Saturday, June 1, 2024

May 2024 in Review [featuring Jose Ramirez]

That's another month of the 2024 MLB season in the books. We're seeing the story of the season begin to emerge, as well as the season's key figures and developments. This was also a month where my two favorite teams were among the best in baseball, so it certainly was an enjoyable month for me.

First, let's go back to the 5 predictions for May 2024 I made at the end of last month's post.

1. Jackson Holliday returns to the major leagues and finally cracks it. NOPE. Still hasn't happened. 
2. One of those guys who's been an early pitching favorite gets injured and Manfred gets away with it. Just the other day, Zac Gallen. Merrill Kelly as well. The D-Backs have to have a bone to pick here.
3. Somebody big who hasn't really had a great start to the season jumps into the conversation in a major way. AARON JUDGE. Undeniably Aaron Judge, but also Jose Ramirez, who had a quiet start and then started absolutely hammering homers out of Progressive Field. 
4. There's at least more mirage start waiting to pop, and we'll see it in May. The A's, sadly. A few injured pitchers and there was no hope left for them.
5. An unbelievable home run tear by someone we're not expecting. Look at Gunnar Henderson go. I knew he'd be a great hitter but he's put up some excellent power numbers, and it's only making the Orioles better.

With that in mind, let's talk about 5 things from May 2024 that no one could predict.

1. The Phillies are the best team in baseball. 40 wins by May 31, and this is before The Month Where Kyle Schwarber Hits All His Home Runs. I could not be happier with this team, and it's not just because the starting pitching has been so reliable. This is a team where you can have your heroes show up, Harper and Bohm and Schwarber, or you can have someone like Edmundo Sosa or Garrett Stubbs do something incredible. This is a team where Kody Clemens can come in and hit for contact. This is a team where Trea Turner getting hurt isn't a death sentence. This is a team where Taijuan Walker can come off the IL and the fans will say they preferred the guy who was pitching before he got activated. There is so much depth to this team, and they're so much fun to watch, and I know it could all change very soon but I've enjoyed it so  much.
2. The Reds drop to last. It is now evident how much of the 2023 Reds' success was thanks to having T.J. Friedl, Matt McLain, Christian Encarnacion-Strand and Brandon Williamson intact, because without them, they just can't compete. It feels like there are giant, gaping holes in this team, thanks in part to these injuries. Nick Martini, Stuart Fairchild and Santiago Espinal are playing important roles in this team, and I don't really think we're at the point where they like...should be. I thought the point of getting Jeimer Candelario was that this team has leveled up, and now it feels like people like Candelario are holding them back. At the very least Elly de la Cruz and Hunter Greene are keeping this team from being wholly terrible, and they've gotten a lot of people back to make them more competent, but their May was a low point for a team that seemed to be headed big places.
3. Kevin Pillar becomes unstoppable. Since 2021, Kevin Pillar would be best described as a supporting player. After becoming a star with the Blue Jays, Pillar ended up as a depth outfielder for the 2021 Mets, then struggled with injuries with the Dodgers in 2022, and had yet another depth role with the Braves last year. And after getting cut by the White Sox after 17 games this year, it was not looking like Pillar would have a substantial role in a team's success going forward. Then Mike Trout got hurt, the Angels needed an outfield option, and Pillar was a cheap free agent. In 19 games, Pillar is somehow hitting .409 with 5 home runs, 21 RBIs and 27 hits. Keep in mind, statistically speaking Pillar was never the greatest hitter, even in his prime, and he already has a 9 batting WAR figure in this time period. I can already see him begin to cool down, but the fact he was able to come alive like this in May was truly incredible. 
4. The Mariners pin down first place.  Going into this year, there were all these stories about how the AL West would be a battle between the Astros and Rangers, and that the Mariners were already wasting the peak years of Julio and JP, and the sportswriters were setting themselves up for that. Then a funny thing happened- nobody could hit any of the Mariners' starters, and all the Rangers' starters got hurt. And look, even with the Rangers' injuries, they still have a great lineup, and Semien and Seager are both killing it. But a lot of their punch has been lopped off with these injuries, and it's a different, more low-budget kind of team. Josh Smith is the best statistical player. Meanwhile, the Mariners have six excellent starters, plus some production from Julio, Cal and Dylan Moore. I think they deserve first, and I hope they can hold onto it as the Rangers get some people back, and the Astros maddeningly close in on them.
5. Luis Gil is for real. With Gerrit Cole gone, people worried that the Yankees' starting picture would be a problem, and it really hasn't been. Even now, with Clarke Schmidt getting hurt, there's still Cody Poteet and Clayton Beeter who can make a few starts before Cole gets back. But the biggest surprise might be the guy who took Cole's rotation spot, Luis Gil. When last we met Gil, he was setting rookie records then getting hurt for 2 years. I worried, like Deivi Garcia, we'd never see him again. And yet we did. In 11 games, Gil is 7-1 with a 1.99 ERA and 77 Ks. Say what you will about the workmanship of Cortes and Rodon, but people have been able to hit them. Gil is a lot harder to get around, and he's been keeping people down all season. I hope he makes a habit out of this.

And the inverse of that, 5 Things from May 2024 that a lot of people could have predicted.

1. This Paul Skenes guy sure can pitch. 4 starts, 30 Ks. A 0.909 WHIP. Regardless of some early foibles, Skenes is delivering everything he said he would, and he's really fun to watch. The Pirates must be proud of themselves, and Henry Davis must be pissed.
2. The Astros' death period does not last the whole season. Yeah, once Verlander and Valdez got back their rotation looked a little more normal, and if they can get decent starts out of Hunter Brown and Spencer Arrighetti, they'll be alright. Quite obviously everybody's hitting, and the schedule's evened out so they got to annihilate the A's like 6 times this month. The good news is they only managed to win 1 game against the Yankees. 
3. Jose Ramirez is still Jose Ramirez. Even if the Guardians are still employing a more contact-friendly approach, they can still trot Ramirez out there to completely terrorize opposing pitchers. Ramirez hit .295 in May, with 11 home runs and 33 RBIs. He is now up to 57 RBIs on the season, and we're 2 months in. I think it's unfair to assume he'll cross 100 RBIs for the fourth time, but it's definitely something that could happen. 
4. John Means apparently cannot go more than 4 games without needing to miss a year of playing time. John Means has pitched 10 games since 2022. If the Orioles didn't have many other good pitchers, I'd be more worried, but...yeah.
5. Lol Mets. They were around .500 during April, and then this month happened and now they're 10+ games under .500. Lindor still isn't hitting, despite a great day yesterday, the heroes are extremely tepid, Sean Manaea is the best pitcher, and one of the best relievers on the team just got DFA'd because an umpire wanted to play god on a checked swing. You're hearing that the Mets are now drastically trying to restructure the team and turn things around, and you hope that it works, but...this month certainly wasn't a great sign. 

For posterity's sake, the 5 Most Important Players of May 2024

1. Aaron Judge, New York Yankees
2. Shohei Ohtani, Los Angeles Dodgers
3. Ranger Suarez, Philadelphia Phillies
4. Gunnar Henderson, Baltimore Orioles
5. Paul Skenes, Pittsburgh Pirates

And to set things up for next month, here are 5 Bold Predictions for June 2024

1. One or more of the Yankees and the Phillies slow down a bit to give everyone else a chance.
2. An intriguing return from the IL revitalizes a team. 
3. A struggling team does something drastic and probably ill-advised.
4. An unknown player for a low-market team breaks big out of absolutely nowhere.
5. I'm going to two games this month. Something incredible happens at one of them.

That was a really fun May for me. Hopefully June is just as enjoyable.

1 comment:

  1. Good point about Means ,just found out he is out for the season.