Summer is in the air. We’re a third of the way done with baseball season and the All-Star Game voting is about to get underway this weekend as the ballots come out. We’re about to enter the heart of the season and there are plenty of things to be excited and worried about as the teams continue to play. We’ve seen teams who had great starts to the year plummet in a matter of a month while we’ve seen teams completely turn things around since a poor start.
It’s time to award players with the regular end of the year awards up to this point in the season, along with recognizing which team improved drastically and who disappointed in May. With that said, let’s look at our monthly review for May.
1 MVP: Nick Markakis, Atlanta Braves
2018 Stats: .332 AVG, 7 HR, 38 RBI
Mike Trout would have been the obvious pick, but Braves outfielder Nick Markakis is having a year that all players entering their contract seasons only wish they could have. The veteran outfielder hit .381 in May with three home runs and 19 RBI while also helping the Braves take over first place in the NL East. Early in his days with the Braves, Markakis struggled to hit for power like he did in his days with the Baltimore Orioles. However, his seven home runs at this point in the year put him on pace to hit at least 15 home runs, which would be a career best as a member of the Braves.
Markakis has shown at 34 years old that he’s more than capable of playing the outfield and has lost no speed with his bat. Markakis has started 53 games this season, committing only one error and 24 in all of his 13 major league seasons. His .395 OBP is a great sign he still has plate discipline too, producing a walk rate (BB%) of 10.1% and a strikeout rate (K%) of just 9.7%. Markakis’s offensive breakthrough has been a big reason the Braves are sitting in first place, and that’s why he is the May MVP over Trout.
2 Cy Young Award: James Paxton, Seattle Mariners
2018 Stats: 4-1, 3.13 ERA
There is no doubt that James Paxton will be the ace of the Mariners rotation soon, and he proved why he should be in May. Paxton posted a 3-0 record with a 1.67 ERA while striking out 51 batters in 43 innings. Oh, and he also tossed a no-hitter in Toronto on May 8, which was also special because Paxton is Canadian himself. Paxton’s dominance in May was a big reason for Seattle’s surprising success, and he’s made an early case to represent the Mariners at Nationals Park for this summer's All-Star Game.
Paxton’s K/9 has been excellent at 11.45 this season and he is also leaving 77% of runners on base. Paxton has had trouble with walking batters, posting a BB/9 of 2.89 in 2018, but his 1.00 WHIP has shown he can get out of jams consistently. Paxton’s brilliance in May was much needed after the Mariners lost Robinson Cano to both an injury and a PED suspension and if Paxton continues this dominance in June, it could boost Seattle and finally help them snap their 17-year playoff drought.
3 Rookie of the Month: Gleyber Torres, New York Yankees
2018 Stats: .319 AVG, 9 HR, 26 RBI
Gleyber Torres has done nothing but gain fans since coming up to the Yankees. His stellar first month of the season may not have been enough to keep the Yankees in first place in the AL East but if Torres keeps up his tear, the Yankees can easily climb back ahead of the Boston Red Sox. Torres’s start has made him an early favorite for the Rookie of the Year Award over Shohei Ohtani too and as long as he continues tearing the cover off the ball like teammate Aaron Judge did last year, Torres should win the award by a landslide.
Torres’s K% is a little high for a rookie at 24.7%, but his .376 OBP is more than acceptable. The good news is Torres has room for improvement and though he’s striking out more than he is drawing walks as the year goes on, he can even those numbers out in a decent amount of time along with helping the Yankees win their first division title since 2012.
4 Most improved team: Seattle Mariners
Even with the loss of Cano and the struggles of Nelson Cruz and Felix Hernandez, the Mariners find themselves one game back of the defending World Series champion Houston Astros in the AL West. Starting pitchers James Paxton and Marco Gonzales have led the way in the rotation to a 17-10 record in May while Jean Segura is hitting a ridiculous .333 and Mitch Haniger leads the team with 40 RBI and 11 home runs.
Many people expected the suspension of Cano to hurt the club down the stretch but the Mariners have arguably been better without their star second baseman, going 12-6 since losing Cano. Could this be the year the Mariners finally reach the postseason? History would appear to be on their side since they won 116 games in 2001 without stars Ken Griffey Jr., Alex Rodriguez, and Randy Johnson on the roster. It still hurts not having Cano for the ride but if the rest of the lineup produces and the pitching continues to get better, getting Cano back will be a plus for the rest of the regular season.
5 Most disappointing team: Arizona Diamondbacks
The Diamondbacks went from going 21-8 and having the best record in baseball going into May to posting a 7-19 record in May and losing first place to the Colorado Rockies. To add insult to injury, the Los Angeles Dodgers appear to have finally woken up in time for the heat of the summer as they sit two games back of second place and three and a half back of the Rockies for first.
The Diamondbacks appear to have finally been bitten by the slow start to Paul Goldschmidt’s season and injuries to key players like AJ Pollock, Steven Souza, and pitchers Robbie Ray and Taijuan Walker. To be fair, the Diamondbacks had to face some of the best pitching in the game in May with games against the Astros, Washington Nationals, and New York Mets, plus two separate meetings with the Milwaukee Brewers. Their recent series win against the Cincinnati Reds was a good sign, but the offense will have to pick up the slack if they expect a shot to compete in the postseason.
6 Manager of the Month: Scott Servais, Seattle Mariners
In Servais’s third year with the Mariners, it looks as if all the pieces are coming together to make this team a legitimate postseason contender. With the club one game back of the Astros for first place, the Mariners are in a great spot to continue their upward trend and reach the playoffs for the first time in 17 years. The Mariners 17-10 record in May was one of the best in the league and it puts them three and a half games behind the Yankees for the first AL Wild Card spot in the playoffs if the season ended today.
As long as the Mariners can avoid injuries to key guys like Paxton, Mitch Haniger, and Segura and get production from guys like Cruz and Kyle Seager, there is no reason this team can’t make the playoffs. The window of opportunity to win is now, and the club made a great deal with the Tampa Bay Rays in bringing Denard Span and Alex Colome to the team after losing Dee Gordon to a broken toe and GM Jerry Dipoto can’t be afraid to make more corresponding moves to help the team win down the road.
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