Here are the answers to the most often asked questions about September:
* Why do teams play with 25-man rosters through August and then are allowed to expand to up to 40 for September?
It’s a rule that has always been, but it’s driving managers crazy, and they are becoming more vocal about it. General managers have the power to change the rule, and they will likely take a look at it this winter. The simple solution is to allow roster expansion but designate a certain number of additional players for each series.
* Can the Nationals’ Jayson Werth win a batting championship?
Yes, he can. He’s within five of the title going into Tuesday night. And, if he does, Werth will be the first Washington player to win the batting title since Mickey Vernon of the Senators won the AL title at .337 in 1953. It’s amazing considering Werth hit .265 in April, missed all of May with injury and was at .297 at the All-Star break.
* If the Orioles’ Chris Davis finishes with 50-plus home runs and the AL title, does that help his MVP chances?
It will, but it still might not be enough. For months, the race has boiled down to Miguel Cabrera and Davis. But now, voters are bringing up the all-around play of the Angels’ Mike Trout - and that’s fair - so it looks like the AL MVP debate could be a wild one among those three players. Cabrera and Davis will be helped because they are on winning teams. But it should be pointed out that the Orioles’ Adam Jones is also going to get strong support.
* Who is going to win the NL Central?
Good question. Let’s pull for a three-way tie and a string of one-game playoffs. After a season of inconsistent play, the Reds, after moving Brandon Phillips to the second spot in the order, are playing their best baseball, so they are the favorites. The Pirates just won game No. 82, but there are still questions about their young rotation and third baseman Pedro Alvarez’s quiet bat. And the Cardinals are winning despite losing their best hitter, Allen Craig, and a pitching staff where rookies have thrown 35 percent of the innings.
* Is the Big Four done in New York?
Well, at least half will be done, given that Jorge Posada has retired and Mariano Rivera is in his last season. Derek Jeter is planning to play next season, and Andy Pettitte, 41, says it is too early to say whether he will retire.
* What is going on with the Braves?
They are quietly rolling along and could be in line to clinch the NL East when they come to D.C. next week. The Braves are concerned about how much they can get from leadoff batter Jason Heyward when he returns from the disabled list with a broken jaw. He might be back in time to get a few games in before the postseason starts. The Braves have reason to worry. They are a different offensive team when he’s not setting the table.
* What are the Red Sox going to do without Jacoby Ellsbury?
The Red Sox will use prospect Jackie Bradley Jr. in center field and bat Shane Victorino leadoff. Victorino is the Red Sox’s second-half MVP and a weapon in right field. The Red Sox are counting on Ellsbury’s injured foot to be ready for the postseason, and if he is, Bradley will likely be the backup center fielder in October. If Ellsbury can’t make it, then the Red Sox will use Bradley and prospect Quintin Berry, who will be valuable as a pinch-runner, a la the Reds’ Billy Hamilton, on their postseason roster.
* Why is Cleveland’s Ubaldo Jimenez pitching so well?
He was in a big-time slump when he was traded from the Rockies to the Indians, but he’s learned to repeat consistently good mechanics without having to think about it. Now, instead of worrying about his arm slot, he can think about the strategy of getting a hitter out. He’s relaxed and pitching without the confusion of how to get it done. And he had 10 strikeouts in his last start against Kansas City.