Baseball is a strange, strange game. Just when you have a player or team figured out, they do something completely opposite of what you would expect.
This was the story of May. Teams and players that started out scorching hot in April, turned to mush in May and vice-verse. Let’s take a look at those teams and players and the ten things we learned about baseball in May…
10. The Colorado Rockies Were a hot mess
The Rockies ended April with the second best record in the National League and the third-best record in baseball with a 17-8 mark. Then May happened.
The Rockies lost and they lost a lot. The Rockies finished May with a 8-21 record in the month and the worst record in baseball. How’s that for night and day?
Not only were the Rockies losing games, but they lost Jorge de la Rosa for the season with an elbow injury. The Rockies ended April planning for another “Rocktober,” but now they are just trying to stay afloat in the NL West.
Speaking of the NL West…
9. The Arizona Diamondbacks are pretty good
I don’t even think manager Kirk Gibson thought the Diamondbacks would be in first place at the end of May, but that’s exactly were Arizona is. The Diamondbacks used a 19-10 record to catapult themselves to the top of the division.
Arizona can thank their pitching for the turnaround. The Diamondbacks finished the month with a 3.03 team ERA and a 1.21 WHIP, which were both good for third in baseball.
There bullpen was solid as well and was anchored by this guy…
8. J.J. Putz was a great signing
The Diamondbacks’ bullpen finished last in baseball in ERA (5.74), BB/9 (4.6), HR/9 (1.3), LOB Percentage (65.8) and WAR (-2.1). Needless to say they needed someone to help turn their bullpen around and that person was Putz.
Putz signed a two-year, $10 million contract in the offseason and so far he’s been worth every penny.
Putz has a 2.00 ERA on the season to along with a 50 percent ground-ball percentage and 27 strikeouts in 27 innings. In the month of May he was especially tough. He didn’t allow a run and struck out 10 in 13 innings.
Putz was nearly unhittable in May. These next two guys were unhittable for at least one game…
7. Francisco Liriano fires first no-hitter of season
From the “I would have never seen this coming in a 100 years” category, Minnesota Twins LHP Francisco Liriano threw a no-hitter against the Chicago White Sox on May 4th. Liriano walked six (not a typo) and struck out two in the 1-0 Twins victory.
This was not only Liriano’s first no-hitter, but it was also his first complete game at any level. Liriano had never thrown a complete game in the minor leagues or major leagues. That’s a span of 304 starts.
Liriano was a master of getting out of trouble on that night. He would walk a guy, fall behind 2-0 to the next guy, and somehow wiggle out of trouble. He was behind batters all night and only threw first-pitch strikes to 11 out of the 30 batters he faced.
Liriano fired the first no-hitter of the season and the second one wasn’t too far behind. Not to be outdone…
6. Justin Verlander throws his second no-hitter
Verlander threw his second no-hitter on May 7th as the Detroit Tigers beat the Toronto Blue Jays, 9-0. Verlander was brilliant in his 108-pitch effort.
His fastball was routinely 99-100 mph and he had all four pitches working that day. But it was his fastball that really set the tone for the game.
Like Francisco Liriano, Verlander didn’t strike many batters out. Liriano had two K’s and Verlander had just four. The Blue Jays were so conscience of Verlander’s fastball that they couldn’t hit anything else. And when they hit his curve or change, it was a little roller to short or a can of corn to center.
Verlander became just the 24th pitcher since 1919 to throw multiple no-hitters. Six of those pitchers are in the Hall of Fame and Randy Johnson and Roy Halladay will be there.
Verlander is a three-time All-Star and looks to be well on his way to his fourth All-Star game appearance this season. Joining him in that game should be this guy…
5. Matt Joyce was an offensive machine
Joyce finished the month of May with a .414/.470/.759 slash line with seven HRs. He also finished second in baseball in 2.1 WAR.
Joyce has never been given the chance to play everyday in the majors, but this year he has taken the bull by the horns and made the most of his opportunity.
I don’t think Joyce will start in the OF for the AL (he doesn’t play in NY), but he should start making hotel reservation in Arizona.
One month doesn’t equal a career and Joyce has a long ways to go to reach the level of this Hall of Famer…
4. Harmon Killebrew passes away
After a long bought with esophageal cancer, former Minnesota Twin and Hall of Fame OF/1B/3B Harmon Killebrew passed away on May 17th at the age of 74. Killebrew passed away at his home in Scottsdale, Ariz., with his wife, Nita, and their family at his side.
Killebrew is 11th on the major league all-time HR list with 573 and was the American League MVP in 1969 when he hit .269/.427/.584 with 49 HRs in 709 plate appearances. He is also the Twins’ franchise leader in offensive WAR, SLG, OPS, games played, HR, RBI, and extra-base hits.
It’s always very sad when baseball loses a legend. Killebrew won the AL MVP in 1969 and I predicted who would win the NL MVP this season, but that’s not going to happen because…
3. Buster Posey's season is most likely over
The San Francisco Giants suffered a devastating loss when Posey broke his leg and tore ligaments in his ankle when Scott Cousins collided with the catcher. It was a gruesome injury that left the Giant catcher potentially out for the season.
It’s more than likely Posey will miss the remainder of the season.
There has been a lot of controversy over the play, and my take on things was that Cousins did nothing wrong. He went in hard at Posey. It’s a play that’s pretty common in baseball and unfortunately Posey got hurt.
I can’t wait for the day when someone on the New York Yankees or Boston Red Sox slides into first head first and separates his shoulder. The outcry to ban sliding head first into any base will reach new heights.
Posey won the NL ROY award last season and these two are going to try to win the AL award this year…
2. The Kansas City Royals youth movement is underway
The Royals started their youth movement by dipping into their stacked farm system and bringing up two of their most prized prospects. The Royals called up both 1B Eric Hosmer and LHP Danny Duffy in May.
Hosmer didn’t disappoint as he hit .283/.321/.515 with five HRs in his first 106 major league PAs. He still needs to learn how to hit left-handed pitching, but that should come with time.
Duffy has shown some promise (14 K’s in 15.1 IP in May), but his control has really hurt him. Once he can harness that, he should be a quality major league pitcher.
And the No.1 thing we learned about baseball in May…
1. Joe DiMaggio’s hitting streak is alive and well
There are some hitting records that may never be broken, and I am starting to think DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak may be one of them. Los Angeles Dodgers’ OF Andre Ethier was the latest would-be hitter to test Joe D’s record and fail.
Either got up to 30 games and just when the hype started, he got stopped right in his tracks. Washington Nationals 3B Ryan Zimmerman got up to the magical 30-game mark as well, but couldn’t get any further.
With the game so specialized these days and with more pitchers than every throwing 95-plus, hitters face too many obstacles to hit in 56 straight games.
Well that’s it for May. When we do this for June, I think we will see some trades sprinkled into this list. Till then, enjoy the beginning of summer and we’ll circle back in July to recap June.
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