Monday, June 2, 2014

MLB May Awards

American League
Player of the Month--Edwin Encarnacion
Always a streaky hitter, Encarnacion bounced back from a poor April (two home runs) to go on a torrid hot streak in May. When the dust settled, he'd smashed 16 home runs, tying Mickey Mantle for the most ever hit by an American League player in the month of May (one shy of Barry Bonds' record). He'd also knocked in 33 runs, scored 26, and slugged .763, catalyzing Toronto's terrific month. As amazing as Jose Abreu was in April, Encarnacion was even better in May.

HM: Miguel Cabrera

Pitcher of the Month--Phil Hughes
After getting off to a rocky start with his new team, Hughes settled down in May. The Twins won all five of his starts (which were all quality), largely because he went at least six innings in each one and allowed just six runs total--good for a 1.62 ERA. More impressively, he faced 132 batters and did not walk a single one. With 24 strikeouts, a 1.02 WHIP and only one home run allowed, Hughes helped Minnesota maintain respectability by pitching like an ace last month.

HM: Corey Kluber

Rookie of the Month--George Springer
After making his major league debut on April 16th, the 24 year-old needed a few weeks to find his stroke. He entered May batting .182/.262/.218, leading Astros manager Bo Porter to drop him from the cleanup spot to sixth in Houston's order to help take some pressure off the struggling rookie. The move paid immediate dividends, for Springer got hot and has since been moved up to second in the order. When the month ended he was hitting .255/.343/.397. As lost as he was in his first few weeks on the job, he was locked in throughout May, crushing 10 home runs and batting .294/.385/.647 for the month. But that power has come with plenty of strikeouts--36 in May and 55 in 157 official at-bats--which tells me his hot streak won't last for long.

HM: Xander Bogaerts

Team of the Month--Toronto Blue Jays
Toronto began the month in fourth place, three games below .500 at 12-15 after dropping six of seven games to close out the month of April. When May drew to a close, the Blue Jays stood atop the AL East with more wins than every major league team except the A's and Giants. The Jaybirds went 21-9 in May, stringing together four separate winning streaks that lasted two, three, five, and nine games (the nine-gamer began with a sweep of Boston at Fenway Park, followed by home sweeps of the A's and Rays). Toronto outscored its opponents 165-124, with its dynamite offense averaging 5.5 runs per game and scoring nine runs or more five times. The Blue Jays batted .277/.344/.487 with 48 home runs, while the pitching staff posted a 3.74 ERA, trimming nearly a full run off its April ERA of 4.64.

HM: Oakland A's

National League
Player of the Month--Yasiel Puig
Puig pulverized big league pitching last month, raking at a .398/.492/.731 clip while pounding out 10 doubles and 8 home runs. He reached base in every game and notched at least one hit in all but two. Including the two times he reached on errors, he was on base 65 times last month with 43 hits, 17 walks, and three hit-by-pitches. His month also included a 16-game hitting streak, 25 RBI, and four stolen bases. The Dodgers' sparkplug is the most exciting player in baseball presently and has to be considered an early favorite to win NL MVP.

HM: Giancarlo Stanton

Pitcher of the Month--Madison Bumgarner
The 24 year-old continued cementing his reputation as the National League's best southpaw this side of Clayton Kershaw. Bumgarner was 5-0 in his six starts last month, only one of which was not quality. In four of those starts he recorded at least eight strikeouts, walked one or fewer batters, surrendered no more than four hits, and allowed no more than one earned run, giving him a GameScore of at least 70 each time. Overall he fanned 48 opponents in 39 innings pitched, reaching 10 in each of his past two starts against the Twins and Cardinals, respectively. His WHIP for the month was a stellar 0.85. as he limited opponents to just 28 hits (a .203 batting average) and yielded only five walks. His ability to limit traffic on the bases easily explains his 2.08 ERA.

HM: Julio Teheran

Rookie of the Month--Kolten Wong
Following a three-week demotion to St. Louis's AAA-affiliate in Memphis, Wong seems to have regained his confidence as he returned to the Show with a vengeance. Hitting just .225/.276/.268 at the time of his demotion in late April, Wong batted .333/.418/.417 with five steals in six attempts from May 16th through the end of the month.

HM: None (it's been a rough year for NL rookies)

Team of the Month--San Francisco Giants
After a strong April vaulted them to the top of the NL West, the Giants padded their early division lead by going 19-9 in May. San Francisco strung together six separate winning streaks as opposed to only two losing streaks, neither of which lasted longer than the requisite two games. San Fran's outstanding pitching and defense stifled opponents, limiting them to just 3.21 runs per game. The Giants got great starting pitching from Bumgarner, Tim Hudson, and Ryan Vogelsong, aided by just enough offense from Pablo Sandoval, Mike Morse, Buster Posey, and Hunter Pence. After a rough season last year, the Giants are looking like the team that won it all in 2012.

HM: Milwaukee Brewers

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