What you may have missed in August, Tim Beckham living up to No. 1 status, Gary Sanchez, Byron Buxton, MLB nickname power rankings and more.
The MLB season itself is a grind, and no month epitomizes that quite like August.
The 31 days between July and September can be a sort of no-man’s land for many baseball fans – especially those whose favorite team is well out of contention for a postseason spot. The trade deadline has passed, and though waiver trades can happen, the biggest names are off the board. Top prospects are trickling onto big league rosters, but September call-ups are still on the horizon. Division chases and Wild Card races are heating up, but with more than a full month left on the schedule, there’s not yet a sense of urgency associated with individual games.
Little League Classic? Players Weekend? Eh, cute, I guess, but with the NFL preseason in full swing and college football set to kickoff this weekend, fans of multiple sports have plenty of options to give their attention.
But if your attention has waned this month, here’s a taste of some of the things you’ve missed:
- Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton has hit .360/.455/.933 with an MLB leading 13 home runs in 21 games in August. Stanton leads the majors in Wins Above Replacement (1.8 fWAR), OPS (1.388), ISO (.573) and wOBA (.547) since the beginning of the month. Stanton has 46 home runs this season.
- Nelson Cruz, Josh Donaldson and Joey Gallo are tied for the American League lead with 10 homers this month. Cruz leads the majors in wRC+ (249) and tops the AL leaderboard in wOBA (.534) and OPS (1.336). Gallo leads the AL in ISO (.561).
- Orioles third baseman Manny Machado leads the majors with 30 RBI while hitting .341/.340/.714 with nine home runs. Machado walked for the first time this month Tuesday night.
- Machado’s new teammate, Tim Beckham, who was acquired from the Rays at the trade deadline, leads the major leagues with 37 hits in 21 games, and is tied with Charlie Blackmon for the MLB lead with 22 runs scored since he debuted with Baltimore.
- On a similar note, Howie Kendrick has hit more like Mike Trout since joining the Washington Nationals at the trade deadline. In 17 games with Washington, Kendrick is hitting .364/.407/.709 with five home runs and nine RBI. He ranked No. 10 in the majors in wRC+ (185) since switching teams.
- Despite playing 40 fewer games, Mike Trout (5.6 fWAR) now ranks third behind Aaron Judge (6.0 fWAR) and Jose Altuve (6.0 fWAR) in Wins Above Replacement according to Fangraphs. Look out, AL MVP voters.
- Indians starter Danny Salazar (1.1 fWAR) and Blue Jays lefty J.A. Happ (1.0 fWAR) lead the majors in Wins Above Replacement among pitchers, with Jone Gray, Jake Arrieta and Jimmy Nelson tied for the NL lead with 0.9 fWAR. Interestingly enough, Nelson has a 5.59 ERA in five starts.
- Nationals starter Gio Gonzalez is 3-0 with a 0.46 ERA in three starts. Gonzalez has scattered 14 hits in 19.2 innings, and has 18 strikeouts, putting him in the driver’s seat for NL Pitcher of the Month honors.
- Indians ace Corey Kluber is 4-0 with a 1.78 ERA and 35 strikeouts in 30.1 innings across four starts. Only Chris Archer (40) and Chris Sale (39) have struck out more hitters in August. Teammates Danny Salazar (35), Trevor Bayer (32) and Carlos Carrasco (32) all rank among the top eight in the majors in strikeouts.
- Brewers closer Corey Knebel, Nationals closer Sean Doolittle and Yankees setup man David Robertson have each posted a 0.00 ERA. Knebel leads the majors with nine saves in nine opportunities this month and has 15 strikeouts in 11.1 innings. Doolittle has saved eight games in eight tries in August, and has allowed just five base runners in 10 innings of work.
- Red Sox closer Craig Kimbrel has struck out 54.3 percent of the hitters he’s faced in August. Oddly enough, Kimbrel, who has is 3-0 this month, with Cole Hamels, Corey Kluber and teammate Rick Porcello – all 4-0 – the only MLB pitchers with more wins.
- Kanley Jansen struck out 51.3 percent of the hitters he has faced in August. No other pitcher with at least 10 innings of work this month has struck out higher than 40 percent of the hitters he has faced. In 10 appearances this month, Jansen has a 0.90 ERA and seven saves in seven opportunities. He has allowed one run (a solo home run), on six hits and one walk with 20 strikeouts.
- The Dodgers are a major league best 15-4 in August, but the Twins (15-7) are tied for the most wins in MLB this month. The Red Sox (14-4) and Angels (14-6) are close behind.
And we still have a week to go until September.
Three things we learned this week
1. Tim Beckham now living up to No. 1 hype
The Tampa Bay Rays drafted Beckham No. 1 overall in the 2008 MLB Draft, ahead of players like Pedro Alvarez (No. 2), Eric Hosmer (No. 3), Buster Posey (No. 5) and 2017 All-Stars Yonder Alonso (No. 7) and Justin Smoak (No. 11).
Though he didn’t receive the huge prospect hype of the No. 1 overall picks that followed – Stephen Strasburg, Bryce Harper, Gerrit Cole, Carlos Correa – on his way to the big leagues, there is a certain status that comes with being selected first overall. An MLB franchise with its pick of literally every draft eligible baseball player is searching for a Ken Griffey, Jr., Chipper Jones or Alex Rodriguez-type superstar. Or at least David Price, a consistent All-Star and staff ace, whom Tampa Bay selected first in the 2007 MLB Draft.
But Beckham never developed his star potential with the Rays. He hit just .247/.299/.421 in with 31 home runs and 102 RBI in 259 games across four seasons with the club, earning 3.0 Wins Above Replacement, according to Fangraphs. On July 31, Tampa Bay (in the midst of a Wild Card chase) traded him to Baltimore for low-level minor league pitcher Tobias Myers. Typically, trading a former top draft pick would dominate headlines, but the move was dwarfed by the Yu Darvish and Sonny Gray deals, among others, in news coverage.
Nevertheless, Beckham has been a star player with the Orioles. The shortstop is hitting .416/.435/.719 with five home runs and 12 RBI, and has hit safely in 19 of his 21 games with his new club. No player in the majors has more hits (37). In fact, no one is close. Manny Machado ranks second with 31 hits in August.
Beckham has been worth 1.5 wins with the Orioles, according to Fangraphs, which ties him with Mike Trout for third in the majors since the trade deadline. Only Giancarlo Stanton (1.3 fWAR) and Josh Donaldson (1.7 fWAR), who have combined for 23 home runs in the month of August, have been worth more this month.
2. Gary Sanchez stepped back into the spotlight
Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez burst onto the national scene in 53 games as a rookie in 2016, hitting 20 home runs and driving in 42 runs to finish second in the AL Rookie of the Year race. Sanchez understandably entered the 2017 season with lofty expectations, but a biceps strain in April cost him nearly a month of action. During that time, Aaron Judge exploded into the headlines and highlight reels, and Sanchez has been largely overshadowed by his 6-foot-7 teammate since.
But Sanchez’s first full season in the big leagues has been nearly as impressive as Judge’s. With two home runs Tuesday night, the 24-year-old is hitting .274/.348/.536 with 25 home runs and 69 RBI in 91 games. In August, Sanchez has hit .304/.375/.739 with nine home runs and 18 RBI in 19 games.
He did this Tuesday:
3. Byron Buxton is turning the corner, probably, maybe
The Twins began the month 4.5 games out of the second AL Wild Card spot, but have played their way back into a playoff position. Entering Wednesday, Minnesota is 65-60 and holds a half-game lead over the Angels for the final postseason spot.
A big reason for the August turnaround is the play of center fielder Byron Buxton. Already an elite defender in the outfield, Buxton has shown terrific improvement at the plate in recent weeks. Hitting .240/.305/.369 in 106 games this season, Buxton has improved to .316/.349/.566 in August. Four of Buxton’s nine home runs have also come this month.
If you’re interested in more of a gory-math rundown of Buxton’s improvement, check out Fangraphs’ Jeff Sullivan on the topic from Tuesday.
Play of the Week
U Can’t Touch This. Braves infielder Brandon Phillips stole second base Tuesday night despite Mike Zunino’s throw beating him by roughly 100 feet. Phillips used a nifty swim move to avoid Kyle Seager’s tag.
Although, this catch from the Little League World Series was a tad more impressive.
Analytical League Leaders
Weighted Runs Created Plus (wRC+), since August 1
- Nelson Cruz, Seattle Mariners (249)
- Giancarlo Stanton, Miami Marlins (243)
- Josh Donaldson, Toronto Blue Jays (235)
- Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels (206)
- Tim Beckham, Baltimore Orioles (206)
- Eugenio Suarez, Cincinnati Reds (205)
- Joey Votto, Cincinnati Reds (203)
- Joey Gallo, Texas Rangers (202)
- Brian Dozier, Minnesota Twins (194)
- Howie Kendrick, Washington Nationals (185)
- Gary Sanchez, New York Yankees (183)
Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP), minimum 20 innings, since August 1
- Danny Salazar, Cleveland Indians (1.76)
- A. Happ, Toronto Blue Jays (1.78)
- Charlie Morton, Houston Astros (2.49)
- Eduardo Rodriguez, Boston Red Sox (2.61)
- Jake Arriettam Chicago Cubs (2.74)
- Jon Gray, Colorado Rockies (2.78)
- Chris Sale, Boston Red Sox (2.84)
- Chad Kuhl, Pittsburgh Pirates (2.92)
- Marcus Stroman, Toronto Blue Jays (2.99)
- Jimmy Nelson, Milwaukee Brewers (3.00)
Random MLB Power Rankings
There are countless great baseball names, either given by parents or bestowed on them at some as nicknames. The early days of professional baseball are full of them: Mordecai “Three Finger” Brown, “Shoeless” Joe Jackson and “Old Hoss” Radbourn come to mind. And there have been many more over the decades: “The Say Hey Kid,” “Yogi” Berra, “Catfish” Hunter, “Goose” Gossage. Recent decades brought us “The Big Hurt,” “The Big Unit,” “The Rocket,” “The Man of Steal,” and “The Kung Fu Panda,” among others.
With Players Weekend on the horizon, and things like “Joey Bats,” “Bringer of Rain,” “Corey’s Brother” and “Thor” (though Noah Syndergaard is unfortunately still on the disabled list) on display on player’s jerseys, it’s a great time to look back at some of the best nicknames in baseball history.
Top 10 nicknames in MLB history
- George Herman “Babe” Ruth
- “Charlie Hustle,” Pete Rose
- “Big Papi,” David Ortiz
- “Shoeless” Joe Jackson
- James “Cool Papa” Bell
- Leroy “Satchel” Paige
- “Mr. October,” Reggie Jackson
- Dennis “Oil Can” Boyd
- “The Human Rain Delay,” Mike Hargrove
- Larry Wayne “Chipper” Jones
Doug Fister surrendered a leadoff home run Tuesday night, then didn’t allow another hit the rest of the game as the Red Sox beat Cleveland 9-1. Fister’s complete-game one-hitter was the first since Jack McDowell in 1991 to include a leadoff homer.
Albert Pujols connected for career home run No. 610 Tuesday night, which put him atop the MLB all-time leaderboard for home runs by a foreign-born player. Pujols, born in the Dominican Republic, passed his countryman Sammy Sosa for the honor.
Adrian Beltre, also born in the Dominican Republic, and Venezuela’s Miguel Cabrera share second place among current foreign-born MLB players with 459 home runs.
Aaron Judge was 1-for-1 with three walks, two runs scored and an RBI in the Yankees’ 13-4 win over the Tigers Tuesday, which snapped his streak of 37 consecutive games with at least one strikeout. Judge’s streak ended in a tie with Bill Stoneman, who struck out in 37 consecutive games between the 1971 and ’72 seasons, for the most in MLB history.
Three Reds pitchers – Homer Bailey, Kevin Shackelford and Michael Lorenzen – were a combined 3-for-3 at the plate in Tuesday’s 13-9 loss to the Cubs in Cincinnati. According to stats guru Ryan M. Spaeder, it was the first time three pitchers got a hit for the same team since the Montreal Expos did it April 17, 2002.
Bartolo Colon picked up the victory for the Minnesota Twins in Sunday’s 12-5 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks. Colon has now beaten all 30 MLB franchises.
The MLB Classic, hosted at 2,500-seat Bowman Field in Williamsport, PA, set the record for lowest capacity game in major league history, according to MLB Stats & Info.
The Cincinnati Reds set a new franchise record with their ninth grand slam fo the season Sunday.