010-12 leaders
These players lead in each of the primary Rotisserie categories from Sept. 1 forward the past three seasons combined (2010-12):
Batting average (minimum 150 PAs): Marco Scutaro .364, Ryan Raburn .356, Victor Martinez .344, Adrian Beltre .344, Chris Nelson .344, Miguel Cabrera .343, Jamey Carroll .339, Salvador Perez .339, Lance Berkman .335, Ryan Braun .332.
Home runs: Adrian Beltre 28, Miguel Cabrera 22, B.J. Upton 22, Curtis Granderson 21, Prince Fielder 20, Matt Kemp 20, Mike Napoli 20, Ryan Braun 19, Giancarlo Stanton 19, Evan Longoria 18, Michael Morse 18.
RBIs: Miguel Cabrera 70, Ryan Braun 65, Robinson Cano 64, Curtis Granderson 64, Adrian Beltre 63, Torii Hunter 61, Hunter Pence 60, Evan Longoria 59, Ryan Howard 58, Billy Butler 57, Albert Pujols 57, Delmon Young 57.
Stolen bases: Coco Crisp 31, Michael Bourn 27, Juan Pierre 25, Ichiro Suzuki 24, Everth Cabrera 21, B.J. Upton 20, Shane Victorino 20, Brett Gardner 19, Rajai Davis 18, Ben Revere 18.
Runs scored: Miguel Cabrera 64, B.J. Upton 62, Ian Kinsler 61, Austin Jackson 60, Marco Scutaro 60, Adrian Beltre 56, Aaron Hill 56, Robinson Cano 54, Matt Kemp 54, Ryan Braun 53.
TOP 150 HITTERS
Note: Tristan H. Cockcroft's top 150 hitters are ranked for their expected performance from this point forward, not for statistics that have already been accrued. For position-specific rankings, see the "Pos Rnk" column; these rankings can also be seen split up by position.
# Player, Team Pos
# Player, Team Pos
1 Mike Trout, LAA OF1 2 76 Jose Bautista, Tor OF30 75 2 Miguel Cabrera, Det 3B1 1 77 Josh Hamilton, LAA OF31 73 3 Andrew McCutchen, Pit OF2 5 78 Will Venable, SD OF32 81 4 Robinson Cano, NYY 2B1 4 79 Jason Castro, Hou C7 83 5 Paul Goldschmidt, Ari 1B1 3 80 J.J. Hardy, Bal SS8 78 6 Jacoby Ellsbury, Bos OF3 7 81 Coco Crisp, Oak OF33 92 7 Chris Davis, Bal 1B2 6 82 Anthony Rizzo, ChC 1B11 87 8 Hanley Ramirez, LAD SS1 9 83 Brett Gardner, NYY OF34 84 9 Adam Jones, Bal OF4 8 84 Alejandro De Aza, CWS OF35 91 10 Adrian Beltre, Tex 3B2 11 85 A.J. Pierzynski, Tex C8 79 11 Evan Longoria, TB 3B3 10 86 Leonys Martin, Tex OF36 88 12 Edwin Encarnacion, Tor 1B3 13 87 Josh Donaldson, Oak 3B12 85 13 Joey Votto, Cin 1B4 12 88 Kyle Seager, Sea 3B13 95 14 Troy Tulowitzki, Col SS2 14 89 Matt Wieters, Bal C9 96 15 Bryce Harper, Wsh OF5 17 90 Dexter Fowler, Col OF37 80 16 Ian Kinsler, Tex 2B2 18 91 Aramis Ramirez, Mil 3B14 89 17 Ian Desmond, Wsh SS3 20 92 Joe Mauer, Min C10 99 18 Prince Fielder, Det 1B5 26 93 Salvador Perez, KC C11 110 19 Eric Hosmer, KC 1B6 21 94 Brandon Belt, SF 1B12 94 20 Justin Upton, Atl OF6 15 95 Adam Dunn, CWS 1B13 76 21 Matt Holliday, StL OF7 19 96 Jed Lowrie, Oak SS9 104 22 Alex Rios, Tex OF8 25 97 Asdrubal Cabrera, Cle SS10 93 23 Curtis Granderson, NYY OF9 22 98 Nate McLouth, Bal OF38 116 24 Dustin Pedroia, Bos 2B3 23 99 Desmond Jennings, TB OF39 102 25 Jose Reyes, Tor SS4 24 100 Brian McCann, Atl C12 90 26 Freddie Freeman, Atl 1B7 16 101 Emilio Bonifacio, KC OF40 113 27 Yasiel Puig, LAD OF10 28 102 Adam Eaton, Ari OF41 108 28 Alfonso Soriano, NYY OF11 33 103 Mark Trumbo, LAA OF42 71 29 Carlos Gomez, Mil OF12 27 104 Matt Kemp, LAD OF43 97 30 Adrian Gonzalez, LAD 1B8 34 105 Jedd Gyorko, SD 2B12 98 31 Brandon Phillips, Cin 2B4 35 106 Erick Aybar, LAA SS11 101 32 Elvis Andrus, Tex SS5 30 107 Nolan Arenado, Col 3B15 111 33 Giancarlo Stanton, Mia OF13 31 108 Kendrys Morales, Sea 1B14 100 34 David Ortiz, Bos DH1 29 109 Norichika Aoki, Mil OF44 103 35 Martin Prado, Ari 3B4 32 110 Dan Uggla, Atl 2B13 105 36 Jay Bruce, Cin OF14 39 111 Darin Ruf, Phi OF45 107 37 Shin-Soo Choo, Cin OF15 46 112 Christian Yelich, Mia OF46 123 38 Jayson Werth, Wsh OF16 43 113 Justin Morneau, Pit 1B15 117 39 Buster Posey, SF C1 41 114 Neil Walker, Pit 2B14 120 40 Carlos Beltran, StL OF17 37 115 Jimmy Rollins, Phi SS12 112 41 Allen Craig, StL 1B9 36 116 Brandon Moss, Oak 1B16 125 42 Ben Zobrist, TB 2B5 47 117 Andre Ethier, LAD OF47 121 43 Jean Segura, Mil SS6 38 118 Justin Smoak, Sea 1B17 122 44 Austin Jackson, Det OF18 49 119 Rajai Davis, Tor OF48 118 45 Jason Kipnis, Cle 2B6 40 120 Chris Johnson, Atl 3B16 114 46 Ryan Zimmerman, Wsh 3B5 50 121 Mike Napoli, Bos C13 115 47 Shane Victorino, Bos OF19 55 122 Jarrod Dyson, KC OF49 127 48 Billy Butler, KC 1B10 48 123 Andrelton Simmons, Atl SS13 126 49 Carlos Gonzalez, Col OF20 45 124 Nate Schierholtz, ChC OF50 106 50 Hunter Pence, SF OF21 52 125 Carlos Ruiz, Phi C14 128 51 Yadier Molina, StL C2 51 126 Marlon Byrd, Pit OF51 134 52 Victor Martinez, Det C3 53 127 Eric Young Jr., NYM OF52 146 53 Torii Hunter, Det OF22 54 128 Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Bos C15 119 54 Pedro Alvarez, Pit 3B6 44 129 Chris Carter, Hou 1B18 133 55 Matt Carpenter, StL 2B7 57 130 Stephen Drew, Bos SS14 130 56 Wilin Rosario, Col C4 62 131 Omar Infante, Det 2B15 140 57 Manny Machado, Bal 3B7 61 132 Adam LaRoche, Wsh 1B19 109 58 Domonic Brown, Phi OF23 42 133 Wilson Ramos, Wsh C16 136 59 Alex Gordon, KC OF24 70 134 Zack Cozart, Cin SS15 138 60 Brett Lawrie, Tor 3B8 58 135 Jon Jay, StL OF53 124 61 Alex Rodriguez, NYY 3B9 63 136 Mitch Moreland, Tex 1B20 145 62 Carlos Santana, Cle C5 59 137 Russell Martin, Pit C17 143 63 Michael Cuddyer, Col OF25 64 138 Ichiro Suzuki, NYY OF54 141 64 Jonathan Lucroy, Mil C6 68 139 Gerardo Parra, Ari OF55 131 65 David Wright, NYM 3B10 72 140 B.J. Upton, Atl OF56 NR 66 Jose Altuve, Hou 2B8 56 141 Nick Swisher, Cle OF57 132 67 Yoenis Cespedes, Oak OF26 67 142 Starlin Castro, ChC SS16 149 68 Aaron Hill, Ari 2B9 65 143 Dustin Ackley, Sea 2B16 NR 69 Pablo Sandoval, SF 3B11 66 144 Todd Frazier, Cin 3B17 148 70 Alexei Ramirez, CWS SS7 82 145 Trevor Plouffe, Min 3B18 NR 71 Wil Myers, TB OF27 60 146 Nick Franklin, Sea SS17 142 72 Chase Utley, Phi 2B10 74 147 Avisail Garcia, CWS OF58 NR 73 Daniel Murphy, NYM 2B11 77 148 Denard Span, Wsh OF59 NR 74 Carl Crawford, LAD OF28 86 149 Brian Dozier, Min SS18 NR 75 Michael Bourn, Cle OF29 69 150 Jonathan Villar, Hou SS19 147
FANTASY TOP HEADLINES
- McKitish: Top FBA waiver-wire targets
- Stock Watch: Wood up; Davis down
- Fantasy Baseball: H2H category mock draft
- Cockcroft: LABR-AL draft recap
MOST SENT STORIES ON ESPN.COM