September momentum no guarantee of October success
The Cubs are building momentum heading into the postseason.
Will it matter?
Success in the final month of the regular season carries with it no guarantee of similar results in the postseason, particularly since the advent of the Division Series and Wild Card in 1995.
The Cubs are 22-9 since Sept. 1, the best among the 30 Major League teams.
There were 28 teams in the first 20 years of the Wild Card that had a winning percentage of .700 or better after Sept. 1. None of them won a World Series championship, and the 2013 Indians were eliminated in their single-game American League Wild Card showdown with Tampa Bay. Seven of the teams did not even advance to the postseason, while seven lost in the Division Series, 10 in the League Championship Series and three came up short in the World Series: the 2011 Rangers, 2007 Rockies and 2013 Cardinals.
The 2001 Oakland A's finished the regular season on a 23-4 run to claim the AL Wild Card and were eliminated in the AL Division Series by the Yankees. The 1995 Yankees, whose 22-6 finish was the second-best final-month winning percentage in the last 20 years, were also eliminated in the ALDS.
The lack of success for teams that finished the regular season on a roll has grown as the postseason has expanded.
From 1903 through 1968 when there was only a World Series, 12 of the 51 teams with a winning percentage of .700 or better in the September won a Fall Classic, but 14 lost in the World Series -- including the 1935 Cubs, whose 23-3 mark yielded the best final-month winning percentage (.885) in history among teams playing more than four games. Twenty teams did not even get to the World Series.
From 1969 through 1993, when the League Championship Series was added, three of the 28 teams with a .700 winning percentage in the final month of the season won World Series championships, three lost in the Fall Classic, nine lost in the LCS, and 13 did not advance to the postseason.
Atlanta pitcher Shelby Miller has gone 24 consecutive starts without a win. He is 0-16 with a 3.83 ERA over that stretch, and has had a quality start in 14 of the games.
He is tied for seventh all time in terms of consecutive starts without a win, but is second among pitchers for consecutive starts without a win in the same season, according to the Baseball-Reference.com play index.
Jack Nabors of the Philadelphia A's went 27 starts without a win in 1916, despite posting a 3.47 ERA for the entire campaign. Nabors won his second start that season and never won another game. In fact, in a career that also included parts of the 1915 and 1917 seasons, Nabors was 1-25.
Jo-Jo Reyes and Matt Keough hold the record of 28 consecutive starts without a victory. Keough was 0-18 with a 5.49 ERA in those starts from Sept. 6, 1978 through Aug. 8, 1979 for the A's. Reyes was with the Braves and Blue Jays when he went 0-13 with a 5.87 ERA in 28 starts from June 18, 2008, through May 25, 2011.
With the Astros holding the edge for the second AL Wild Card, management faces an interesting decision for a potential matchup with the Yankees in the AL Wild Card Game presented by Budweiser. Do they bring 20-game winner Dallas Keuchel back on short rest for the win-or-go-home contest or do they go with Scott Kazmir, the late addition from Oakland who was acquired to provide a veteran influence.
Kazmir, who was 5-5 but had a 2.38 ERA for the A's, is 2-6 in 13 starts with the Astros and has compiled a 4.17 ERA. More concerning, Kazmir is 0-1 in his last three starts -- allowing 13 earned runs over 11 2/3 innings.
Keuchel has started on fewer than four days' rest only once in his career -- on May 10, 2013, when he went six innings and allowed two runs against the Rangers after making a 1 1/3-inning relief appearance on May 7. He is, however, 2-1 with a 1.13 ERA in three career appearances against the Yankees -- including 1-1 with a 1.80 ERA in two starts at Yankee Stadium.
Keuchel is coming off a 99-pitch, six-inning effort in the Astros 21-5 victory at Arizona on Friday.
Then there is Johnny Cueto, whom the Royals acquired from the Reds in a Deadline deal in late July in their effort to add a top-of-the-rotation pitcher. Cueto, who won 20 games for the Reds last year, is 3-7 with a 4.95 ERA with the Royals -- who are 3-9 in his 12 starts.
Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo, with 31 home runs and 30 hit by pitches, has joined Don Baylor of the 1986 Red Sox as the only players to have 30 home runs and 30 HBPs in a season. Baylor hit 31 home runs and was hit by a pitch 35 times.
Only six other times was a player hit by a pitch 30 times in a season, led by Ron Hunt of the Expos with 50 in 1971, when he hit only five home runs. Jason Kendall of the Pirates was hit 31 times in both 1997 and '98 with the Pirates, the only player with two 30-HBP seasons. He had 12 home runs in '98 and eight in '97.
Craig Wilson came up a home run shy of the unique 30-30 club with the Pirates in 2004, when he was hit 30 times and homered 29 times.
Craig Biggio of the Astros was hit 34 times and hit 22 home runs in 1997. Steve Evans hit two home runs and was hit by a pitch 31 times with the Cardinals in 1910.
• Frank Robinson signed on 41 years ago on Saturday to manage the Cleveland Indians in 1975, becoming the first African-American manager in the big leagues.
• Bobby Thomson hit the "Shot Heard Round the World" 64 years ago on Saturday, a walk-off home run in the ninth at the Polo Grounds that lifted the New York Giants past the rival Brooklyn Dodgers in the best-of-three National League tiebreaker playoff.
• The original Yankee Stadium hosted a record 161 postseason games. Fenway Park, with 76 games, is the leader among current parks, and Dodger Stadium, where 62 games have been played since it opened in 1962, is tops among teams headed to the postseason this year.