Tuesday, June 2, 2015

2015 MLB May Awards

That funky stance produced one of the best months any player has ever had (MLB Reports)
May is over, which means it's time to hand out some hardware.

American League

Player of the Month--Jason Kipnis
Kipnis made history last month, becoming the first player in 90 years to notch at least 30 runs and 50 hits (51, actually) in the month of May. The last to do it? Al Simmons, and the only other to ever do it was the one and only Ty Cobb. In addition to batting a scalding .429/.511/.706, Kipnis clubbed 22 extra base hits (15 doubles), led the major leagues in weighted runs created (38) and was worth 3.1 fWAR, becoming the first player in a decade to finish a month with more than three. Cleveland's leadoff man also recorded two or more hits in 16 of 29 games last month, hitting safely in all but four. Kipnis currently leads all American League position players in bWAR

Pitcher of the Month--Sonny Gray
The Oakland A's may be tanking, but that's hardly Gray's fault. The early season Cy Young candidate compiled a nifty 1.67 ERA and 1.06 WHIP across six May starts, of which Oakland only won three. The 25 year-old flamethrower also averaged over a strikeout per inning while limiting the 151 batters he faced to a .191/.272/.265 slash line. The A's have gone 6-5 in Gray's starts, but are just 14-28 in the games he hasn't pitched.

Rookie of the Month--Steven Souza
Souza's been a big source of offense for the Rays this year, leading Tampa Bay in home runs and ranking second in total bases and runs scored. The 26 year-old rightfielder slammed six home runs last month, scored 16 runs, and slugged .512. Fun fact: he currently has twice as many long balls as anyone else on his team.

Team of the Month--Minnesota Twins
The Twins finished May in a most unlikely place--at the top of the AL Central. This was a common occurrence for Minnesota last decade but hasn't been lately, as the Twins have endured four consecutive 90-loss seasons. The Twins, who went 20-7 in May, lost consecutive games only once last month while stringing together six separate winning streaks. Their offense clicked, averaging 5.15 runs per game, and the pitching shined, allowing only 3.85 runs per game. You know you've had a good month when Ricky Nolasco--one of the most erratic hurlers in baseball--wins five consecutive starts.
Scherzer's settled in as the best pitcher in the game this year (Grantland)
National League

Player of the Month--Bryce Harper
I've talked at length about Harper's incredible month, which saw the 22 year-old smash 13 home runs, drive in 28 runs, walk 22 times, and bat .360/.495/.884. Harper's May ranks as one of the best-ever, and nobody did more damage with a bat in his hands last month (except maybe Kipnis).

Pitcher of the Month--Max Scherzer
Scherzer and Harper have almost single-handedly carried Washington to the top of the NL East. Scherzer won five of his six starts in May, and in his lone loss allowed just five hits and one run in seven innings while striking out 10. He completed at least seven frames in all six turns, pitching 43 innings in all while maintaining a 1.67 ERA and 0.91 WHIP. Meanwhile, he notched double digit strikeouts in four of those starts, finishing the month with an absurd 56/6 K/BB ratio. He limited opponents (167 batters faced) to a .208/.241/.321 batting line and his average GameScore was 70. My preseason choice for the NL Cy Young winner has established himself as the early frontrunner.

Rookie of the Month--Kris Bryant
Close call here between Bryant and Joc Pederson, but I'll take the guy who hit his first major league home run, then belted six more over the following two weeks (that would be Bryant). I ultimately favored Bryant, whose counting stats and rate stats were a bit better and because he more than doubled Pederson's WPA. I'd expect Bryant to win this award at least once more before the season is through.

Team of the Month--San Francisco Giants
The defending World Series champs rounded into form following a tough (9-13) April. The Giants went 21-9, vaulting themselves from last place in the NL West at the beginning of the month to just a half game out of first by the end of it. They swept the reigning AL West champs to kick off May with a five-game win streak, but San Fran didn't really hit its stride until the second half of the month. The Giants won eight in a row from May 15-23, lost two straight in Colorado before promptly winning five more, briefly climbing into first place before dropping a pair against Atlanta to close out the month. San Francisco was buoyed by an offense that averaged nearly five runs a game, aided by Brandon Belt's smoldering bat, the return of Hunter Pence, and the quiet consistency of Buster Posey. The pitching, meanwhile, allowed only 3.6 runs per game, largely thanks to the revival of Tim Lincecum and a surprisingly good month from Ryan Vogelsong. The Giants probably don't have what it takes to hang with the Dodgers all summer, but at least they've made it a race.

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