Late Season Runs
Given that I wrote off the Twins several days ago and they are now tied on the last day of the season, I want to talk a bit about late season runs. Fans have a bad habit of relying on late season runs to justify the status quo and ignore the numerous difficulties with doing so.
First, any game played after September 1st is substantially different from any game played before. When a team with an expanded roster plays another team with an expanded roster, it is nearly impossible to draw long-term conclusions. Each team has called up and is using numerous players that have spent the season in the minors. So what if your preferred player goes 4-4 off a pitcher that was in AAA last week? (Of course that point could also be applied to any time in which your team played the Pirates. Set that aside for the moment.)
Second, the elimination of teams from playoff competition changes game dynamics. The Twins and Tigers are both playing against eliminated teams at the moment. Doing that now will surely yield different results than a game in the middle of June.
Third, sample size is always important. Baseball history is littered with players and teams that had very good one month stretches. One month of play is not a sufficient sample from which to draw conclusions about how good a player or team is. Given the mitigating factors listed above, the month of September is probably the worst possible month to use for any conclusions. If you are the Twins, you still need to be worried about the future of Delmon Young, despite how well he has played this last week. Maybe he is finally developing to his full potential. Maybe he is just lucky. For general managers in particular, you must be able to look beyond superficially good September numbers to improve your team for the next complete season. Pennants are finsihed in September, but they are dependent on team performance from April through August.