August 2016: MLB Month Recap

It’s been another interesting month since we offered our last recap. The last recap ended with the trade deadline, where we saw some great names switching teams.

So, I’d like to start our review of August with a check-in on how those players have done since switching teams.

You’ve got players who are or have been All-stars that joined new teams, so how did they fare in their first month with a new uniform?

Who were the winners of the trade deadline? It’s still early, but we can take a look at the primary leaders.

The Rangers (Lucroy/Beltran) have combined for a .80 average with 123 runs, 10 HR, and 28 RBI. Those are great numbers from two veteran players.

Lucroy and Beltran (Rangers)

The Orioles should be content with what Steve Pearce has done. You’d like to see a bit more than a .259 average, but as a role player, he has 6 runs, 3 HR, and 5 RBI in only 39 AB.

Aside from the average, those are pretty solid. That .259 average does also come with a .341 OBP which makes it a little easier to handle.

In Toronto, they had hopes that Francisco Liriano would turn things around. He’s not back to ace form, but he’s got a respectable ERA (3.97) and 23 K’s in 22.2 innings since joining the Blue Jays.

San Francisco may have found their next gem in Matt Moore. In his last 37 IP, Moore has 36 K’s and a 3.16 ERA.

He has a 1.19 WHIP which isn’t so great, especially considering he almost threw a no-hitter this week.

But, overall he’s done very well for the Giants. It was a great “get” for Matt Duffy and Batman’s number tech one assistant (Lucius Fox).

The Dodgers (Rich Hill/Josh Reddick) aren’t doing so well. Hill has made 1 start since the trade. While it was a great start, you have to be concerned with that much time on the DL.

Josh Reddick has only hit for a .168 average with 11 runs and 1 RBI. Those aren’t numbers that Magic Johnson and his cohorts were expecting.

The Mets can’t be fully happy with Jay Bruce. He’s been tolerable, but a .204 average isn’t what you need from your midseason pick up. He’s only got 6 runs, 3 HR, and 5 RBI in the last month.

Jay Bruce

It’s safe to say that the Rangers have had the best haul of the trade deadline to this point. I’m not sure that Beltran is going to be able to keep produce for much longer than this season, but crazier things have happened.

The contributions they’re getting are great, especially when you consider how terrible catchers have been on offense this season.

Lucroy is the number 3 catcher since he was traded. He’s currently top 5 in that same time period in Runs, HR, and RBI.

Some teams were happy to stick with the players they already have, and that worked out quite well.

Mookie Betts is continuing to push towards a shot at the MVP as he has 103 runs, 30 HR, 96 RBI and 21 steals.

That makes Betts, arguably, the 4th best offensive player in the American League. The NL counterpart would be Kris Bryant who is easily the best hitter in his league. He’s got 112 Runs, 36 HR, 91 RBI and 8 SB.

The real surprise of the month has been Brian Dozier. In August, Dozier has 27 runs, 13 HR, 26 and 3 steals.

He’s got a .314 average to boot. After a slow start, Dozier has impressed a lot of people.

Speaking of impressing, let’s look at some of the young stars who have done well since coming up.

The Yankees went with a youth movement, and Gary Sanchez is rewarding them early on. In his first 95 AB (as of writing this article) Sanchez has 20 Runs, 11 HR, 21 RBI and a .389 average.

Gary Sanchez

Those stats are pretty rare air as Sanchez is only the second Catcher in MLB history to have 11 HR in his first 100 AB.

The only other is a guy named Mike Jacobs who did it in 2005. Jacobs (who quickly moved to 1B) was 24 in his rookie season, so that means that no other player has accomplished those numbers at 23 years old. Sadly, Max Kepler has cooled off recently and only had 1 HR in the month of August.

There is a lot of great young talent making its way to the majors right now. Teoscar Hernandez started off hot with 3 HR in his first 10 games.

He’s shown an ability to hit with 2 multi-hit games already, but he’s struggle with strikeouts. Aaron Judge has shown that he can hit in the big leagues, but is struggling with consistency.

He has 3 multi-hit games, but he’s had 9 games without a hit. I think it’s just an adjustment period.

Tyler Austin is another bright young player from the Yankees. He’s been struggling early, but seems to have a lot of potential. Austin has 12 strikeouts through his first 11 games. He’ll have to improve.

The highlight of August’s call ups to this point is Dansby Swanson. He won’t get a ton of publicity because he’s playing in Atlanta.

Even with a less than stellar cast surrounding him in the lineup, Swanson has managed a solid start to his career.

He’s only batting .255, but that’s 4 multi-hit games in his first 12 while also managing a total of 5 walks. That’s promising for a player as young as Swanson is.

There are a few players that are at the opposite end of their careers, and they’re worth noting.

Personally, my favorite story of an older player this year is Ichiro. He’s the one player in all of baseball that is known by 1 name – like Pele or Ronaldinho – Ichiro doesn’t need a last name (which is Suzuki by the way).

Ichiro

As a Rookie, Ichiro proved doubters wrong on his way to winning a Rookie of the Year award while also earning an MVP award. The list of players to win both awards in the same season – Ichiro and Fred Lynn.

While doing that, Ichiro helped his team to an MLB record 116 wins in 2001. Ichiro became the 27th player to reach 3,000 hits.

Only 5 players were able to reach 3,000 hits before (less AB) Ichiro. The real catch here is that Ichiro didn’t start his career in MLB until he was 27, which is typically considered the back end of a player’s prime.

When you consider Ichiro’s feat, think about the fact that he had 1385 hits before coming to America. I’ve heard the argument about whether Ichiro should have “the record” for hits in his career.

He’s passed Pete Rose and doesn’t seem to be slowing down. For my money, Pete Rose has the MLB hit record. Ichiro can have the international hit record.

David Ortiz is putting on a year to remember. It may not seem like much, but I want to offer you a list of every player that has ever hit more than 40 doubles and 30 home runs in a season in their 40’s. It shouldn’t take too long. Ready? David Ortiz.

Let that sink in for a minute – while we casually watch Ortiz, but marvel at the likes of Mookie Betts, Big Papi is quietly having a historic season as he makes his way through a farewell tour.

I’m sure seeing Ortiz perform this well makes Boston fans wonder, could he do it again next year? Sadly we’ll never know. Ortiz is going to ride off into the sunset still playing well.

It’s nice to see one of the greats retire before going downhill. Too many players stay around too long, and become, almost, irrelevant before retiring.

Becoming irrelevant brings us to our next big name veteran making news in August. Alex Rodriguez hasn’t been doing much recently.

After three consecutive seasons with less than 20 HR, A-Rod bounced back in a big way last year, to the tune of 33 HR.

However, he never did recover in the batting average department. There was hope that Rodriguez would continue his power production again this year. Sadly, for some, he was never able to figure it out in 2016.

He finished the first half with 8 HR and a .220 batting average. He finished the first half with a 5.6:1 K:BB ratio, and his numbers were trending downward.

Given the number of young prospects the Yankees were able to get at the trade deadline, and the number of good young players and prospects already in the system, New York decided to go younger. This decision led to a retirement of sorts for Alex Rodriguez.

It was a retirement in that he’s no long playing on the field, however the Yankees agreed to continue his contract in an unusual stipulation.

Brian Cashman, the Yankees’ GM, told Rodriguez that they’d continue paying him to be a “special advisor” for the team, which sounds great.

However, they also stipulated that this new advisory role wouldn’t stand in his way should Rodriguez want to continue his career.

In essence, the Yankees forced Rodriguez to retire, but gave him the ability to do it while saving face.

They also gave him the opportunity to seek playing time with another team which would have allowed the Yankees out of the monster contract that Rodriguez still has. It’s interesting to say the least.

Rodriguez retires just 4 HR shy of 700. He has a beautiful stat line of a career .295 average with .380 OBP, 696 HR, and 3115 hits.

Rodriguez is a 3-time MVP, a 14-time all-star, and a 10-time silver slugger. He also has two gold gloves to his name.

The question isn’t whether or not A-Rod has the numbers to get into the Hall of Fame, it’s whether or not the writers would ever vote for him given his connection to steroid use.

In an interesting turn of events, in the same week that Rodriguez retired, Mark Teixeira announced that he’s planning to retire at the end of the season.

Tex has been battling nagging injuries for the last few seasons, and has decided that he would be better served hanging his cleats up.

He finishes his career as an elite switch hitter, though I would argue he’d fall just short of being an elite overall hitter.

Tex did lead the league in HR and RBI in 2009, but he only had 1 season (2005) where he broke 40 HR.

His career average was actually 28 HR per season. Tex broke .300 in average three times in his career.

So, as a switch-hitter, he was great. But I don’t see him as being a Hall of Fame worth player. In 14 seasons, Tex was a 3-time all-star, 3-time silver slugger, and a 5-time gold glove winner.

Those are great honors, but for a guy to only be an all-star among his current contemporaries 3 times in 14 years (21% of the time), I can’t justify him as being among the best who ever played the game.

Finally, in a heartbreaking end to a great career, Prince Fielder has swung the bat for the last time. It’s been a long time since Fielder hit 50 HR in a season (2007), but he’s still been a quality hitter when healthy.

Prince Fielder

Just last season, Fielder had 23 HR, 98 RBI, and a .305 average in Texas. I’d gladly take that from any hitter in my lineup. Sadly, Fielder had to undergo neck surgery for the second time on a herniated disk.

After the surgery, Fielder was given devastating news. Doctors told him that he’ll never be able to play again. Fielder retires as a great hitter who could have been even better had health not cut his career short at 32 years old.

He led the league in HR in 2007, in RBI in 2009 and in walks in 2001. Fielder was a 6-time all-star, a 3-time silver slugger, and finished top-3 in MVP voting twice (top-20 six times).

The most interesting stat that Fielder can take home is his 319 career homeruns, which places him perfectly even with his father, Cecil.

What’s truly unique about Fielder is that he’s not actually retiring. Because of his injury, he’s going to be considered an “active” player, but will never see the field again.

This means that Fielder will be on the Rangers’ 40 man roster every spring. It also means that he’ll be getting every penny of his contract. That’s $24 million per season through 2020.

The interesting part of that is that he’ll be collecting money from the Rangers ($9 mil per year), the Tigers ($6 mil per year), and an insurance company ($9 mil per year).

It’s been an interesting string of retirement announcements in the last month to say the least. Between Rodriguez, Fielder, and Tex, that totals 1420 HR.

The sport is losing some big time hitters to age, injury, and ineffectiveness. It will be interesting to see who takes their spot as some of the best hitters in the league.

One of the biggest stories of August was the fact that there were so many injuries. Some significant and some head scratchers.

Trevor Story was on pace to have the best power hitting streak of any Rookie Shortstop in league history. With a torn ligament in his thumb, a historic rookie season was quickly ended.

Story lead all rookies in HR, and was only 3 off Nomar Garciapara’s rookie record for Shortstops.

Story had the lead in RBI’s (72), was second in runs (67) and third in average (.272). Needless to say, Story was a safe bet for Rookie of the Year.

Michael Brantley was supposed to be the boost the Indians needed as they push for the playoffs. They’ve been waiting all season for their former all-star to reach the field.

Let’s be honest, if he can return to his 2014 form where he had 45 2B, 20 HR, and 23 SB he could be just what the doctor ordered to get the Indians moving toward a World Series date. Sadly, his shoulder still isn’t healing.

The Labrum that was fixed has actually held up well. The problem, this time, is bicep tendonitis that the Indians believed was fixed by Brantley’s latest surgery.

The thought is that Brantley should be healthy by the end of December and will be ready to report (mostly healthy, though probably needing some rehab) to Spring Training when the time comes.

Nathan Eovaldi was pitching better than he ever had this season. He did have a high ERA (4.76), but that’s to be expected when you pitch in NY.

Nathan Eovaldi

When he went down on August 10, he had a 2.4:1 K:BB ratio and limited his walks to 40. The Yankees were hoping that he’d be able to put it all together this year, but he hasn’t quite made it to the top of the mountain.

Sadly, he was pulled from his start on August 10 with elbow discomfort. By August 16, it was decided that he’d need Tommy John surgery, and on August 19, he went under the knife.

It’s tough news for a player young, flamethrower who has shown the potential to be a #2 starter with time.

Nick Castellanos was having a career year when he fractured his hand on August 6. In his third full season, Castellanos already has career highs in HR, Runs, Average, OBP, Slugging, and OPS.

He’s been well above league average this year for the first time in his career (OPS+ is 123). This was the year that Castellanos was going to make a turn, and he seemed to be doing so.

Sadly, he’s already missed 30 games this season, and is still 2-3 weeks from making it back. He’s a young player who has the potential to become a star.

We’re all hoping that he gets healthy quickly, and can return back to form as the season ends.

Stephen Strasburg may be the most notable name on this list of injured players. But can any of us say that we’re surprised by the fact that he’s on the DL? Strasburg has made 30 starts twice in his career.

It was a bit of a scare to hear that Strasburg’s injury had anything to do with his elbow. It’s especially concerning when you consider the fact that Strasburg had Tommy John surgery in 2010.

Thankfully, it seems as though the injury is minor. Dusty Baker is expecting Strasburg bag on the mound “pretty soon”.

There’s no guarantee what that means, and I think they’ll give him another week to rest as he preps for a playoff run.

It may be a smart move to keep him as fresh as possible given that the Nationals believe they have a shot at the World Series this year.

The real head scratcher of August’s injuries comes from Yoenis Cespedes. The injury isn’t as much a problem as the timing and circumstances of the injury.

Apparently, Cespedes injured his quad earlier this season and has been feeling “lingering discomfort” since the end of July.

On August 4, the Mets decided to place him on the DL. They did so a few hours after he was spotted golfing with MLB Network’s Kevin Millar.

Maybe it’s non-news, but someone should tell the Cuban slugger that golfing is a great idea when you’re going on the DL.

As we wrap up the August that was, let’s look forward to the next month, where the playoffs will be decided.

Not much has changed in the standings since last month- the only closely contested divisions will be the NL West and the AL East.

Don’t look now, but the Royals are making a run for a wildcard spot. They had an 11-game winning streak during August, and finished the month 20-9.

If they can repeat something close to that, they’ll have a shot at making the playoffs, even if it is just a 1 game playoff in the Wildcard round.

The Orioles are starting to show some signs of life as well. They may not have an elite record for the month of August, but their players are starting to heat up.

Chris Davis season highs for HR (10) and walks in a month (17) during August. He also bounced back from a .153 average in July with a .214 average in August.

His OBP ballooned to .342 for the month. Mark Trumbo struggled through July, but is also turning it around.

He set season highs in HR and walks just like Davis and had 21 RBI to boot. Trumbo also had 19 runs which is a high.

They’re battling the fact that Chris Tillman earned a spot on the DL, but it looks like Gallardo and Jimenez may be picking up the slack.

As it sits now, the Red Sox and the Orioles are going to face off in the AL Wildcard. It looks like it will be the Giants and the Cardinals facing off in the NL Wildcard. Below I’ve listed the matchups that I expect.

Wildcard:

Giants vs. Cardinals

Red Sox vs. Orioles

ALDS:

Cubs vs. Giants

Rangers vs. Orioles

Nats vs. Dodgers

Indians vs. Blue Jays

ALCS:

Cubs vs. Nats

Rangers vs. Indians

World Series:

Cubs vs. Rangers

There is always going to be post season magic. So, you can never be too sure about these picks. As I stated previously, I wouldn’t be shocked to see the Royals make it into the Wildcard round somehow.

I always wouldn’t be shocked if the Orioles made a push and really challenged the Rangers. Right now, I’m not willing to make that bet. We’ll have a better idea of what to expect when we do September’s recap.

Here’s to the best month of regular season baseball – the most interesting runs, the chance to see young new players, and finalizing the playoff picture.

Until next month; enjoy the game, enjoy the stories, and remember – baseball is the only sport that’s been played professionally for 150+ years and you can still expect to see something that’s never happened every day.

Look for those anomalies; they’re what make the sport so much fun.