With just four weeks left in the 2012 Major League Baseball season, one of the biggest storylines for October involves someone who almost definitely won’t be there: Stephen Strasburg.
Through Labor Day, the Washington Nationals had the best record in baseball, and the former Expos look as if they’ll cap their first winning season in D.C. with their first playoff berth. However, to do so, they’ll have to finish the job without their 24-year-old phenom, who has pitched 156.1 innings this year and is scheduled to make his final start of the season on September 12 against the Mets at Citi Field.
The Strasburg shutdown has been a hot topic for a good chunk of the second half of the season, but now that it is almost here, one thing is for certain: there are 14 teams in the National League who won’t be upset by the move, and if the Nats make it to the World Series, you can bump that number up to 15.
Honestly, it’s just too bad that we might not get Chipper Jones vs. Stephen Strasburg one last time in October...but then again, the Braves might not make it either, and 2011 proved that statement is true until they clinch.
With that, it’s on to the penultimate set of extended rankings, with reminders that all stats are through September 4 unless noted and you can set your own rankings against our expert set, which is updated every Tuesday.
|1 || || Strasburg-mania may be dying down, but they still have four other strong to solid starters, could end up with six guys having 20 or more dingers…oh, and the guy replacing Strasburg was their Opening Day starter in 2009 and 2010. Translation: Still dangerous. ||UP |
|2 || || Fun fact: Aroldis Chapman has a K/9 of exactly 16, and in 66 innings has more strikeouts (117) than starters Bronson Arroyo (107) and Mike Leake (108). ||UP |
|3 || || Jurickson Profar was born in 1993…which means that Derek Jeter has been in the Yankees organization longer than Profar has been alive. Oh, yeah, and Texas is the best team in the AL right now. Business as usual there. ||DOWN |
|4 || || Tim Lincecum’s ERA is over 5.00, Brian Wilson has missed the whole season, and Buster Posey is the only active hitter with an average over .300 and more than 12 homers…yet the Giants are in first place. ||UP |
|5 || || By the weekend, the Orioles could be firmly in first place in the AL East. Even if they fall apart in the next four weeks, Buck Showalter should finish no worse than third in the Manager of the Year race. ||UP |
|6 || || Cut above blurb, replace “first place in the AL East” with “a playoff spot” and “Buck Showalter” with “Bob Melvin,” and paste. Yoenis Cespedes (.294-16-65 in 102 games) looks like a bargain, even at $9 million per. ||UP |
|7 || || What was a 10-game AL East lead on July 18 has been trimmed to one as of Thursday morning, and the lineup’s struggles have hitting coach Kevin Long considering more active small ball. This will be the most interesting September in the Bronx in years. ||DOWN |
|8 || || Kris Medlen has been unstoppable since joining the rotation, sort of like Brandon Beachy was earlier this year. On a team that will end up with seven to nine guys making 10 or more starts, he could be the key that keeps the Braves from falling apart in September. ||EVEN |
|9 || || After winning two of three from the Yankees, they’re just 2.5 games out...or, as Joe Maddon might call it, “right where they want to be.” If they get any offense at all out of Carlos Pena in September, they could be the league’s scariest top to bottom lineup. ||DOWN |
|10 || || Remember the A’s and O’s blurbs? It’s Top 3 at worst for Melvin and Showalter because of Robin Ventura, who has the Sox in first despite having one starter with more than 10 wins and a DH hitting .207. ||DOWN |
|11 || || Their 8-15 April was ages ago, but that could end up being the difference in their playoff lives. That’s an even wackier thought considering they could have both the AL batting champ and Rookie of the Year in Mike Trout and the Cy Young winner in Jered Weaver. ||UP |
|12 || || Speaking of wacky thoughts, the Dodgers were not a playoff team as of Thursday morning despite acquiring three All-Star mashers, a legit rotation ace, and a solid back-end starter in the last six weeks. ||DOWN |
|13 || || Losing Rafael Furcal hurts, but they have seven regulars hitting .300, Carlos Beltran is the one that isn’t, and their rotation is four strong with two very good guys to fill the fifth spot. Plus, they likely won’t have to scratch and claw into October like they did in 2011. ||DOWN |
|14 || || Detroit isn’t as good as they were in 2011, but they’re right there within striking distance. Like last year, it will be the back end of their rotation, specifically Sanchez and Porcello, who dictate whether they get back to October. ||DOWN |
|15 || || Pittsburgh has a legit Cy Young candidate in A.J Burnett and MVP candidate in Andrew McCutchen, but those will just be footnotes if they don’t win 10 more games – and after seeing them limp through an 11-17 August, don’t dismiss a 21st straight losing season as impossible. ||DOWN |
|16 || || The Phillies may technically still be in the hunt, but they need to use September to find out as much as they can about Tyler Cloyd as a legit fifth starter, Domonic Brown and John Mayberry as everyday players…and even Chase Utley as a third baseman. ||UP |
|17 || || If there’s one big positive from this season, it’s that Norichika Aoki (.288-7-35, 22 SB) has given them confidence that they can move Corey Hart to first base full time in 2013 if they decide to move on from Mat Gamel. ||UP |
|18 || || They’ve seen what they need to out of Matt Harvey, and he’ll be shut down soon on innings limit. Will they give Jeurys Familia or even Zack Wheeler a start or two as well just to take a look-see? ||UP |
|19 || || King Felix aside, this year’s Seattle MVP may be Kevin Millwood. Sure, even after Wednesday's win he’s just 5-12 with a 4.27 ERA, but the fact that he’s taken the ball every fifth day and made 27 starts has been a huge help for the back end of the rotation in a transition season. ||DOWN |
|20 || || Jason Kubel (27 HR) and Aaron Hill (21), both of whom were acquired in the last 15 months, have more than a third of the team’s 143 home runs. Given the "power outages" from Chris Young (14) and Justin Upton (12), where would the D-Backs be without Kubel and Hill? ||DOWN |
|21 || || Fun with Chase Headley: He has a .284-24-93 line with 14 steals, but has hit .301-17-57 on the road this season and has 12 of those 24 homers since August 1. That’s what we in the biz call “making yourself attractive for future free agency.” ||EVEN |
|22 || || Bobby Valentine said on WEEI Wednesday that 2012 has been “miserable,” but he wants to return to manage the Sox in 2013. That pretty much sums up the enigma wrapped in a mystery that has been Boston’s season. ||DOWN |
|23 || || Fun cherry picked stat: the Royals were 16-13 in their first 29 games after jettisoning Yuniesky Betancourt, and that’s come against a schedule featuring 22 of those games against the Orioles, Rays, White Sox, Tigers, A’s, and Rangers. ||DOWN |
|24 || || Trades and injuries noted, the Marlins had played Game No. 137 on Wednesday and have only two guys who have played in 100 of them. One them is Jose Reyes. How about that? ||EVEN |
|25 || || Given all the injuries, Toronto could have just rolled over and played dead for the last month and change – but they haven’t, and that bodes well for 2013. It’s just too bad that Travis d’Arnaud (.333-16-52 at AAA before a knee injury) might not get a chance to test his mettle in September. ||EVEN |
|26 || || Anyone hitting .290 with 17 homers and 70 RBI this year would currently be leading the Indians in all three Triple Crown categories. There’s way too much offensive talent on their roster for that to happen. ||EVEN |
|27 || || You may have no idea who he is, but 23-year-old catcher Wilin Rosario has made himself a strong Rookie of the Year candidate by posting a .252-23-58 line and throwing out would-be base-stealers at a 39 percent clip. ||EVEN |
|28 || || Earlier Cespedes blurb aside, Josh Willingham might be MLB’s best “high-priced bargain.” For $7 million, he’s given the Twins a .261-33-98 line (the latter two being career highs) and leads the team in games played…and they have him for two more years at the same price. ||EVEN |
|29 || || Anthony Rizzo (.291-10-31 in 237 AB) is every bit the stud he was advertised as, but Brett Jackson (16 hits, 15 BB, 44 K in 102 PA) and Josh Vitters (5-for-63, 4 BB vs. 21 K) aren’t faring as well. Still, better days are ahead, Cubs fans. ||EVEN |
|30 || || Lost among the abyss that is the Astros is the year reliever Wilton Lopez is having: 6-3 with a 2.52 ERA, 45 K in 53.2 IP and a WHIP of 1.025. If he weren’t under team control for three more years, he’d be playing for a contender right now. ||EVEN |