Overcoming September

After their desperately-needed split of a four-game series with the Tampa Bay Rays, the Texas Rangers are now 4-13 in September.  The Rangers would have to win all 10 of their remaining games to avoid finishing with a losing record for the month.  Even if they go 9-1, they’d finish with a 13-14 record for September.  So, while it’s not completely impossible for the Rangers to end up with a winning September record, it is highly unlikely.
While they haven’t yet clinched a playoff spot – and there’s no guarantee that they will – the Rangers currently are in first place in the Wild Card standings.  So, assuming they do make the postseason, what are the Rangers’ chances for doing enough damage once they get there to make it all the way to the World Series, given how poorly they’ve played in September?  Let’s take a closer look and see if there’s any historical precedent…

Believe it or not, there actually have been more than a couple of teams over the past 25 years who managed to make it to the World Series, despite posting a losing record in September.  In fact, nine of the past 50 World Series teams did just that – which is just under 20%.  No, that’s not a high percentage, but certainly higher than you probably thought.  So, who were those teams, and how many of them actually won it all?

The 2008 Tampa Bay Rays

The Rays went 13-14 in September of 2008, but still held on to win the AL East by two games over the Boston Red Sox with a record of 97-65.  They went on to lose the 2008 World Series 4-1 to the Philadelphia Phillies.

The 2006 St. Louis Cardinals

The Cardinals went 12-16 in September of 2006, but held off the Houston Astros to win the relatively weak NL Central that year by 1.5 games with a completely unremarkable record of 83-78.  Heck, the Rangers have already won 83, with 10 games still to go.  What should give Ranger fans even more hope is that this seemingly unspectacular St. Louis squad somehow managed to actually WIN the World Series, defeating the heavily-favored Detroit Tigers 4-1.

The 2006 Detroit Tigers

The Tigers went 12-15 in September of 2006, but made the playoffs as a Wild Card by finishing just one game behind the Minnesota Twins in a close AL Central race, with a record of 95-67.  But despite having a much better record than their World Series opponent, the St. Louis Cardinals, the Tigers lost 4-1.  So even though this Detroit club was the first team on this list to made the World Series as a Wild Card after posting a losing record in September, the Rangers would probably prefer using that year’s Cardinals as a comp.

The 2001 Arizona Diamondbacks

The Diamondbacks went 10-11 in September of 2001, but still managed to hold off the San Francisco Giants to win the NL West by two games.  Arizona then went on to vanquish the hated New York Yankees 4-3 in a dramatic seven-game World Series.

The 2000 New York Yankees

The Yankees went 13-17 in September of 2000, and won the AL East by 2.5 games over the Boston Red Sox, posting a 87-74 record.  New York ended up beating their crosstown rivals, the Mets, 4-1 in the first-ever “Subway Series” between these two franchises.

The 1998 San Diego Padres

The ‘98 Padres had the worst September record of any team on this list, going a very poor 9-15 for the month.  Even so, they still almost won 100 games that year, finishing 98-64 and winning the NL West by the wide margin of 9.5 games over the San Francisco Giants.  So, this appears to have been a case of a team pretty much coasting through the final month of the season, having already more or less wrapped up the division.  That makes this one a less viable comp for the 2013 Rangers, which is OK, since these Padres went on to get swept in the World Series by the New York Yankees.

The 1997 Florida Marlins

The Marlins went 12-15 in September of 1997, which dropped them to finish a full nine games behind the NL East-winning Atlanta Braves, with a record of 92-70.  Given the likelihood that the Rangers will end the season with a similarly-significant gap between themselves and their eventual division winner (the Oakland A’s), that makes this perhaps the most apt comp yet.  What’s even more encouraging about that, is the Marlins ended up winning the World Series that year 4-3 over the Cleveland Indians.  Let’s bookmark this one, shall we?

The 1996 Atlanta Braves

The Braves went 12-15 in September of 1996, but still finished 30 games over .500 at 96-66, good enough to leave the Montreal Expos eight games back in the NL East rear view mirror.  Of course, as we all know now, those Braves only won one of the five World Series they played in during the ‘90s.  This was one of the four they lost, with the New York Yankees winning 4-2.

The 1990 Cincinnati Reds

The Reds went 14-15 in September of 1990, yet won the NL West by five games over the Los Angeles Dodgers with a 91-71 record.  In one of the more shocking upsets in World Series history, the Reds not only beat the prohibitive favorite Oakland A’s, but they actually swept them.  Cincinnati is the fifth of the nine teams on this list who ended up winning the World Series after having a losing record for the month of September.

So, no matter what record the Rangers end up with for September, history shows they still have a decent shot at making some hay, if they can just get into the playoffs.  Once there, they’ll have roughly a one-in-five chance of making the World Series.  And given how things have gone for this team during the season’s final month, you have to really, really like those odds!  So hang in there, Ranger fans, and keep the faith.  October’s a whole new month – the trick is just getting there.

Bob Bland is a Staff Writer and host of the “Diggin’ In” podcast for ShutDownInning. 
He can be reached at Bob.Bland@ShutDownInning.com or  on Twitter @SDIBob.
Bob Bland

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