We’ve just turned the calendar on another Month and May is gone. That means it’s time for BBRT’s traditional look back at the previous month in MLB. They say April showers bring May flowers – but what does May bring? If you’re a baseball fan (particularly if, like me, you are a Twins fan), this May brought a shower of surprises. In this post, BBRT will recap some of the month’s performances, look at some statistical surprises and throw in a few diversions that impressed me along the way,
Let’s start by considering the teams with the most wins in the month of May. Only two teams notched 20 or win over the course of the month – the Minnesota Twins and the San Francisco Giants.
The Twins were the real surprise, going 20-7 (.740) – MLB’s best winning percentage for the month – and closing May in first place in the AL Central. (Full MLB standings as of May 31 can be found at the end of this post). How surprising is this? Over the past four seasons, the Twins have gone 265-383 (averaging 96 losses) per season – and they started 2015 with just one win in their first seven games. I promised both surprising and impressive, so here are a few things I found impressive about the Twins’ May performance: 39-year-old (soon to be forty) RF Torii Hunter led a fairly balanced offense with a .333-6-25 month, RHP Ricky Nolasco won an AL-leading five games (5-0, 4.25 ERA) after going 0-1, 18.00 in April, RHP Kyle Gibson had an AL-low (among full-time starters) May ERA of 1.36 (three wins and one loss) and closer Glen Perkins saved an MLB-high 13 games.
Then we have the less-surprising and defending World Series Champion Giants, who ran up an MLB-best 21 wins (nine losses – .700 pct.) for the month. The Giants moved from last at the end of April to second (just ½ game behind the Dodgers) at the end of May. Looks like the Giants/Dodgers rivalry lives on!
More surprises? How about the continuing success of the Houston Astros – who averaged more than 100 losses over the past four seasons (232-416)? The Astros finished April leading the AL West by four games – and, closed May with a 31-20 record, still holding a four-game margin over the second-place Angels.
May-King An Impression
Houston Astros’ 22-year-old prospect Derek Fisher made quite a May impression. On May 30, Fisher made his first appearance for the Class A Advanced California League Lancaster JetHawks – having just been promoted from the Class A Quad Cities River Bandits of the Midwest League. Well, you only get one chance to make a first impression, and Fisher took it.
The 6’ 1”, 207-pound Fisher, who started in left field and batted second, came up in the first inning and ripped a solo home run to right. In the second, he came to the plate again – this time with the bases loaded – and scorched a Grand Slam to center. The JetHawks’ offense continued to pulverize the High Desert Mavericks pitching staff and. in the third inning, Fisher came to the plate with the bases loaded once again. He had already cleared the fences in right and center, so this time he drove a homer (his second Grand Slam of the game) to left. In his first three innings played after his promotion, Fisher – hit to all fields, went three-for-three, rapped three home runs, scored three runs and drove in nine. Pretty good first impression. Oh, and later in the game (a 16-3 Lancaster win), Fisher rapped a bases-loaded double – giving him 12 RBI for the game (a new California League record.)
While at Quad Cities, Fisher had gone .305-6-24 in 39 games. Fisher also is a former High School Gatorade Player of the Year (Cedar Crest High School, Lebanon, PA) and college Louisville Slugger Freshman All-American (University of Virginia). Impressive? Indeed.
On the other side of the surprise coin – the disappointing side – no team lost more games in May than the Boston Red Sox (early and popular AL East favorites). The Red Sox went 10-19 in May, ending the month at 22-29, in last place, but just four games out of first. Other teams losing 19 for the month were less surprising – The Marlins went 10-19 in May, while the A’s went 11-19.
Through May 31, only three teams were playing .600 or better: The Saint Louis Cardinals (33-17, .660); Minnesota Twins (30-19, .612); Houston Astros (31-20. .608); and Kansas City Royals (29-19, .604). On the other end of the spectrum, four teams were performing at an under .400 pace: The Milwaukee Brewers (an MLB-worst 17-34, .333); Oakland A’s (20-33, .377); Philadelphia Phillies (19-33, .365); and Miami Marlins (20-31, .392).
So what’s it all add up to? What if the season ended on – in this case – May 31? Your playoff teams would be:
- AL … Yankees or Rays (playoff to break tie); Twins; Astros. Wild Cards: Royals; Tigers. (Note: Three AL Central teams.)
- NL … Nationals; Cardinals; Dodgers. Wild Cards: Giants; Mets.
Another Impressive “First Impression”
On May 6, as the Twins took the measure of the Oakland A’s 13-0, Eddie Rosario made his major league debut – and he got off to a pretty fast start. In his first at bat, in the third inning, the rookie right fielder hit a Scott Kazmir fastball into the left field bleachers – becoming 119th player to homer in his first MLB at bat. More significantly, Rosario become only the 29th MLBer to homer on the very first pitch he ever saw in “the show.” For more on first-pitch-ever round tripper – including two first-pitch Grand Slams, click here.
Just a few final team observations before we look at some individual performances and surprises.
- Through May 31, no team had scored more runs than the Blue Jays (268) – who had scored 35 more runs than the second-highest-scoring AL team (Rangers) and the highest-scoring NL team (Diamondbacks), both at 233. The Blue Jays (six games under .500), however, had the AL’s worst ERA through May at 4.59. Fewest runs scored? The Phillies at 157.
- The Houston Astros led all of MLB in home runs through May (68), with the Dodgers topping the NL at 64. The fewest? The Phillies again at 27, while the White Sox (with the DH) had the AL’s lowest total at 32.
- Only three teams were hitting .270 or better through May – the Royals (.278); the Giants (.272); and the Tigers (.272). The Brewers had the lowest team batting average through May at .228.
- From the mound, the Cardinals were the only team to carry a sub-3.00 ERA through May – at 2.73 (followed by the Pirates at 3.14 and the Dodgers at 3.16). Over in the AL, the Rays set the pace at 3.36 (followed by the Royals (3.40 and Astros (3.54).
- The surging Twins proved they “pitch to contact.” Through May, the Minnesota pitching staff had the fewest strikeouts 281 and the second-fewest walks (117 – only the NL Mets were lower at 103). Leading MLB in K’s was the Cubs’ staff at 476, while Houston led the AL with 464.
Now let’s look at some individual May performances.
Nobody raked the baseball more in May than the Nationals’ RF Bryce Harper, who put up a .360-13-28 line for the month – which made him the May leader in HRs and RBI (tied). But, we’ve all been waiting for this type of breakout from Harper. There were, however, some impressive offensive performances and a few surprises in May.
- Indians’ 2B Jason Kipnis hit .429 for the month, with four home runs, 17 RBI and a MLB-best 30 runs scored – after a disappointing .218-1-8 April.
- Rangers’ 1B Prince Fielder, coming off 2014 neck surgery, started slowly with just one home run and ten RBI in April (although he did put up a .333 average). In May, the power returned, as Fielder went .379-9-28 and took over the AL batting race lead.
- Marlins’ 2B Dee Gordon came back to earth. Carrying a .400 average as late as May 19th, Gordon’s average had dropped to .377 by May 31 – still enough to lead all of MLB.
- Pirates’ C Francisco Cervelli’s .377 May average topped all NL hitters (with at least 75 plate appearances) for the month.
- The bright spot for the struggling A’s was catcher Stephen Vogt, who hit .301, with seven homers and 23 RBI in 83 May at bats. Vogt had 38 RBI through May, just one off the AL lead. The 30-year-old Vogt’s previous season-highs are .279-9-35.
- Padres’ LF Justin Upton had the highest number of stolen bases without getting caught through May at 10.
- Marlins’ RF Giancarlo Stanton hit only .185 in May, but still managed to rap nine home runs and drive in 23. Hitting just .228 through May, Stanton still leads MLB with 44 RBI.
The pitchers got into the act as well.
- 42-year-old Mets’ hurler Bartolo Colon led all of MLB in victories through May with 8 (tied with Felix Hernandez of the AL’s Mariners) – despite a 4.72 ERA. In May, Colon went 4-2, with a 6.00 ERA in six starts. MLB’s other eight-game winner, Felix Hernandez was 8-1, with a 1.91 ERA.
- The Indians’ Corey Kluber, the MLB strikeout leader for May and through May, saved his best for May 13 – the day the Indians officially opened their Bob Feller exhibit. Kluber threw eight innings of one-hit shutout ball in the Indians’ 2-0 win – walking none and tying Hall of Famer Feller’s Indians’ team single-game strikeout record with 18 whiffs. With the performance, Kluber became just the 29th pitcher in MLB history to fan 18 or more hitters in a game – and one of only five to accomplish the feat without issuing a single base on balls (joining Roger Clemens, Randy Johnson, Luis Tiant and Kerry Wood). An impressive showing on an appropriate day.
- Only three pitchers managed five wins in May – the Pirates’ A.J. Burnett; Nationals’ Max Scherzer; and Twins’ Ricky Nolasco.
I’m Impressed – and so was the Baseball Hall of Fame
Katie Brownell – The “Perfect” Perfect Game
Here’s someone who “May-ed” their impression on a May day ten years ago. On May 14, 2005, eleven-year-old Katie Brownell – the only girl playing in the Oakfield-Alabama Little League (upstate New York) – took the mound for her team (the Dodgers) expecting to pitch three innings against the Yankees. Six innings later, the Dodgers had an 11-0 win and Brownell was on her way to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.
Brownell not only threw a shutout that day, she threw a perfect game and struck out all eighteen batters she faced. She never went to a three-ball count the whole contest and the best at bat of the day went to the game’s final batter, who fouled off three 2-2 pitches before striking out. On July 7, 2005, Brownell’s traveled with her teammates to Cooperstown, New York to see her Dodgers Little League jersey ‘inducted” into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Note: Brownell’s dominance was no fluke, she was coming off a 14-strikeout game in her previous start.
Speaking of impressive performances, here are your May batting and pitching leaders.
Batting Average (minimum 75 plate appearances)
Jason Kipnis, 2B, Indians – .429
Prince Fielder, 1B, Rangers – .377
David DeJesus, RF, Rays – .368
Chris Colabello, RF, Blue Jays – .368
Francisco Cervelli, C, Pirates – .377
Paul Goldschmidt, 1B, D-backs – .365
Bryce Harper, RF, Nationals – .360
Bryce Harper, RF, Nationals – 13
Paul Goldschmidt, 1B, D-backs – 10
Four with 9
Josh Donaldson, 3B, Blue Jays – 10
Price Fielder, 1B, Rangers – 9
Evan Gattis, C/DH, Astros – 9
Prince Fielder, 1B, Rangers – 28
Torii Hunter, RF, Twins – 25
Three with 23
Bryce Harper, RF, Nationals – 28
Ryan Braun, RF, Brewers – 28
Four with 23
Jason Kipnis, 2B, Indians – 30
Josh Donaldson, 3B, Blue Jays – 25
Brian Dozier, 2B, Twins – 25
Bryce Harper, RF, Nationals – 24
Brandon Belt, 1B, Giants – 23
Ryan Braun, RF, Brewers – 22
Adrelton Simmons, SS, Braves, 22
Dee Gordon, 2B, Marlins – 12 (1 CS)
Justin Upton, LF, Padres – 9 (0 CS)
Three with eight
Delino DeShields, CF, Rangers – 10 (1 CS)
Billy Burns, CF, A’s – 9 (1 CS)
A.J. Burnett, Pirates – 5 (no losses)
Max Scherzer, Nationals – 5 (one loss)
Ricky Nolasco, Twins – 5 (no losses)
ERA (minimum 20 innings pitched in the month)
Alex Wilson, Tigers – 0.86 (11 games, one start)
Kyle Gibson, Twins – 1.36
Chris Young Royals – 1.45
Shelby Miller, Braves – 0.95
Zack Grienke, Dodgers – 1.05
Mike Bolsinger, Dodgers – 1.05
Corey Kluber, Indians – 60 (42 2/3 IP)
Chris Sale, White Sox – 46 (37 IP)
Chris Archer, Rays – 45 (35 2/3 IP)
Max Scherzer, Nationals – 56 (43 IP)
James Shields, Padres – 47 (37 1/3 IP)
Francisco Liriano, Pirates – 45 (35 1/3 IP)
Glen Perkins, Twins – 13
Brad Boxberger, Rays – 10
Luke Gregorson, Astros – 9
Zack Britton, Orioles – 9
Drew Storen, Nationals – 11
Santiago Casilla, Giants – 9
Jason Grilli, Braves – 8
Mark Melancon, Pirates – 8
And now, a look at the MLB Leaders Through May.
Dee Gordon, 2B, Marlins – .377
Paul Goldschmidt, 1B, D-backs – .354
DJ LeMahieu, 2B, Rockies – .340
Prince Fielder, 1B, Rangers – .359
Jason Kipnis, 2B, Indians – .340
Nelson Cruz, RF/DH, Mariners – .335
Nelson Cruz, RF/DH, Mariners – 18
Josh Donaldson, 3B, Blue Jays – 15
Mark Teixeira, 1B, Yankees – 14
Bryce Harper, RF, Nationals – 18
Todd Frazier, 3B, Reds – 16
Paul Goldschmidt, 1b, D-backs – 15
Giancarlo Stanton, RF, Marlins – 15
Giancarlo Stanton, RF, Marlins – 44
Paul Goldschmidt, 1B, D-backs – 43
Bryce Harper, RF, Nationals – 43
Josh Donaldson, 3B, Blue Jays – 39
Nelson Cruz, RF, Mariners – 38
Prince Fielder, 1B, Rangers – 38
Stephen Vogt, C, A’s – 38
Josh Donaldson, 3B, Blue Jays – 43
Brian Dozier, 2B, Twins – 41
Mike Trout, CF, Angels – 38
Bryce Harper, RF, Nationals – 42
Paul Goldschmidt, 1b, D-backs – 39
Four with 34
Billy Hamilton, CF, Reds – 21 (3 CS)
Dee Gordon, 2B, Marlins – 20 (7 CS)
Jose Altuve, 2B, Astros – 15 (9 CS)
Jacoby Ellsbury, CF, Yankees – 14 (6 CS)
Bartolo Colon, Mets – 8-3 (4.72)
Gerrit Cole, Pirates – 7-2 (2.11)
Micheal Wacha, Cardinals – 7-1 (2.27)
Felix Hernandez, Mariners – 8-1, 1.91
Dallas Keuchel, Astros – 7-1 (1.76)
Four with six
Corey Kluber, Indians – 96 (76 2/3 IP)
Chris Archer, Rays – 82 (68 IP)
Felix Hernandez, Mariners – 71 (70 2/3 IP)
Danny Salazae, Indians – 71 (54 2/3 IP)
James Shields, Padres – 88 (68 1/3 IP)
Max Scherezer, Nationals – 85 (71 2.3 IP)
Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers – 83 (65 1/3 IP)
Glen Perkins, Twins – 19
Houston Street, Angels – 17
Three with 15
Drew Storen, Nationals – 16
Four with 15
Finally, MLB standing as of May 31
Yankees 26-25 .510
Rays 26-25 .510
Orioles 23-26 .469 2.0
Blue Jays 23-19 .442 3.5
Red Sox 22-29 .433 4.0
Twins 30-19 .612
Royals 29-19 .604 0.5
Tigers 28-24 .538 3.5
Indians 24-26 .480 6.5
White Sox 23-26 .469 7.0
Astros 31-20 .606
Angels 27-24 .529 4.0
Rangers 26-25 .510 5.0
Mariners 24-26 .480 6.5
A’s 20-33 .377 12.0
Nationals 28-22 .560
Mets 28-23 .549 0.5
Braves 25-25 .500 3.0
Marlins 20-31 .392 8.5
Phillies 19-33 .365 10.0
Cardinals 33-17 .660
Cubs 26-22 .542 6.0
Pirates 26-24 .520 7.0
Reds 22-27 .449 4.5
Brewers 17-34 .333 16.5
Dodgers 29-20 .592
Giants 30-22 .577 0.5
San Diego 25-27 .481 5.5
D-backs 23-26 .469 6.0
Rockies 22-26 .458 6.5
I tweet baseball @DavidBBRT
I tweet baseball @David BBRT