Upper Deck Chatter’s MLB Players of the Month – June 2014

Listen, I know I didn’t guarantee that this thing would be regular because well don’t go promising checks that your tush can’t cash isn’t the right way to go (Otto taught me) (really hoping memory serves well enough for that reference to be accurate). Before we get to the winners of each league’s player and pitcher of June, let’s take a look at how May’s winners fared this past month:

  • 1B/DH Edwin Encarnacion, TOR (UDC’s AL Player of the Month in May) – .305/.394/.589 with six doubles, seven home runs and 17 RBI. Encarnacion did nothing wrong in the month of June, he just didn’t quite live up to his incredible power numbers from May. His Jays did struggle this past month, however, going from a 21-9 record in May to a 12-15 mark in June.
  • RF Giancarlo Stanton, MIA (UDC’s NL Player of the Month in May) – .308/.405/.529 with eight doubles, five home runs and nine RBI. Similar to Mr. Encarnacion, Stanton had a solid June but he just didn’t live up to the impressive numbers he posted in May. Unlike Edwin, however, Giancarlo just doesn’t have help in the rest of his lineup. Not even close.
  • RHP Corey Kluber, CLE (UDC’s AL Pitcher of the Month in May) – 1-3, 2.89 ERA in 37.1 IP, 32 K/11 BB. Kluber’s performance two months MAY have been a fluke, we’ll see. What we do know is he went from being one of the best in the league in May to being only slightly above average in June.
  • RHP Aaron Harang, ATL (UDC’s NL Pitcher of the Month in May) – 3-2, 4.42 ERA in 36.2 IP, 21 K/20 BB. Picking Harang as the best pitcher in the NL may have been a reach at the time, I’ll admit. I’ll also admit that I root against Aaron Harang when he pitches, in much the same way I root against Joe Saunders, Chone Figgins, and others. If you come play for the Mariners, are unsuccessful, and then go somewhere else, why would I want to see you succeed? That stuff’s just upsetting. So here we are heading into July and Harang is starting to crumble. His 6.8 K/BB ratio in May fell mightily to 1.05, and Harang also went from allowing no homeruns in May to five in June. Oh, and his FIP jumped from 1.40 to 5.37 even though his BABIP fell from .421 to .319.

And now for this month’s honors…

AL Player of the Month: CF Mike Trout, LAA (.361/.471/.759 with 10 doubles, seven homeruns, five stolen bases and 21 RBI in 102 PAs in the month of June).

Less than a week ago, Mike Trout did this to a baseball in Kansas City.

It was bound to happen eventually — that Mike Trout, the greatest human being (we think he is, at least) to play baseball on this planet, would be named Player of the Month. How great was Trout in the month of June? His AL-leading 2.3 WAR mark is far from a surprise, but what is most amazing to me is that led in two very different types of categories; slugging (.759 slugging pct & .398 ISO) and getting on base (17.6% walk rate & .471 OBP), with all four of those marks leading the American League in the month of June. Oh, and seeing as people love projecting a team’s successes or failures onto a player when considering individual awards, Trout’s Angels increased their win percentage from the previous month, finishing June with a 15-10 mark.

Honorable Mentions: Jose Altuve (Houston Astros), Kyle Seager (Seattle Mariners)

NL Player of the Month: C Jonathan Lucroy, MIL (.359/.427/.602 with seven doubles, six homeruns and 20 RBI in 117 PAs in the month of June).

Not to be outdone, Jonathan Lucroy hit this grand slam blast to help his team take the lead over the Diamondbacks in a contest a little more than a week ago.

I would usually tend towards selecting a catcher in a situation like this, all other things being equal. With Lucroy we can look to his team’s stellar performance of late as well, as we did with Trout, and see that the Brewers were 18-10 (.643) in the month of June and now lead the NL Central by six games. Lucroy has been a key part in that success and in the month of June ranked among the best in the National League in these categories: BB/K rate (1.20, Led NL), batting average (.359, 2nd in NL), on-base percentage (.427, 4th in NL), slugging percentage (.602, 4th in NL), OPS (1.029, 4th in NL), wOBA (.441, 4th in NL), and wRC+ (185, 4th in NL) just to name a few. For my money, Jonathan Lucroy should be the starting catcher for the National League in the All-Star Game, without question.

Honorable Mentions: Andrew McCutchen (Pittsburgh Pirates), Billy Hamilton (Cincinnati Reds).

AL Pitcher of the Month: RHP Felix Hernandez, SEA (3-1, 1.22 ERA in 44.1 innings pitched, 54 K/6 BB).

You know who was fired up when he got the third out in the 8th inning on Sunday? This guy. Photo Credit: AP Photo/Ted S. Warren

You know who was fired up when he got the third out in the 8th inning on Sunday? This guy. Photo Credit: AP Photo/Ted S. Warren

If it were close, I’d feel as if I had to again admit some sort of bias, but it wasn’t. Felix led the American League in FIP (1.36) and xFIP (1.67) and was in the Top 5 among AL pitchers in K/9 (10.96, 4th), K/BB (9.00), HR/9 (0.20, 2nd — he only allowed one after not allowing any in May), strikeout rate (33.5%, 2nd), K-BB% (29.8%, 2nd), BAA (.168), and really a whole bunch of others. Yes, there are other quality starters in the American League. There are so many in fact that this year’s All-Star squad figures to be quite impressive. But for the month of June it’s Felix Hernandez without question

Honorable Mentions: David Price (Tampa Bay Rays) and Masahiro Tanaka (New York Yankees).

NL Pitcher of the Month: LHP Clayton Kershaw, LAD (6-0, 0.82 ERA in 44.0 innings pitched, 61 K/4 BB, AND ONE NO-HITTER).

If you want to have a good smile, this’ll do it. Kershaw’s interview with (the still gorgeous) Alanna Rizzo – formerly of MLB Network – includes getting a couple different flavors worth of Gatorade bath, engulfed in bubbles blown by his teammates, and a hug from his lovely wife Ellen.

For the record, Jake Arrieta had one heckuva month, capped off by last night’s start against the Red Sox. But when you pitch a no-hitter, you’re easily the favorite for this award. When you not only pitch a no-hitter, but join Randy Johnson as the only pitcher in the modern era (since 1900) to not allow a run and strike out at least 35 batters over a three-start span? One could very easily argue Kershaw was the player of the month for June, not just pitcher. Here’s another great fact for you: Kershaw became only the fourth pitcher in MLB history to go 6-0 with a sub-1.00 ERA and at least 50 strikeouts in a calendar month, joining Verlander in June 2011, Randy in April of 2000 and Hideo Nomo in June of 1995. One more bit of Kershaw’s greatness: Clayton is only the third Dodgers pitcher to reel off six consecutive starts of with a win, no more than two earned runs and at least seven strikeouts. Fernando Valenzuela notched seven straight in 1981 and Sandy Koufax had eight straight in 1966. They both won the Cy Young in those respective seasons, and for my money the award is Kershaw’s to lose right now.

Honorable Mentions: Jake Arrieta (Chicago Cubs), Jordan Zimmerman (Washington Nationals).

Those are my selections for Players and Pitchers of the month of June. We’ll have more baseball content again soon for you!

– Dylan

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About Dylan Jenkins

I'm a proud Seattlite currently living in Queens, NY. Outside of sports, I enjoy crime dramas - specifically police procedurals - as well as a wide range of music, everything from Top 40 to Iron & Wine, Bob Dylan & Rogue Wave. I am a cat person, which is to say I'm a human who enjoys felines. I have a tremendous sweet tooth that isn't very discerning, and I refuse to observe a number of unwritten social rules.
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