June 2016 – They Can Hit for Miles and Miles

June has been an interesting month for baseball, whether you like hitting, pitching, defense, or a little bit of a mixture of all of it combined.

We’ve seen double-digit winning streaks, injuries to some of the biggest names in the league, players in new positions, and rare offensive feats at the plate.

Whatever your preference is, June had all of it.

If you’re looking for great pitching, look no further. There were 24 different times where a pitcher made it through 8 innings and gave up 3 hits or less.

Likewise, we were treated to a total of 39 games where a starting pitcher struck out at least 10 batters.

That includes 6 games where the starting pitcher had 10 K’s in 5 IP. That’s pretty incredible.

The best such outing was achiever in matching games from Jose Fernandez and Carlos Carrasco who each had 14 strikeouts.

Carlos Carrasco Cleveland Indians

If you’re not interested in single game performances, feel free to look at the 10 players who had at least 4 wins in June.

You had the typical guys like Kershaw and Sale, but there were also guys like Dough Fister, JA Happ, and Jorge De La Rosa who were dominant.

There were also 9 starters who pitched at least 30 innings and had a sub 2 ERA.

The cream of the crop was Max Sherzer and Jon Lester. Sherzer went 4-0 with 58 K’s and a 1.96 ERA in 41.1 Innings. Lester Went 4-0 with 44 K’s and a 1.41 WHIP in 44.2 Innings.

For those who like Offense, there were 5 players who hit 10 plus HR during June.

The most surprising of those 5 may have been Wil Myers who may finally be turning into the player that he was expected to be when the Rays drafted him.

In fact, Myers was the number 1 hitter in baseball during June with 11 HR, 33 RBI, 25 R and a .429 OBP. Wil Myers helped his team maintain a .500 record for the month.

But the real fireworks came in Baltimore where Jones had 11 homeruns and accounted for 20% of the team total.

That being said, it took every day in the month of June, but the Orioles broke the MLB team record for homeruns in the month of June.

Orioles set MLB record for home runs

The team finished with 56 which is a record for June. That total also gives them the third most home for any month.

The league got homerun happy and hit 52 homeruns on June 26, which is a new record as well.

It seems like the league is getting closer and closer to being an all or nothing league.

That is to say, there were 73 pitchers who had an ERA of 2.10 or less during June, but the power factor hasn’t gone away.

It makes me think that guys are hitting homeruns or striking out a lot more often than in previous years.

Baseball is all about riding the highs and lows of a season though. The Indians are at a great high, hitting on all cylinders and reaching 12 straight wins as they close out June.

That winning streak allowed them to finish 22-6 for the month with a +68 run differential. That’s good enough for them to finish June at 18 games over .500 which gives them a 7 game lead in the standings.

It’s going to be tough for anyone to catch them at this rate. The record for consecutive wins is 26 games back in 1916.

However since 1917, no one has surpassed the 20 game streak that the Athletics posted in 2002.

The Indians don’t look like they’ll be slowing down anytime soon. During the streak, the ERA for all starters on the team is 1.86.

They’ve got a +54 run differential going thanks, in part, to scoring first in 10 of their 12 games. The relievers have been even better than the starters, posting a 1.29 ERA.

For what it’s worth, the city of Cleveland is living on a high, as of the writing of this article, no team in Cleveland has lost in 2 weeks.

That’s right! After the Indians loss on June 15, the Cavs swept the rest of the series, and the Indians have been on a tear.

Let’s applaud Cleveland and allow them to enjoy their time while it lasts- as soon as football gets started, things will change.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, multiple National League teams are dealing with injuries from some of the biggest names in baseball.

Clayton Kershaw is dealing with what the team is calling a “mildly” herniated disc. The Mayo clinic compares a herniated disk to a jelly donut where “the softer ‘jelly’ pushes out through a crack in the tougher exterior”.

Clayton Kershaw Dodgers

That doesn’t sound so pleasant. However, the Dodgers seem to think that Kershaw will be back to normal in 2-3 weeks.

The other National League team that is worrying about an injured pitcher is the Nationals. The difference here is that everyone knew there would be an injury at some point this season.

After all, Strasburg had Tommy John surgery in 2011 (missing the season), was shut down early in 2012 (because of the TJ), missed time in 2013 because of a number of injuries, and had the shortest season of his career in 2015.

The injury doesn’t seem like a big issue, but it’s not this injury that is a problem, it’s all of Strasburg’s injuries that are becoming the issue. Especially when you consider his $175 million contract that he signed earlier this season.

I applaud that nationals for stepping up to the plate, but I’m not sure I’d feel comfortable with giving all that money to a player who has played a full season once in his career.

The Nationals have to be feeling a bit of fear here – Sherzer has been masterful. So has Strasburg, but they won’t be staying in the race unless both pitchers are healthy.

Today’s pitchers have really run into an injury bug. We’ve started at the top with Kershaw and Strasburg, but here are a few other well-known names – Greinke,  Syndergaard, Matz, it’s only going to get worse as the season wears on.

Greinke is fighting an oblique issue. He may only miss one start, but an oblique is a funny animal- it can be fine one day and a mess the next.

As for Syndergaard and Matz, they’re both fighting against bone spurs. Both are calling the injury minor, and trying to battle through it. Fortunately for fans, Syndergaard’s humor is still intact.

After complaints from an ESPN analyst, Syndergaard brought a box of tissues out and offered them “in case the waterworks start again”.

Finally, we look to a lesser known pitcher named Phil Hughes. He’s been around for a long time, and holds the record for K:BB ratio in a season (11.63:1) but hasn’t seen those numbers in a couple of years.

In what may be the worst injury of this list, Hughes is battling thoracic outlet syndrome which can only be remedied by removing a part of one Hughes’ ribs.

Let’s not forget that it was all the way back on June 1 that Felix Hernandez last played. He should be back in about two weeks.

The position players are faring slightly better, but are having injury struggles of their own.

Joe Panik is trying to return from a concussion, and has been placed on the 7 day DL.

There are hopes that he’ll quickly return, but Travis Shaw has been battling the same issue for over a month now.

The Diamond backs have lost 3 position players this month, including Socrates Brito who is out indefinitely.

Dexter Fowler has already been out for two weeks with a bad hamstring.

Let’s not forget Michael Brantley who finally got healthy enough to play only to hurt himself after 11 games. He’s out indefinitely.

JD Martinez is on the DL with a fractured elbow. A few other names to consider – Lorenzo Cain (hamstring), Joc Pederson (shoulder), Domingo Santana (elbow), David Wright (neck), Lucas Duda (back), Jon Jay (wrist), Matt Duffy (achillies), Kevin Kiermaier (hand),and most notably Jose Bautista (toe).

I’m not sure if it’s the league today, or that players may have used steroids and their bodies are breaking down, but there seem to be more injuries now than ever before.

The current DL list includes at least 5 superstars as well as a number of former/current all-stars.

With all these struggles, you can assure yourself of two things in baseball – trades and signings.

Because of how depleted Tampa Bay’s outfield group is, they decided to trade for Oswaldo Arica who signed with the Twins in 2007.

He hasn’t been incredible in the majors, but also hasn’t seen a ton of time. He had 251 career games with the Twins across 4 seasons.

The Rays still see potential in the 25 year old, and hope that he can continue the hot start he’s had since joining their roster.

Next, the Dodgers traded for a veteran arm in the likes of Bud Norris. Norris isn’t anything special as shown by his career 4.43 ERA and the fact that the Dodgers are his fifth team (the fourth in three years).

However, after a horrid start to the season (8.74 ERA in 5 starts), Norris turned it around to the tune of a 2.08 ERA in his last 17 appearances (5 starts).

It’s a low-risk, high-reward possibility as the Dodgers only gave up two relief prospects.

Next, in a bit of a head-scratcher, the Marlins traded for a 40-year-old closer in Fernando Rodney.

They’ve already got a closer in AJ Ramos has 24 saves and a 1.74 ERA. So, that means that there will be two closer in the bullpen, but it sounds like Rodney will become the setup guy.

What’s more interesting is that the Marlins gave up a flame-throwing pitcher who has an elite fastball and change-up. He’s also developing a curveball, and has shown solid command.

It seems like a lot to give up for a team that had a reasonable 3.85 ERA from the bullpen.

In other news, the Mets are so desperate to recover from injuries that they made two acquisitions, both equated to signing free agents.

When Lucas Duda got hurt, the Mets “traded” for James Loney. In this scenario, the Mets traded cash for James Loney, and essentially bought the rights to his contract.

Likewise, after the news that David Wright would be out for a few months, the Mets looked long and hard at their options.

Second baseman Neil Walker even offered to move to third if it would help the team out. In the end, the Mets decided on an unusual reunion with Jose Reyes.

For many years, Reyes was lightning in a bottle at the top of New York’s lineup, and the Mets are hoping he can return to form.

It looks like Walker may move to 3B in order to allow Reyes to play 2B. The trade market is already heating up, and we’re not even into the heat of the summer.

It should be interesting as we get closer to the deadline.

Youngsters and rookies are proving to be some of the most exciting players to watch. It may seem odd to use both “youngsters” and “rookies”, but sometimes the two are not the same.

Take Junior Guerra for example. He’s a rookie pitcher for the Brewers. Based on the term rookie, you would assume that he’s young, but he’s actually 31 years old.

He was signed as an international amateur in 2001, and it took him nearly 15 years to make his major league debut. The Brewers are actually the fourth organization Guerra has been with.

Now, as a 31 year old rookie, Guerra is 5-1 with a 3.25 ERA in 69.1 innings this season. He’s proving to be an interesting player.

As for other youngsters who are having a great season, you’ve got the usual suspects in Trout and Harper.

You’ve also got guys like Manny Machado and Kris Bryant who are demanding to be in the MVP discussion.

Machado is on pace to hit 35 homeruns and 60 doubles. No player has ever reached both of those milestones.

It would make Machado the 18th player to reach 35 HR and 50 2B’s. He’d be the youngest player since Albert Pujols in 2003 to reach those marks.

Kris Bryant on the other hand is leading the National League in HR and Runs scored. He’s on pace for 43 HR, 122 runs, and 118 RBI.

He would become the 15th player to reach those numbers before turning 25.

Other guys who have reached those numbers at such a young age include Foxx, Mantle, Mays, Gehrig, Dimaggio and Rodriguez. That’s pretty good company to be in.

According to baseball reference, Kris Bryant became the first player to ever hit 3 Homeruns and 2 Doubles in the same game.

Kris Bryant Chicago Cubs

One of the highlights of June’s schedule every year is the Amateur Draft. For the general statements, it was exactly as you would expect.

The “best” drafts belonged to the Braves, Cardinals and Red Sox according to most experts.

The worst draft day teams were the Angels, Orioles, and Diamondbacks. None of those names are surprising in my opinion.

At this point, only 3 of the true first round selections have not signed (Braxton Garret- MIA, Jason Groome- BOS, and Anthony Kay- NYM).

The draft was interesting in that three of the top four selections were high school players, and most experts see no problem with that.

Many experts have said that some of the high schoolers were the safest picks in the draft.

What’s also interesting is that the guy listed as the number one prospect from the draft hasn’t signed yet.

What may be more interesting is that Anthony Kay (NYM) is holding out despite being taken 31st overall and being considered the 43rd best prospect. So, somehow, the Mets reached for a young left-handed pitcher, and are still having trouble signing him.

As new players are selected and brought up to the majors, the sad fact is that there are other players who will struggle.

Sometimes it’s a superstar who has grown old, and sometimes it’s a guy who still fairly young and struggled. In St. Louis, it’s a veteran who has lost it.

Trevor Rosenthal has never been quite as good as you would expect based on his save numbers.

In the last 2 seasons, Rosenthal has a 2.65 ERA while earning 93 saves which sounds great. But he has a 1.3 WHIP and walks 4.3 batters per 9 innings.

In fact, in 2014, Rosenthal became the fourth player in history to have 45 saves and a WHIP above 1.4.

That tells me that he’s always played with fire, and that his year, he is finally getting burned.

A similar situation is a young man in New York named Michael Conforto. He’s the owner of a beautiful left-handed swing, but that beauty isn’t working this year.

As a rookie, he batted .270 with 9 HR, 14 2B, and 26 RBI in 56 games. This year, he’s amassed a .222 average with 10 HR, 13 2B, and 30 RBI in 65 games.

While the power numbers have remained the same, his average and OBP have taken a huge hit.

So, the Mets sent him back to Triple-A to help him figure out where he’s gone wrong.

It’s typically not a good thing when you play 9 more games than your rookie season and have 24 more strikeouts, less runs, and less doubles, and only one more hit.

When players are struggling like Conforto and Rosenthal, it makes way for younger players to come up and try to make a name for themselves.

In June, we saw 30 players make their Major League debuts. There were 14 SP, 6 RP,  and 10 position players.

Tyler Anderson probably made the best debut as he went 6.1 innings and only allowed 1 ER. He’s continued his dominance with a 2.66 ERA over 23.2 innings on the season.

Hitters haven’t fared quite so well. Tim Anderson was the highlight in going 2-3 with 1 run scored in his debut.

He’s translated that into a .300 average with 3 HR and 14 Runs scored in 3 weeks.

By and large, most of these rookies are struggling. So, who is going to be this year’s surprise rookie who takes off?

It looks like that honor could go to Wilson Contreras who made his debut on June 17. He didn’t register an official at bat that night, but has impressed at the plate since.

In 2 weeks with the Cubs, Contreras has a .318 average with 3 HR, 10 RBI, and 7 Runs scored.

He’s shown that he’s able to player catcher or outfield, and is already reminding fans of Kyle Schwarber from last season.

No one knows if he can keep this pace up, but Cubs fans will certainly enjoy the show while it lasts.

As always, we’ve got to discuss what players are surprising the league. Ian Desmond has been nothing short of amazing as he was almost an afterthought when the season began and is performing as a top 10 player.

Desmond has 15 HR, 52 RBI and 60 Runs scored. He’s also got a .376 OBP. Ortiz is also having a great season for his age.

As he plans on retiring, Ortiz is showing that he’s still able to hit. Ortiz has 19 HR, 64 RBI, and 37 Runs while carrying a .435 OBP.

As for teams that are playing above their head – did anyone have the Orioles winning almost 60% of their games through the end of June? I certainly didn’t.

The Indians and the Rangers are competing for the best record in the American league with 49 and 52 wins respectively.

But, the most interesting story, in my opinion, is that the Nationals are keeping up with the Orioles, and leaving hope for a local World Series.

With the Orioles at 47-32 and the Nationals at 49-32, the World Series could travel 38 miles down I-95. What a treat that would be for the local fans.

There’s a lot to look forward to, and there has been a lot to enjoy in the last month. Who do you think will be making moves at the trade deadline?

Do you think the Indians can challenge the 2002 Athletics for the longest modern winning streak? Are you willing to offer a World Series prediction yet?

We’d love to hear your thoughts.