Despite disliking expanded rosters and his club's awful recent play, Buck Showalter is historically successful in September - BaltimoreBaseball.com

Paul Folkemer

Despite disliking expanded rosters and his club’s awful recent play, Buck Showalter is historically successful in September

Photo credit: Joy R. Absalon

It happens every September.

Tune in to a press conference with Orioles manager Buck Showalter, and you’ll inevitably hear him grouse about MLB’s expanded-roster rules for the final month of the season.

To Showalter, it doesn’t make sense that baseball plays with one set of rules (a 25-man roster) for the first five months, then completely changes the complexion of the game in September by allowing for up to 40 active players per team.

Showalter brought it up during the Orioles’ previous homestand against the Toronto Blue Jays, who used 14 different pitchers — including two who made their MLB debuts – while splitting a four-game set.

“[It’s] September baseball at its best, where people are pitching that are good pitchers, good prospects, but there’s a lot of unknown and you get ambushed this time of the year easily,” Showalter said. “I don’t want it to come out as an excuse, but it’s tough. And it’s another thing that most who play the game don’t like about this time of year. But it is what it is, and we’re all playing under the same rules, so you deal with it.”

Here’s the funny thing, though. For someone who abhors the rules of September baseball, Showalter is one of the most successful September managers in the league.

Not including this season, in which the Orioles are a woeful 4-10 this month, Showalter has managed a club in September 17 times. In only three of those 17 Septembers did he have a losing record. (Regular-season games played in October also count as September games for this story.)

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Three times, Showalter has won at least 20 games in September. He went 22-6 with the 1995 New York Yankees, 21-8 with the 1999 Arizona Diamondbacks and 20-11 with the 2012 Orioles. All three of those teams advanced to the postseason.

Showalter’s career September record (through 2016) is 264-223, good for a .542 winning percentage. He’s been especially good with the Orioles, going 118-86 (.578). He’s never had a losing September with the Orioles – that, of course, will change unless things improve dramatically in the club’s final 14 games.

His .542 winning percentage in September – again, not including half a month in 2017 — is 22 points better than his overall career winning percentage (.520).

How does that rate against other veteran managers? I compared Showalter’s September success to seven current AL skippers who have managed at least five years in the majors.

The results:

Showalter joins Boston’s Farrell as managers who have really upped their games down the stretch. At a time of the year when many teams are playing out the string or are simply out of gas, Showalter has a way of keeping his teams energized and winning in the season’s final month.

On the flip side are managers like Yost, who has had a winning record in only five of his 13 Septembers. Yost, in fact, was fired by the Milwaukee Brewers midway through September in 2008 — even though they were on their way to a playoff berth — because of a 3-11 slide in September.

Then there’s Francona, who has been a very successful manager overall, but doesn’t have a great track record in September. In 2011, he presided over the Red Sox club that collapsed to a 7-20 mark in September and blew a nine-game wild card lead to Tampa Bay in the final month. (Still, Francona isn’t having any trouble with September this year; his Cleveland Indians started 15-0 to extend a 22-game winning streak, before losing Friday.)

So far in his career, Showalter has mostly managed to avoid the September pitfalls that have victimized other long-time managers. He might not like the idea of an expanded roster, but when he has one, he tends to use it to his full advantage. He can bring in reinforcements for the bullpen

that let him give extra rest to his best relievers. He can load up his bench with pinch-hitters, pinch-runners and defensive specialists to employ at the most opportune moments.

For all his complaints, Showalter has more than made do with MLB’s September rules. When life gives you lemons, make lemonade — even if you don’t know why you’re still getting lemons after all these years, or why a whole new batch was delivered this month.

12 Comments

12 Comments

  1. Mau

    September 16, 2017 at 8:51 am

    Welp. It’s September 16. Buck might want to crank the old mototr up now.

    • Dan Connolly

      September 16, 2017 at 10:43 am

      I’m not sure it has any gas or oil left this year.

      • Mau

        September 17, 2017 at 8:22 am

        This year they’re like a generator after a Florida storm on it’s last gallon of gas.

  2. garyintheloo

    September 16, 2017 at 11:32 am

    Can we finally move on from 2017? Even the most starry-eyed among us must get real at this point. The Orioles have not made big winter trades or signings — except for late in the off season — so with that caveat who do you see from the current 40 man roster with the best shot for the 25 man roster next March? You can add Tanner Scott as well.

    • Dan Connolly

      September 16, 2017 at 5:32 pm

      Well, I’m not sure we’re moving off 2017 until, you know, it’s over. You’re talking 2 weeks. We’ll have 5 months for speculation. But since ya asked, there aren’t gonna be a whole lot of open spots offensively or in the bullpen. Rotation has 2 spots filled. Maybe 3 if ya wanna pencil in Castro. I would think Hays and Sisco have best chance for Opening Day. And Santander almost certainly.

      • garyintheloo

        September 16, 2017 at 10:51 pm

        I may need to start drinking for real if that’s the case. So I guess DD waits another year for these guys to improve? Perhaps I need to make a reconsideration if this is as good as it gets. Too old to take another long drought.

  3. Mr Will

    September 16, 2017 at 6:18 pm

    Os have NOT won with current cast of characters…DD MUST trade Manny, Britton, and get at least 6-7 decent players, prospects and at least 4 of those need to be pitchers. Os fans will accept that and hopefully sign Schoop long term…should Sisco be able to bring a couple of top prospects here let him go.. These are desperate times and it calls for desperate action.
    I am constantly amazed at how 1 or 2 players do not slump but an entire team…relievers would look better if they were not so overused due to failure of starters. How did we start 22-10 should be the 2017 question.? Perhaps a new GM who is young and realistic about what we need.
    Mr Will

    • Mau

      September 17, 2017 at 8:19 am

      We must keep our top prospects and use only the trade chips and DD’s keen eye to rebuild. Oh shit.

  4. Bancells Moustache

    September 16, 2017 at 10:01 pm

    Yeah, about that…

  5. Orial

    September 16, 2017 at 11:35 pm

    Please help. This Beckham fella. Looked great in August and Manny looks great in August. September’s here and Beckham has crashed and Manny thinks it’s May again. I really wonder where their futures really lie. Now back to the pitching staff.

  6. TxBirdFan

    September 17, 2017 at 2:05 pm

    This season is in the bag. The O’s made it interesting with their 7 game win streak but have fallen back to where they were before – mediocre at best. Can’t blame the offense – the starting pitching on whole has been horrendous.

    A wise friend once told me being in first place only matters for months ending in “r”. Its so true. So what can the O’s do to make sure they are in first place next year in a month ending in “r”?

  7. Boog Robinson Robinson

    September 18, 2017 at 6:57 am

    I’m so depressed. No new article on Monday AM from BB.com. What are we to read on those cold winter mornings?

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