It’s September: the month that makes or breaks certain players, managers, and general managers careers. Unlike other seasons, the 2012 MLB playoffs will see a lot more drama than usual with the addition of the extra wild-card. Thanks to the added wild-card, there are a lot more teams alive for postseason play than teams that are drawing dead. But who will step up and carry their teams to the promise land?
Obviously, players like Miguel Cabrera, Albert Pujols, Andrew McCutchen, Joey Votto, etc. will play integral parts to their team’s pennant pushes. But who will be the unsung heroes for these clubs? I’m only going to break down who I think are true contenders. So if anyone goes crazy like last year, I apologize.
Let’s break down the contenders and the players they need to contribute to be a part of a Bruce Springsteen montage this fall.
Andy Pettitte – - New York Yankees
The Yankees are in a free-for-all right now. Coming into today, they only have a one-game lead in the American League East. And outside of CC Sabathia and Hiroki Kuroda, the Yankees aren’t getting a whole lot of consistency from their starting pitchers. Pettitte – who was pitching like the Andy Pettitte of old before a line drive took him out for a few months – is due back shortly. He could give the Bronx Bombers the stability they need.
Jason Hammel – - Baltimore Orioles
Pretty much everything I just said about Pettitte can be said about Hammel. Hammel was the Orioles’ ace before going down to an injury, but he is also close to returning. Outside of Wei-Yin Chen, their pitching staff has been as stable as a house of cards. Hammel gives them a number one to lean on.
BJ Upton – - Tampa Bay Rays
One of these days, BJ Upton is going to realize he has more talent than any man could hope for. We saw glimpses of brillance when the Rays went on their World Series run in 2008, so it’s time to see it again from Bossman Junior moniker. I also want him to dominate so we can bring back the Bossman Junior. The whole entire Rays’ outfield is a wildcard, actually. Between Upton, Desmond Jennings, and Matt Joyce, the Rays could actually have one of the better outfields in baseball. If only they were consistent…
Paul Konerko – - Chicago White Sox
Yes, Paul Konerko is the team captain of the Chicago White Sox and I said I was going to stay away from that, but I cannot overlook the fact Konerko has a James Loneyesque OPS since June. If the White Sox hold on in the American League Central, they need Konerko to lead the way.
Delmon Young – - Detroit Tigers
There isn’t a player I loathe more than Delmon Young. Sabermetrically, Young isn’t any better than the ivy growing in centerfield at Comerica Park, but the man constantly gets RBIs. He basically beat the White Sox by himself this weekend, so if he can continue to drive in runs behind Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder, the Tigers will be in business.
Ryan Dempster – - Texas Rangers
If you look at it logically, the odds are already against the Rangers this season. Can they really make the World Series for a third straight year? They also don’t have a true number one heading into postseason play. Although it didn’t hurt them last year, they need someone to step and command the ball for game one. Look no further than Dempster, who to my surprise has settled in quite nicely as of late.
Brett Anderson – - Oakland A’s
In his three starts since returning from the disabled list, Brett Anderson has pitched like the man we all thought he could be. He has only allowed two runs in his twenty innings thus far, giving Oakland a guy they can count on as the pressure builds for the young, inexperienced team.
Mark Trumbo – - Los Angeles Angels
If there was ever a case for the Home Run Derby being a curse, look no further than Mark Trumbo. The Angels’ All-Star is rocking a .632 OPS in the second half, a .330 point difference.
Bryce Harper – - Washington Nationals
The wunderkind has slowed down after his blistering start, but will he heat up once October rolls around? A good Harper makes that Nationals’ lineup very, very scary.
Kris Medlen – Atlanta Braves
Raise your hand if you can think of a better pitcher going right now than Kris Medlen. Anybody? Anyone? Bueller? Exactly. Medlen has won his last five starts, allowing only one run in the process.
Ryan Ludwick – - Cincinnati Reds
The signing of Ryan Ludwick was one of the main reasons I picked the Reds to win the Central. He was just made for that ballpark, and he has proved it during the second half of the season. Ludwick has a 1.043 OPS since the All-Star break, an OPS that I couldn’t have even fathomed. If Ludwick keeps hitting like Albert Belle in his prime, then look out National League.
Allen Craig – St. Louis Cardinals
Allen Craig is my homeboy. Out of all the under-the-radar guys coming into the season, Craig was the one guy that I thought would dominate this season. He hasn’t disappointed me or Cardinals fans, putting up a triple slash-line of .311/.367/.556. This goes to show his playoff success last year wasn’t an aberration.
Pedro Alvarez – Pittsburgh Pirates
The Pirates have been a fantastic story, but they appear to be running out of steam. If Pedro Alvarez keeps hitting key bombs, however, they still have a slight chance.
Tim Lincecum – - San Francisco Giants
Tim Lincecum’s season hasn’t gone according to plan. But with a solid final month, all the nightmares will be forgotton if big time Timmy Jim can pitch his Giants into the playoffs.
Somebody – Los Angeles Dodgers
I have no idea who to select for the Dodgers. That whole team is a question mark right now. One would think that there will be someone who leads the team in September, but it might take too long for everyone to settle in for it to matter.
Check out our MLB Rumors page for the latest rumors involving your favorite teams.