Sunday, October 1, 2023

September 2023 in Review [feat. Jordan Romano]


The end of the regular season is nigh. The sixth month is about to close with a bang, with several spots still in limbo [I think, I'm writing this Saturday afternoon]. As this is happening on Sunday, it also makes this the single most populous sports day we're gonna have for a while. Football on every channel, baseball if you know where to look. Everything happening all at once.

But before we put the whole regular season to bed as it is, I should at least bring this season of monthly reflection posts to a close. I enjoy doing these, it keeps my thoughts at different points in the season preserved. 

First, let's examine the 5 predictions I made last month:

1. One of the players netted in the waver deals of the last 48 hours will be a crucial figure in the race to the playoffs. Honestly, not really. Renfroe and Moore were chucked out, Giolito faltered in Cleveland, Bader got hurt again. 

2. Someone who has been hot for a while picks the exact wrong month to completely run out of steam. The Chicago Cubs? I think you're referring to the Chicago Cubs. Because man, did they completely fall apart down the stretch.

3. Jasson Dominguez is going to do something amazing, but it'll be too little, too late for the Yankees. Oh, he did something amazing, alright. And then he got hurt.

4. The battle for the top spot of the AL West is going to come down to the wire, and it will have a final outcome that nobody will expect. It's very odd that, with everything that elapsed this year, the Rangers taking, and keeping, the top spot in the AL West is the outcome that surprises people. But the Astros were being stubborn for a while, and the Mariners were leading for a month or so, so the fact they were able to come back and keep it is a big deal.

5. I'll say this, as tough as Blake Snell has been, the NL Cy Young race will be decided this month. One of the other guys is gonna jump out in front. It could be Spencer Strider. And I'll have to come back to this in November. I thought somebody was gonna catch Snell back in late August, and he responded with some of his best starts of the season. So it's looking like Justin Steele or Spencer Strider won't have enough to catch him after all. 

Yeah, not many accurate ones there. But hey, that's the risk you run. To that point, here are 5 Things from September 2023 that no one Could Predict:

1. The Padres miss the playoffs by a surprisingly close margin. Yeah, they spent the whole season doing nothing, then in September they went 18-7 and leveled their record to .500. Soto and Machado are coming away with 30-homer years, Snell lowered his ERA to 2.25, and so many things that were plaguing this team before came together. They hit their September second wind alright, but unlike last year it came after a much worse quality of play. It's a more dignified ending than I ever would have thought for the Padres, but it's still not the repeat year they were hoping for.

2. The first manager to fall is Gabe Kapler. Again, I was betting on Grifol or Marmol, as they had steeper falls. You could throw Terry Francona into this category, but he's at least managing the last few games and retiring with his dignity intact. Kapler was essentially chucked out of SF, similar to how he left Philly. And look, my surprise mostly comes because two years ago Kaplerball worked, but I feel like taking Posey out of the equation diluted the team, as there haven't been as many stars and as much of a united team effort. This year was good, but they're ending in fourth after being as high as 1st at one point. Hopefully a new manager can fix that.

3. The Olson and Acuna record breakings. Acuna's 2023 success wasn't that surprising, but just the level of it is insane. Nobody in MLB history has stolen 70 bases and hit 40 home runs before. Some people are complaining it's because of the pitch clock, and to that I ask: is people stealing 70 bases again a BAD thing to you? It's not inflating Acuna's stats, Ronnie's already that good of a player, this is just making him easier to be truly statistically great. Matt Olson I knew was having a good season, but FIFTY-FOUR HOMERS AND 136 RBIS?? That is truly insane. Yes, he's a power hitter, he does this, but...these are Barry Bonds numbers. I hope he's still able to be this useful after he turns 30, that's all I'll say.

4. The Shohei Ohtani story ends as quickly as it did. I knew that Ohtani's arm issue would at least lessen his output, but him missing most of September I did not call, and it's a crushing blow to a team that already feels like it's suffered so much this season. The Angels already got burned by Trout and Rendon this year, and they were getting so much from Ohtani, and...maybe they overtaxed him? Maybe they brought this on themselves? Ohtani's going into a free agency year with an injury that's lessened his overall value, maybe that could have been avoided. Hell, without that last month, does Ohtani get as many MVP votes? Who's our MVP if not? Corey Seager?

5. The Twins come roaring back to like. After a few months of not playing well enough to earn the playoff spot they'd landed in, the Minnesota Twins started hitting. Max Kepler, Royce Lewis, Jorge Polanco, Ryan Jeffers and Matt Wallner all started hitting. Thankfully the rotation stayed in line while this happened, with Lopez and Gray continuing their excellent seasons. The Twins' September has been nothing short of extraordinary, and hopefully this means they're gearing up for their first playoff series win in decades. 

And now, the antithesis, 5 Things from September 2023 That a lot of People Could Have Predicted:

1. The Astros cannot skate to the top with Hunter Brown, Cristian Javier and Framber Valdez pitching like they are. They just can't. Maybe they still make October, but the entitlement stops here. You got this far on borrowed time, now you have to work for it.

2. You're gonna have to do better than suspending Julio Urias if you want to stop the Dodgers. They only have like 2 starters, but they're still gonna outhit everybody anyway. 

3. Jordan Romano notches 30 saves again. I genuinely think this guy might be one of the true perennial closers left in the game, and I hope the Jays hold onto him for as long as possible.

4. Similarly, Aaron Judge has another 35+ homer season despite missing like 2 months. You cannot stop Aaron Judge, you can only hope to contain him.

5. All it took was a fully competent outfield for the Brewers to look as good as they'd felt all year. Just putting Mark Canha and Sal Frelick in there goes a long way.

Here now, the 5 Most Important Players of September 2023:

1. Ronald Acuna Jr., Atlanta Braves
2. Blake Snell, San Diego Padres
3. Gerrit Cole, New York Yankees
4. Corey Seager, Texas Rangers
5. Freddie Freeman, Los Angeles Dodgers

And now, 5 Bold Predictions for the 2023 Postseason:

1. One of the monoliths, those being the Braves, Dodgers and Orioles, will not make the CSs. I am hoping it's not the O's.
2. Like last year, a Wild Card team is gonna shock the world and go really far, and I'm not thinking it'll be the Phillies. 
3. One team loses embarrassingly. Like, think 2011 NLDS, Phils lose AND lose Ryan Howard kinda shit.
4. One player singlehandedly boosts his free agency case with one playoff series.
5. The World Series is not what any of us are expecting. It's not gonna be Braves-Rangers or whatever. It's still gonna feel evenly matched, but it's gonna be something that, even if we squint, we could never see coming.

That's been an excellent regular season of predicting things. Hopefully the next stage of this goes well. 

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