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Tuesday, September 03, 2019

September Storylines to Follow as MLB’s Stretch Run Begins

If players are defined by what they do in October, their fates are often sealed in September. This is the month that makes postseason success possible. Divisions will be won, wild-card berths will be secured and MVP races will be decided. Here are the top storylines to follow as summer turns to fall.

1. The Last Division Race Standing

The NL Central was expected to be a three-team race all season, as the Cardinals, Cubs and Brewers expected to be in contention for the division title. St. Louis has been surging in the second half, when Paul Goldschmidt got hot and Jack Flaherty and Dakota Hudson emerged as a strong one-two rotation duo. Entering play Monday, the Cardinals (76-60) are three games ahead of Chicago in the division after winning eight of their last 10.

The Cubs (73-63), who hold a 2 1/2-game lead for the second wild-card, have been wildly inconsistent for much of the season. Their last three series (nine games) are the perfect example: They got swept at home by the Nationals, then swept the Mets at Citi Field before returning home to Wrigley Field and dropping two of three against Milwaukee. Offensive consistency has been a problem, as has an overworked bullpen with a less-effective Craig Kimbrel as the closer. Chicago is ultra talented, with a lineup anchored by a handful of all-stars. The Cubs are more than capable of rivaling the Cardinals for the division title, making the NL Central a worthy narrative to follow the rest of the way.

So, do we agree with these claims, or are there other stories that could emerge between now and the end of the regular season?

QLE Posted: September 03, 2019 at 12:54 AM | 4 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: al central, al wild card, cardinals, christian yelich, cody bellinger, cubs, home run spike, nl central, nl wild card, september baseball

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   1. Rennie's Tenet Posted: September 03, 2019 at 08:53 AM (#5876384)
Just a note to say that the 12-team league was great because everyone would finish the season with home and home series against their own division.
   2. Ziggy is done with Dominican discotheques Posted: September 03, 2019 at 11:08 AM (#5876425)
The NL MVP is going to be interesting. I presume it's going to be either Bellinger or Yelich. By WAR Bellinger should be the obvious choice, but that's because Rfield thinks that he's the second coming of Tris Speaker out there. By traditional stats it's neck-and-neck:

Yelich has 96 runs, 43 HR, 93 RBI, and a 326/421/672 slash line. (Both OBP and SLG are league leading numbers.)

Bellinger has 106 runs, 44 HR, 103 RBI, and a 311/414/658 line. (HR lead right now, but clearly that could change.)

Assuming that they continue at this pace through September, I think it comes down to who has the better story in the closing days of the season.
Anthony Rendon has been much better that I expected, and is at 103/32/111 and 337/417/639. Currently the batting leader. He probably comes in third in the voting, but with a hot final month could take it.
   3. Jeff Frances the Mute Posted: September 03, 2019 at 12:16 PM (#5876446)
I think if the vote were today Bellinger would win definitively. The WAR gap is significant for the analytically inclined voters and the more traditional voters tend to be reluctant to award the same player in consecutive years without an overwhelming reason to do so.

There is certainly time for the situation to change, but Yelich or Rendon would have to close strong and Bellinger would have to slump a bit.
   4. Moeball Posted: September 03, 2019 at 04:40 PM (#5876509)
#1: Yes,the days of the home and away weekends in the September stretch run could often provide an interesting narrative. For example, in 1984, the year the Tigers got off to a 35-5 start, September rolled around and Toronto finally cut Detroit's lead to about 7 or 8 games with home and away 4 game series' coming up. This was Toronto's chance to make it a race, but, instead, Detroit won 7 of the 8 and it was all over. A truly dominant team that could apparently just flip the switch whenever they wanted.

A more controversial home and away series happened a couple of years earlier when the Cards and Phils were dueling for the division title. Steve Carlton was on his way to a 4th Cy Young Award and he had pretty much owned STL for years after being traded by them. So with home and away 3 game series against Philly in September, and figuring they were going to see Carlton once each series, Whitey Herzog intentionally put his poorest starters up against Carlton and saved his best starters, like Andujar, for the other 2 games of each series. Sure enough, STL took 2 of 3 in each series which made the difference in winning the division. Herzog caught some crap about tanking against Carlton, but I can't really say it was a bad strategy at the time.

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