Friday, July 1, 2022

June 2022 in Review [feat. Ian Happ]


As expected, a lot of big baseball things happened in June, and a lot of developments solidified how this season is going to go. While on paper, it does look like a fairly commonplace year so far, considering that the Yankees, Dodgers, Astros and Cardinals are leading divisions, there's so much stuff going on that sets this year apart from years before it, and so many players that are changing the direction of the game. 

So, as usual, we'll start this recap post on June with a rundown of my predictions from last month:

1. It's June, so the Toronto Blue Jays finally show up. I say they lap the Yankees for first. No, this didn't really happen. The Jays had a decent month, but the real rising force in the AL East was the Boston Red Sox. None of them truly caught the Yankees, though. 

2. A very big player comes off the IL and completely changes the script for their team. I will allow Kyle Lewis to be grandfathered into June if it is him. Well considering that he went right back onto the IL a few games later, it certainly wasn't Kyle Lewis. I really don't know if anyone qualifies here. I was expecting this to be filled by someone like Stephen Strasburg or Lance Lynn, but the former lasted exactly one inning and the latter hasn't really changed much in Chicago.

3. Right now the NL West goes Dodgers-Padres-Giants. The order will change by June 30. 0 for 3. Though the Padres have certainly caught up to the Dodgers, they're still in the exact same place in the standings that they were a month ago.

4. One specific team is going to get hit very hard by injuries this month it's gonna cause them to sink like a stone in the standings, and I pray it is not my New York Yankees. Again, you have to stretch to fit someone in here. I guess the White Sox have fallen and given way to Cleveland? But it really depends on your definition of sinking like a stone.

5. The Rays trade somebody prematurely so they can loosen the cap early. I just talked about this yesterday so it might as well now. No, not really. In fact, their biggest played of the month was a guy they let in when doing a cap-loosening trade. 

So yeah, bad month for my predictions. Seeing as I'd done so well the past few months, I think I was due. 

Well, let's go forward with 5 Things from June 2022 That No One Could Predict:

1. The Phillies Going On a Tear After Firing Girardi. While I am forever frustrated with Philadelphia's fixation with firing the head coach and thinking that'll solve all the problems, I must say that the first two weeks of Rob Thomson's tenure as manager of the Phillies outdid my expectations. The Phillies won 9 straight, sweeping competitors like the Angels and Brewers, boosting the seasons of Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler, and proving that Bryce Harper was still the alpha in the NL. Granted, the team has been a lot more human in the last 10 days, and I can only imagine they're in for a rough July without Bryce Harper, but having a better month and a new regime definitely changes things for the rest of the run.

2. The Guardians lap the Twins. The Twins taking the AL Central alone was something a lot of people didn't see coming, but the Guardians, one of the teams I thought would be a bottom feeder this year, building back up and vying for 1st at the end of the month, shocked me even more. Not that they looked bad, I just figured that they were rebuilding and they needed time to all get on the same page. This season, not only have the low-budget contact guys been doing well, but they've had a lot of really nice young standouts helping them out, including Oscar Gonzalez and Andres Gimenez. The other night they had Josh Naylor walk it off and make it even closer in the divisional race. For a division I thought belonged to Chicago, the Guardians, and the Twins, have made things much more interesting. 

3. Isaac Paredes comes to life in Tampa. I think people knew Isaac Paredes would be good in Detroit, but because he was mixed in with so many other prospects that were fighting for playing time [Derek Hill, Willi Castro, Akil Baddoo], it was hard for him to stand out. After being traded for Austin Meadows, he similarly struggled to make an impact, and deferred to Yandy Diaz for the first few months. In June, however, he finally proved why he was such a well-regarded prospect for the Tigers, and has 21 RBIs and a TEAM LEADING TEN HOME RUNS. Not even Randy Arozarena has hit more home runs than that. I don't know if he's gonna be this good all season, but Paredes has definitely proved his worth to his new team, as well as reaffirming how good the Rays are at getting stars for a bargain.

4. The Orioles are somewhat good this year. It's definitely hard to say that being a last place team against four definite competitors means 'good', but at 35 wins, and with a very consistent core with a great deal of players over 1.0 WAR right now, the Baltimore Orioles are playing better than they have in years. Like, it may not immediately look like it, but all of Cedric Mullins, Austin Hays, Trey Mancini, Anthony Santander and Ryan Mountcastle are playing well. Jorge Lopez has become one of the most unhittable closers in baseball. Dean Kremer finally figured out how to pitch in the majors. Jorge Mateo leads the league in steals. And Adley Rutschman has finally been figuring things out in his last few at-bats. This team is only 5 or 6 games behind the 3-man battle for fourth place. Typically it's a lot more of a deficit than that. I'm not saying something will happen, but...there's more of a chance of it this year than there ever has been. 

5. Tony Gonsolin is the best Dodgers starter. No disrespect to Gonsolin, but when you see a rotation made up of Clayton Kershaw, Julio Urias, Walker Buehler, Tyler Anderson, Andrew Heaney and him, you expect the less established quirk-baller to bring up the rear. But even after being underestimated by everybody, including the Dodgers themselves, Tony Gonsolin has a 1.58 ERA, a 9-0 record, an 0.851 WHIP, and 69 strikeouts. Urias, Anderson and Kershaw are pitching well too, but...Gonsolin is the alpha right now, and it's pretty awesome to see.

And for contrast, 5 Things from June 2022 that People Probably Could Have Predicted 

1. The Red Sox Arrive. Yeah, we all knew it was coming, it was all a matter of when. The tools were there, the team was great, Bogaerts, Devers and Martinez were already hitting. It was just a matter of when everyone else was gonna catch up. And now that Story's hitting again, Pivetta's back to his 2021 self and John Schreiber is making himself known in relief, the Red Sox are now at the top of the 2nd place train, and are looking to go even further up the standings in July. 

2. The Angels become Trout & Ohtani & No One Else again. You hate to see it, especially after how good they looked the first half of the season, but once again the core of the Angels have collapsed, and it's really just down to Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani having career highlights every night while nobody else wants to help. I hate that it always ends up like this for this team. 

3. The Astros are still really good. While losing not only Michael Brantley but potentially Yordan Alvarez and Jeremy Pena [sidenote, who let the potential MVP play the field for a game anyway?] might sting a bit, the Astros are still far and away the favorites in the AL West, and they were able to embarrass the Yankees for a few games. I think they're here to stay.

4. Some of these rookies just needed some time to heat up. Julio Rodriguez, Bobby Witt Jr. and Adley Rutschman had weak debuts and struggled for a bit, but now they're all playing pretty well and figuring out how to hit well in the majors. Some people need a learning curve, not everyone can be Jeremy Pena and get it immediately.

5. The Braves are actually good again. Maybe not the extent of the come-up, but I think we all knew the Braves would contend this year, even without Acuna's better numbers. 

Now we have my picks for the 5 Most Important Players of June 2022:

1. Aaron Judge, New York Yankees
2. Sandy Alcantara, Miami Marlins
3. Yordan Alvarez, Houston Astros
4. Paul Goldschmidt, St. Louis Cardinals
5. Kyle Schwarber, Philadelphia Phillies

And finally, I will make 5 Predictions for July 2022:

1. As per usual, something involving the All-Star Game will piss me off.
2. Brian Cashman will do something misguided at the trade deadline.
3. Either the Braves, the Padres, the Guardians or the Cardinals will flip their division.
4. There will be a long-awaited return from an oft-injured player. Maybe Tatis, maybe Matt Boyd, maybe Lewis, maybe even Sixto Sanchez finally. 
5. Someone will catch up to Aaron Judge on the HR leaderboards in a big way, and it's someone who hasn't quite caught fire yet. 

That's what I thought of June 2022, I hope July is just as satisfying.

Coming Tonight: A rookie pitcher for the Mariners who hasn't taken a year and a half to figure out the majors.

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