|Kimbrel has 18 strikeouts and only two walks in September. (Getty Images)|
The Rangers' $111 million investment looks like a sound one right now as Darvish's 214 strikeouts are the second highest total ever for a rookie pitcher in the American League, trailing only the Indians' Herb Score in 1956.
Some might say you could have made a similar proclamation about what a great purchase Daisuke Matsuzaka (more on him below) was five months or even a year into the Red Sox's $103 million investment in him in late 2006, and that's probably right. But Darvish is more accomplished, more talented, fitter and a much better bet long-term.
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Darvish followed a so-so stretch with his best run of pitching to date, as he's gone 3-0 with a 1.80 ERA and ridiculous 0.57 WHIP in September. Which is the sort of dominance Rangers people haven't seen from a righthander since the team's president Nolan Ryan pitched a couple decades ago.
"He's figured it out," Rangers manager Ron Washington declared after Darvish made it four straight starts with at least seven innings and no more than four hits.
Exactly as advertised, Darvish gives the Rangers an ace as they head to playoffs.
Kimbrel has dominated National League batters all year, and September is no different. With 18 strikeouts and only two walks (and five hits) in 9⅓ scoreless September innings, he is starting to pick up some Cy Young support.
His 0.75 WHIP in September is actually slightly worse than his WHIP for the year, which is 0.67. By any measure, his year has been one of the best ever for a reliever.
The Mets' R.A. Dickey, the Nationals' Gio Gonzalez, the Reds' Johnny Cueto and other starters have been mentioned more often as Cy Young candidates, though CBSSports.com's Gregg Doyel got the ball rolling for closers Aroldis Chapman and Kimbrel several weeks back.
Well, Chapman had to be shut down for a couple weeks, and Kimbrel remains the one real Cy Young relief threat. He probably won't win it, as starters generally have been favored, especially in recent years, but no one should argue if anyone votes for Kimbrel.
LaRoche won't win the National League MVP but he should make the 10-man ballots somewhere as the best and most consistent player on the best team. LaRoche has nine home runs, 17 RBI and a 1.178 OPS in September as the Nats clinched their first playoff spot in forever.
The Dodgers star allegedly was undermined by a weak lineup before the Dodgers traded for all those stars. Yet, on the recent numbers, just the opposite appears true. He's doing much worse now that he's surrounded by other stars.
Kemp led the majors with a 1.383 OPS this April, and in September the figure is a paltry .502. He is also hitting .176 in a confounding slump that has seen the Dodgers fall into third place in the race for the second wild-card spot. It's quite possible Kemp's recent shoulder woes are affecting him, but characteristically he' isn't complaining.
Shane Victorino has been cited for slipping since returning to his original organization. But even his September numbers (.188, .528) are better than Kemp's.
2. James Loney, Red Sox 1B
It's not only Dodgers who are struggling but former Dodgers as well. It's been written that the Red sox might consider him as a free agent. Well, maybe, but only if they want to go super cheap at first base after trading Adrian Gonzalez, who made $22 million annually but was still seen as cost-efficient enough that he was used in trade so that Boston could be rid of the Josh Beckett and Carl Crawford contracts.
Loney is hitting .194 with no homers and two RBI in September, as he's actually slipped from his already unproductive Dodgers days. He's going on a couple years of being unproductive now.
3. Alfredo Aceves, Red Sox RP
Sorry to pick on the Red Sox, but it's been that kind of year. In Aceves' case, his pitching is actually better than his behavior.
He was suspended three games last month by the team for throwing a fit in the office of embattled manager Bobby Valentine after a game in which Valentine didn't use him in one save situation. And let's not forget Valentine supported him, giving the longtime middle reliever and spot starter the closers job.
Lately, Aceves' behavior has worsened.
One time, he argued heatedly with Red Sox star and leader Dustin Pedroia in the dugout. Another time, he moved to the back of the mound, acting like he didn't want to give Valentine the ball. In reality, valentine should have stopped giving him the ball a long time ago, as Aceves has an 8.44 ERA in September and has fallen to 2-10 overall.
Aceves has allowed 25 runs in 25 innings since Aug. 2, so he wasn't any better last month. But bad pitching is just a part of it.
Valentine used humor in discussing Aceves recently, saying, "It's kind of like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're going to get."
It's a wonder Aceves is still a member of the Red Sox. It seems to be just another example of the inmates running the asylum there. (Disclaimer: the word asylum is strictly coincidental there.)
Lastly for the Red Sox, Daisuke Matsuzaka's Red Sox career isn't ending as it started, as he's 0-3 with a 13.50 ERA in September. Something tells me he won't be the free-agent sensation this winter that he was six years ago.