The division races are mostly so devoid of any intrigue that teams such as the Yankees, Phillies and Cardinals are enjoying a second spring training as they rest players and align their pitchers for the postseason. While the wild-card races still carry excitement, the pennant races this year are as dull as the down time between Jonathan Papelbon pitches.
So how do we pass the time before we find out if anyone can stop the Yankees in October? There are many other September races to follow. You probably just never heard much about them. In lieu of any division races worth tracking, here are the top 10 September races worth following:
1) The Bryce Harper Division Race. The team with the worst record wins the right to draft the otherworldly Harper with the first pick of the 2010 draft. It comes down to a race between Washington and Kansas City, with the Nationals holding a five-game lead in the all-important loss column. Both teams are doing their darnedest to win this race.
Since Aug. 16 the Nots are 4-15. Since July 28 the Royal Pains are 12-26, including a perfect 0-11 in games after they actually managed to win one. Wouldn't want anything as extravagant as a two-game winning streak when you're chasing the worst record in baseball.
2) The Derek Jeter Home Run Race. Sure, Jeter is going to pass Lou Gehrig as the all-time Yankees hit leader any day now. No pressure there. But Jeter needs three home runs in New York's final 23 games for the Yankees to become the first team in baseball history with eight players to hit 20 or more home runs. They are tied with the 2005 Rangers, 2000 Blue Jays and 1996 Orioles with seven 20-homer hitters.
3) The Peter Moylan Home Run Race. The Atlanta pitcher has not given up a home run all season in 77 games. That would be a record, eclipsing the 73 homerless games by Brian Shouse in 2007. Not impressed with by homerless games in this era of relief specialists? OK, try this: In the wild-card era, Moylan ranks third in most innings pitched without allowing a home run (61 innings), and he's closing in on Jason Isringhausen (65 1/3 in 2002) and Jim Johnson (68 2/3 in 2008). Still, he's no Walter Johnson. The Big Train threw 369 2/3 innings in 1916 (in the height of the deadball era) without allowing a home run.
4) The Greatest Strikeout Duo Race. The San Francisco Giants might have one of the best 1-2 punches of all time when it comes to striking out batters -- and it's not Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain. It's Lincecum and Jonathan Sanchez, who are both averaging more than 10 strikeouts per nine innings. Only two starting tandems in history have ever done that: Curt Schilling and Randy Johnson with the 2001 and 2002 Diamondbacks, and Mark Prior and Kerry Wood with the 2003 Cubs.
5) The Greatest Strikeout King Race (Hitters Division). The Whiff King, Mark Reynolds of the Diamondbacks, just might wipe out the record he set last year of 204 punchouts. He needs 17 to break the record. Reynolds has whiffed more in the past two seasons than Joe DiMaggio did in his entire career.
6) The Best Hitter Not to Win the AL Batting Title Race. It's a fight to the finish for Joe Mauer and Ichiro Suzuki. At this rate one of them will hit .360 or better and not be the AL batting champion. There has been such a prolific runner-up just once in the past 70 years in the league: back in 1957, when Mickey Mantle hit .365 and finished well behind the .388 posted by Ted Williams.
7) The 60 Doubles Race.Brian Roberts of Baltimore better redouble his rate of doubles. He needs 11 doubles in his final 25 games to reach 60. How rare is that? Only six players have hit 60 two-baggers, none since 1936.
8) The Most Plaintive Cy Race.Zack Greinke of Kansas City could be the AL Cy Young Award frontrunner. He leads the league in ERA (by a lot), complete games, shutouts and WHIP. Alas, pitching for the Harper Division-contending Royals, he has only 13 wins to show for his effort. No starter has won the Cy without at least 16 wins.
9) The Octo-Cycle Race. You know it's the year of the cycle when Felix Pie of Baltimore hits for the cycle. The dude never before had four hits of any kind in a game. It was the seventh cycle of the season, just one short of the record set in 1890 and matched in 1933.
10) The Strangest 100-RBI Season Race. This September race is over, thanks to a pitch on Monday from CC Sabathia that broke two fingers on the hand of Carlos Pena, ending the season for the Rays first baseman. Also busted is the 16-year-old record of Phil Plantier for the fewest hits in a 100-RBI season. Pena broke the record with only 107 hits for his 100 RBIs, four fewer hits than Plantier had with the 1993 Padres. Here are the top five 100-RBI seasons with the fewest hits:
Pena also smashed another record along with those two fingers: fewest singles in a 100-RBI season. Pena collected only 41 singles, blowing away the record of 49 by Barry Bonds in 2001. Somehow Bonds is remembered for some other record he set that season.