Today’s Trivia: As Tim Lincecum appears on his way to a third consecutive season leading the NL in strikeouts ... who was the last right-handed pitcher to lead the NL in strikeouts for three straight seasons?
Quick Hits: September has been quite a month on the mound, as eight pitchers are 4-0 or better. There are 15 starting pitchers with an ERA below 2.00, 11 of whom reside in the NL. Let’s dive into some September numbers:
Derek Lowe is 4-0 with a 1.08 ERA in September, but the rest of the Atlanta Braves rotation is just 4-11 this month. Wednesday against the Florida Marlins, Lowe looks to become the first Braves pitcher to go 5-0 in September since Dave Jolly in 1954. Jolly picked up all five wins in a relief role.
Both Lowe and Carlos Zambrano (4-0, 0.78) have a shot at a 5-0 September with an ERA below 1.00. Over the last 50 years, that’s only been done five times in the NL: Randy Johnson (2002), Orel Hershiser (1988), Joaquin Andujar (1982), Don Sutton (1976) and Tom Seaver (1969).
Madison Bumgarner is just 1-2 this month despite a 1.00 ERA. That’s on pace to be the lowest September ERA for an NL rookie (min. 25 innings) since 1974 when Dale Murray of the Montreal Expos had a 0.26 ERA in 14 relief appearances.
The San Francisco Giants’ 1.85 ERA is on pace to be the lowest in September for any team since the 1967 Giants posted a 1.79 ERA.
With his start on Thursday, Jon Lester has a shot at becoming the first pitcher to go 6-0 in September since Jose Contreras in 2005. The last Boston Red Sox pitcher to do it was Bobby Ojeda in 1983. In his career, Lester is now 15-2 in September.
Carlos Marmol has 12 saves this month and hasn’t allowed an earned run. Since saves became an official stat, the only pitcher with more saves and a perfect ERA in September was Ryan Dempster with 13 in 2005.
Milwaukee Brewers rookie Mark Rogers has faced 18 batters this month (and in his career) without allowing a hit. Over the last 50 years, which rookie faced the most batters in September without allowing a hit? Would you believe that it’s NBA Hall-of-Famer Dave DeBusschere? In September 1962, he faced 24 batters for the Chicago White Sox and did not allow a single hit. Unlike Rogers, DeBusschere had pitched in the big leagues earlier that season.
It’s not all positives. Jason Vargas takes the hill today for the Seattle Mariners trying to avoid an 0-6 September. The last pitcher to do that was Bud Black in 1992 for the Giants. In the AL, you’d have to go back to Jim Clancy for the 1986 Toronto Blue Jays. Clancy, who lost another one in October, was 14-7 going into September.
Lowest ERA in a Full Month
National League Since 1993
Today’s Leaderboard: How good has the pitching been in the National League this September? The league as a whole has a 3.85 ERA this month, which would be the lowest over the course of ANY full month since April 1993.
Not only is Derek Lowe pitching on three days rest, but he faces a team that has hit him hard this season. In a pair of starts, he has a 9.35 ERA thanks in part to eight walks in 8 2/3 innings. But a much bigger problem has been Dan Uggla. A career .429 hitter against Lowe, most of the damage has been done recently. Going back to last season, Uggla has six hits in his last seven at-bats against Lowe, including two doubles and a home run.
With Adam Wainwright (213) done for the season and Roy Halladay (219) unlikely to pitch more than the equivalent of a side-session, Tim Lincecum (220) is in the driver’s seat to take home his third straight NL strikeout title. And guess who he gets to face Wednesday: The Arizona Diamondbacks, the team that’s struck out more than any in MLB history. Mark Reynolds (13 K in 21 AB vs Lincecum), Stephen Drew (12 K in 36 AB) and Chris Young (13 K in 36 AB) are the main targets.
Trivia Answer: Dizzy Dean led the NL in strikeouts in four straight years from 1932 to 1935. The three to do it since – Johnny Vander Meer (1941-43), Warren Spahn (1949-52) and Randy Johnson (1999-2002) - were all lefties.