As August Turns to September

In Jerry Crasnick’s new article (Insider, pay to read), he talks about Fast Finishers and Slow Finishers. Who is consistently good in September? Who makes the highest jumps and the lowest falls?
Orlando Cabrera was the only Red Sox (or Yankee) to hit the Top Ten in Fast Finishers, ranking third. Alex Rodriguez is the second best (or actually, worst) Slow Finisher, dipping from a .314 average from April – August to .262 in September. Jason Varitek checks in at fifth, .275 to .245. Jorge Posada is two spots behind Varitek at .274 to .249. One Red Sox in Fast, one in Slow compared with zero and two for the Yankees? I’ll take it.
Orlando Cabrera jumps from a .263 average to .291. This intrigued me – I wanted to learn more. So I went to the only site I could – the MLB Player’s Union statistics site, off of Yahoo – Bigleaguers. This is the site to go to for splits and other statistics. So looking at OC’s player page, I see that Cabrera’s best month career-wise is by far, September, where he hits .291/.332/.470. He hits when it counts. And interestingly enough, in 2003, 2002, and 2001 (the only available years on Bigleaguers to look at), his September statistics have been very strong – over .300 strong. Better than any other month, except in May of 2003.

Month     Yr         BAv    OBP    SLG
August    01        .276   .336   .469
September 01        .356   .379   .567
August    02        .221   .299   .349
September 02        .312   .369   .473
August    03        .257   .344   .367
September 03        .326   .340   .457

In 2004, with the Expos, Cabrera’s best month was July (hmm … surprise) when he went .280/.311/.370. By contrast, his worst month, in May, had a .204/.275/.296 line. For all the success Cabrera has had with the Sox in August, it may interest you to notice that his batting average and OBP actually dipped – but his slugging percentage took off. In August, his line was .278/.303/.443 – best since, you guessed it, September 2003.
It looks as if we can count on Cabrera down the stretch to help pick up the slack Jason Varitek will most likely be dropping. Varitek is a catcher, so he wears down as the season goes on, so it’s hardly surprising to see that he slows down as the season goes along. As a matter of fact, four catchers make the slow finishers list (Lo Duca and I. Rodriguez the others not previously mentioned), but A.J. Pierzynski (Giants, formerly Twins) and Javy Lopez (Orioles, formerly Braves) turn it up a notch in September.
I decided to take a look at the other Red Sox regulars to see what their August and September career splits were. Well, I found some interesting things.

Player         Month         BAv    OBP    SLG
Varitek        August       .273   .359   .423
September    .249   .309   .426
Mirabelli      August       .240   .338   .402
September    .226   .328   .399
Mientkiewicz   August       .292   .370   .430
September    .241   .341   .307
Millar         August       .282   .365   .477
September    .302   .364   .516
Bellhorn       August       .239   .354   .455
September    .234   .351   .345
Mueller        August       .326   .427   .478
September    .275   .340   .364
Ortiz          August       .248   .335   .473
September    .263   .323   .479
Kapler         August       .296   .356   .466
September    .305   .358   .463
Roberts        August       .264   .333   .358
September    .218   .299   .297
Damon          August       .290   .350   .427
September    .285   .346   .430
Ramirez        August       .326   .424   .614
September    .326   .421   .611

This is enough to make me very, very nervous. So I took a look at the Yankees regulars, to see if this was just us, or all the teams. While most players suffered a downturn also … their September stats a lot of players would gladly take as their season line, a lot more so than the Red Sox. But obviously, this doesn’t show season-to-season stats – for example, Jeter’s had a worse year than his career indicates. But bottom line – our hitting takes more of a hit than the Yankees. So I checked out the starters’ career line for both the Sox and Yankees, as well as their respective closers.

Player         Month        ERA    BAA    WHIP
Martinez       August       2.48   .209   1.02
September    2.50   .205   1.02
Schilling      August       2.89   .230   1.08
September    3.69   .246   1.14
Wakefield      August       4.97   .259   1.37
September    3.49   .238   1.26
Arroyo         August       4.57   .261   1.41
September    4.01   .246   1.40
Lowe           August       3.16   .246   1.19
September    2.76   .243   1.15
     Player    Month        ERA    BAA    WHIP
Brown     August       3.18   .255   1.27
September    2.82   .240   1.17
     Lieber    August       4.39   .269   1.25
September    4.57   .269   1.26
     Mussina   August       3.30   .247   1.16
September    2.98   .229   1.08
     Hernandez August       4.23   .245   1.29
September    3.26   .226   1.15
     Vazquez   August       4.32   .257   1.28
September    3.40   .240   1.14
Player         Month        ERA     SV   WHIP
Foulke         August       1.98    39   0.85
September    1.52    26   0.76
     Player     Month        ERA     SV   WHIP
     Rivera     August       2.29    63   1.15
September    2.64    33   1.01

Well, nobody said it was going to be easy.
A Trend?
The Boston Red Sox and St. Louis Cardinals have met twice in the World Series before – and lost all two times to the Cardinals. The first time was 1946 (when Johnny Pesky allegedly ‘held’ the ball, costing him a spot in Cooperstown) and the second time was when we saw this.
We played the Cardinals in 1946 and 1975. ’46 and ’75. Looking at this, I see a trend. The first digit increases by three. 4 to 7 to 10. But in years, the year ten defaults to zero. So that’s that – 0. The second digit goes down one. 6 to 5 to 4. ’04. 2004.
And third time’s the charm …
*Edit: Well, my theory is blown. Being busy as much as is humanely possible for the last two weeks will do that to you. We faced the scrappy Reds in ’75 and were overwhelmed by Bob Gibson (and the Cards) in ’67 – but you know what? I still like this trend!