2018 MLB Surprises

Every Dodger fan knows by now that Max Muncy is the biggest surprise in baseball this year, but there are other surprises out there, and today I’m going to take a look at them.

They may not be all-stars but each of these players are hitting a baseball better then they have ever done.

Catcher – Francisco Cervelli has been in major league baseball since 2008 and his highest wRC+ in that time as a full-time player was 117. It is hard for Cervelli to get full-time at-bats because injuries have plagued his career. This year Cervelli has the 2nd best wRC+ at 139 for all catchers with at least 150 plate appearances.

1st Base – we have three candidates for 1st base. Max Muncy, Matt Adams, and Jesus Aguilar. We don’t have any 3rd base candidates so I’m going to move Max Muncy over to 3rd. We have no outfield candidates and since Matt Adams played some outfield this year I’m going to move him to the outfield. This leaves Jesus Aguilar who has been crushing for the 1st place Brewers. Jesus has shown he can hit in the past but nothing like this. His wRC+ of 149 is the 3rd best for all 1st baseman with at least 150 plate appearances.  The two players above him are Max Muncy and Matt Adams, which means that Jesus has a higher wRC+ than Freddie Freeman, Paul Goldschmidt, and Joey Votto.

2nd Base – Danny Descalso has only been known as a field first, hit last type of player during his long utility career. This year he changed that equation and has a wRC+ of 122 which is more impressive when you consider his best before this was 90.

3rd Base – Hey, here is Max Muncy. You know his story.

Shortstop – Eduardo Escobar wasn’t a complete loss at the plate before this year as he did post a 101 wRC+ once before but this year his 127 wRC+ is getting lost among the great hitting shortstops in baseball.

Outfield – Matt Adams is the only name I can use here. Matt had some good years for the Cardinals including a 135 wRC+, but that was way back in 2013 and in only 319 plate appearances. This year Matt has an wRC+ of 154 which ranks 6th for outfielders with at least 150 plate appearances.  Brandon Nimmo is having an outstanding year but I can’t call it a surprise because this is the first year he has ever gotten a good run. Rookies like Juan Soto don’t count.

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Max Muncy is a horrible pinch hitter

and that is the only negative thing you can say about the Max.

As of July 5th, 2018  Max Muncy has the highest wRC+ for National LeagueL 1st baseman, 2nd baseman, and 3rd baseman.  Super small sample size may be in play for 2nd base but it is what it is.

Position wRC+ BB% OBP SLG ISO BABIP wOBA
as 1B 164 15.70% 0.382 0.607 0.35 0.275 0.411
as 2B 296 31.30% 0.594 0.955 0.55 0.313 0.607
as 3B 185 18.00% 0.416 0.658 0.37 0.302 0.443
as PH 86 30.00% 0.4 0.143 0 0.25 0.294

2018 National League All-Star Ballot

Final day for voting so time to get my ballot in.  At some point I want to write in Max Muncy, and in my mind, I can do that either at 3rd base where he started the season, 1st base where he started tearing up the baseball world, or 2nd base which appears to be his position for the rest of 2018.  This might be hard to do though, as legit all-stars can be found for each of those positions.

1st Base –  I’m going with Freddie Freeman here, who is leading the upstart Braves to possible major upset in the National League East. Paul Goldschmidt can match Freddie in stats but it took so long for him to get going. Max could go here, but I’m going with Freddie.

2nd Base – Ozzie Albies and Scooter Gennett are having outstanding years, but I need to a spot to write in Max Muncy and since he is a 2nd baseman going forward, I’m going to write in Max Muncy as my 2nd baseman. This isn’t being gratuitous as Max has a 183 wRC+ while Scooter sits at a still impressive but much lower wRC+ of 140. Just for fun Max Muncy as a 2nd baseman has a wRC+ of 296. 296

Shortstop – I would have thought a Dodger Shortstop would have been the way to go on April 1st, and strangely that might still hold true, it just isn’t the name you thought it would be.  Chris Taylor has the 3rd highest wRC+ at 126 and is close enough to Brandon Crawford at 133 that it would not be laughable to pick Chris Taylor here.  That said, I’m going with Brandon Crawford.

3rd Base – Nolan Arenado would appear to be the pick but………. Eugenio Suarez has the higher wRC+ and if it is close I like to go with the guy who could use a vote so Eugenio Suarez it is.

Catcher – Marlins get their lone All-Star representative with J.T. Realmuto. He is the best catcher in the NL.

Outfield – This is a tough one.  The two best outfielders by metrics right now are Juan Soto and AJ Pollock but neither have at least 200 plate appearances.  So there we are with Matt Kemp being the 2nd best  NL outfielder in wRC+ with at least 200 plate appearances at 146.  Joc Pederson is right behind him with a wRC+ of 140 but in only 236 plate appearances.  Given that Joc is just about a pure platoon player I can’t put him on the all-star team as an All-Star for me, has to be full-time player.  Matt Kemp is going to get one of my votes. Man, Harper is having a poor season for him. Nick Markakis and Brandon Nimmo are good candidates.  Markakis is having a career season and Nimmo has become the best player on a poor Met team. That does not sound like an all-star outfield. Matt Kemp, Nick Markakis, and Brandon Nimmo.

Pos Player
Catcher J.T. Realmuto
1st Baseman Freddie Freeman
2nd Baseman Max Muncy
Shortstop Brandon Crawford
3rd Baseman Eugenio Suarez
Outfield Matt Kemp
Outfield Brandon Nimmo
Outfield Nick Markakis

American League 2018 All-Star Ballot

Nothing like waiting until the last minute to cast your ballot but maybe that is what I’ll do every year.  With a little help from Fangraphs here is what my ballot looks like.

American League:

1st Base – wow, the options are very limited. Matt Olson has the highest wRC+ at a very average of 115. With no other options speaking to me, Matt Olson it is.

2nd Base  – Jose Altuve is still the best 2nd baseman in the AL, but I want to give a shout out to Whit Merrifield and Jed Lowrie.

Shortstop – Francisco Lindor is a slam dunk with his MVP type season.

3rd Base – I’m expecting this to be Jose Ramirez and it is. The Indians have two top five candidates for the MVP playing SS/3rd for them.

Catcher – No need to fear about Tampa Bay not having a valid All-Star representative as Wilson Ramos wins this vote hands down.

Outfield: Mike Trout is a no-brainer. Mookie Betts is a no-brainer. Who do we partner with these two MVP caliber players? For me, it comes down to Aaron Judge and surprisingly Eddie Rosario.  Aaron Judge gets the vote.

Designated Hitter:  JD Martinez. Thank goodness the Diamondbacks did not re-sign this slugger.

Every position but 1st base has a clear leader and bonafide all-star. Strangely enough, the AL 1st baseman are a mediocre lot.  The highest wRC+ in the AL for 1st baseman is 116, Max Muncy has a wRC+ of 183. Just saying.

Pos Player
Catcher Wilson Ramos
1st Baseman Matt Olson
2nd Baseman Jose Altuve
Shortstop Francisco Lindor
3rd Baseman Jose Ramirez
Outfield Mike Trout
Outfield Mookie Betts
Outfield Aaron Judge
Designated Hitter JD Martinez

Andrew Toles hits and waits

The Dodgers are so loaded in the outfield that their top position prospect Alex Verdugo can’t crack the roster and the same holds true for Andrew Toles who was the opening day starting left fielder in 2017.

The only thing either of them can do is keep knocking on the door and eventually, the Dodgers or another organization will give these two a chance at the major league level.

Andrew Toles has already done enough at the major league level to prove he belongs, what he hasn’t been able to do, is stay healthy. Toles missed almost two months of 2018 after missing almost all of 2017 for different injuries. I’m not sure if there is a hotter hitter right now than Andrew Toles who has had six straight multi-hit games. In those six games, Toles has fourteen hits including home runs in the last two games. Over his last ten games, Toles is hitting .400 and now has his AAA triple stat line sitting at .353 / .395 / .534.

I don’t know much about Connor Joe but it is time to find out who he is. The 25-year-old 3rd baseman tore up AA and earned a promotion to AAA, and has continued to scorch the earth. Connor Joe has a 1.253 OPS in 30 AAA at-bats so far.  He was a 2014 first round pick by the Pirates so why is he in the Dodger organization? Turns out the Dodgers acquired him from the Braves who had acquired him from the Pirates with the price simply being international signing money.

John Sickels gives us more on Connor Joe.

It’s little to go on, but Connor Joe has valuable prospect history. He was a first-round pick and has already overcome an injury as well as two trades. The Dodgers may have bought great low value here and added another piece to their National League pennant winning organization.

Manny Banuelos has been the Dodgers best pitcher at AAA all season but will probably never see the mound for the Dodgers until Sept if he is still in the organization at that point.

Brock Stewart had the best game of the season for him yesterday, throwing six shutout innings.

On the downside, Mitch White just can’t get it going and is dropping as fast as Yadier Alvarez in the Dodger prospect ranking.  Two years ago these guys were two of the jewels, but have been bypassed this year as they struggle in AA.

Will Smith the AA catcher sharing time with Keibert Ruiz had a power surge the week before hitting four home runs in four games, and this past week went on a base on balls binge, walking six times in his past three games.

Rylan Bannon is the name to watch for the A Plus Rancho Cucamonga Quakes. Bannon has nineteen home runs and sports a 1.000 OPS. Over his last ten games he is hitting .447 along with eight walks. The 8th round pick from 2017 has blossomed quickly and might be the steal of the Dodger draft. They needed a steal because number one pick Jeren Kendall continues to struggle in the same league, and 2nd round pick Morgan Cooper has yet to throw one professional inning.  Bannon leads the California League in home runs with 19, RBI with 54, 2nd with runs scored with 50, 2nd in OBP at .405, 2nd in OPS at 1.000.  A massive season for Bannon.

 

Max Muncy is now in Manny Ramirez territory

Most Dodger fans can remember the impact that Manny Ramirez had on the Dodger franchise in the summer of 2008. Manny had the greatest run of any Dodger in history, putting up a 1.232 OPS after he was acquired dirt cheap in the summer of 2008.

Max Muncy is now one of seven Dodgers to have an OBP > .400 and a Slug% > .600 with at least 200 plate appearances. The big difference is that these were the final season stats for the other six but for Muncy, the season is still going on, and there is no way in hell he can keep up this pace.

Or can he?

Player             OPS  OBP  SLG  PA Year Age
Manny Ramirez    1.232 .489 .743 229 2008  36
Babe Herman      1.132 .455 .678 699 1930  27
Gary Sheffield   1.081 .438 .643 612 2000  31
Duke Snider      1.071 .423 .647 679 1954  27
Mike Piazza      1.070 .431 .638 633 1997  28
Babe Herman      1.047 .436 .612 637 1929  26
Duke Snider      1.046 .418 .628 653 1955  28
Duke Snider      1.046 .419 .627 680 1953  26
Hanley Ramirez   1.040 .402 .638 336 2013  29
Max Muncy        1.024 .416 .608 221 2018  27
Mike Piazza      1.006 .400 .606 475 1995  26

Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 7/2/2018.

Joc Pederson joins the top five Dodger Slug% for a given month

Joc didn’t finish the month with a Slug% > .900 but his June .867 Slug% still ended up being the fifth best in the history of the Dodger franchise with at least fifty plate appearances.

Player                   Split Year  SLG  PA 2B 3B HR
Andre Ethier               May 2010 .906  58  9  0  5
Matt Kemp          April/March 2012 .893  98  4  0 12
Ron Cey            April/March 1977 .890  94  5  1  9
Wally Moon         April/March 1961 .883  70  4  0  8
Joc Pederson              June 2018 .867  67  5  0 10
Pedro Guerrero            June 1985 .860 110  3  0 15
Frank Howard              July 1962 .856 108  8  1 12
Rick Monday           Sept/Oct 1981 .830  61  1  1  6
Duke Snider             August 1959 .824  85  3  1  8
Johnny Frederick           May 1929 .823  88 11  1  6
Marlon Anderson       Sept/Oct 2006 .813  73  3  2  7
Duke Snider               June 1954 .809 129  9  5  9
Gary Sheffield            June 2000 .798 125  5  0 12

Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 7/2/2018.

Gotta love the Duke Snider line in June of 1954. Duke had nine doubles, five triples, and nine home runs.  Five triples in a month seems like a lot. Let’s find out if it was.

It was not. There are so many with more than five I can’t even list them. Triples weren’t so rare before integration. If we reduce the selection to post-integration we get a more compact leaderboard. Yes, I was surprised that Bill Russell hit six triples in a month but then I saw the year was 1970 and that was when Bill Russell was only 21 year old. Bill Russell would hit nine triples in 1970 but not hit one single home run.

Player              Split Year 3B  PA
Jim Gilliam        August 1953  6 152
Bill Russell       August 1970  6 131
Willie Davis         July 1962  5 117
Duke Snider          June 1954  5 129
Yasiel Puig          July 2014  5  87
Willie Davis       August 1970  5 112
Maury Wills          July 1969  5 142
Dee Gordon           June 2014  5 109
Willie Davis          May 1970  5 123
Spider Jorgensen     July 1947  5 136

Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 7/2/2018.

Dodger Monthly Home Run Leaderboard

Last week I erroneously wrote a post saying that the most home runs in a month by a left handed Dodger was 10 which was wrong. I’m not sure what went wrong with my baseball reference play index search but it sure didn’t work right and I should have re-checked the data because it didn’t sound right.

Below is the leaderboard for most home runs by a left-handed Dodger in any given month. Duke Snider sits on top with 15 in 1953. The most by any Los Angeles Dodger is Cody Bellinger who did it last June.

Player            Split Year HR  PA
Duke Snider      August 1953 15 141
Cody Bellinger     June 2017 13 119
Duke Snider        June 1955 12 119
Shawn Green      August 2001 12 122
Duke Snider      August 1956 12 127
Shawn Green        June 2002 12 108
Duke Snider        July 1955 11 126
Duke Snider        July 1957 11 113
Shawn Green        July 2001 10 117
Shawn Green         May 2002 10 120
Dolph Camilli    August 1940 10 132
Shawn Green      August 2002 10 122
Max Muncy          June 2018 10 101
Joc Pederson       June 2018 10  67

Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 7/2/2018.

Below is the home run leaderboard for right-handed Dodger hitters in any given month.

Player                 Split Year HR  PA  AB
Pedro Guerrero          June 1985 15 110  93
Adrian Beltre         August 2004 13 128 116
Eric Karros             July 1999 12 116 105
Roy Campanella           May 1953 12 114  95
Gary Sheffield      Sept/Oct 1999 12 113  84
Matt Kemp        April/March 2012 12  98  84
Steve Garvey            June 1977 12 125 110
Gary Sheffield          June 2000 12 125  99
Frank Howard            July 1962 12 108  97
Mike Marshall       Sept/Oct 1985 11 152 141
Gil Hodges              July 1953 11 134 122

Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 7/2/2018.

And finally the combined list.

Player                 Split Year HR  PA
Pedro Guerrero          June 1985 15 110
Duke Snider           August 1953 15 141
Cody Bellinger          June 2017 13 119
Adrian Beltre         August 2004 13 128
Frank Howard            July 1962 12 108
Duke Snider             June 1955 12 119
Steve Garvey            June 1977 12 125
Eric Karros             July 1999 12 116
Duke Snider           August 1956 12 127
Shawn Green           August 2001 12 122
Gary Sheffield      Sept/Oct 1999 12 113
Roy Campanella           May 1953 12 114
Matt Kemp        April/March 2012 12  98
Shawn Green             June 2002 12 108
Gary Sheffield          June 2000 12 125
Mike Marshall       Sept/Oct 1985 11 152
Gil Hodges              July 1953 11 134
Duke Snider             July 1955 11 126
Duke Snider             July 1957 11 113

Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 7/2/2018.

June Boom

Late to the party but time to put the Dodger June explosion into proper context. Last year the Dodgers set the monthly home run record for the franchise with 53 home runs in June. This June they broke that record monthly record with 55 home runs. Before last June the previous high mark for the Los Angeles Dodger franchise was only 45, set in 2004 when Adrian Beltre unleashed his assault on National League pitching.

Team         Split Year HR   PA
LAD           June 2018 55  995
LAD           June 2017 53 1097
BRO           July 1953 49 1226
BRO         August 1953 49 1246
LAD           July 2004 45 1080
BRO           June 1950 45 1054
BRO           July 1955 43 1241
LAD            May 1979 43 1094
BRO           June 1954 43 1147
LAD         August 2004 42 1111
BRO       Sept/Oct 1950 41 1303
LAD    April/March 2000 41  966
LAD         August 1979 41 1084
LAD           June 2001 41 1070
BRO           July 1950 41 1176
LAD           June 2000 40 1099
LAD           June 1977 39 1119

Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 7/2/2018.

Now let’s compare the big boppers of this June with last year. Starting at the top, Cody Bellinger loves June. In June of 2017, Cody hit 13 of his 39 home runs in June. This year he has 8 of his 16 home runs in June. In his brief career, Cody has hit 21 of his 55 home runs in the month of June.

Joc Pederson also loves June. Last year Joc only hit 11 home runs, and six of them came in June. This year Joc has also hit eleven home runs, and ten of them came in June. His home run ratio per at bat is ridiculous in the past two months of June. Joc has hit 16 home runs in only 116 at-bats the past two months of June.

Max Muncy is the new kid on the block with his ten home runs in June, and he did it with only 76 at-bats.

Matt Kemp hit six early home runs this past June, so even with his June slump he still managed a power June.

When Corey Seager went down Chris Taylor took over SS and hit like Corey Seager. When Chris Taylor went down, Kiké took over SS and also hit like Corey Seager.

Player 2018 Home Runs/At-Bats 2017 Home Runs/At-Bats
Cody Bellinger 8/85 13/105
Joc Pederson 10/60 6/56
Max Muncy 10/76 0/0
Kiké Hernandez 7/79 4/64
Matt Kemp 6/82 0/0
Yasiel Puig 4/89 6/84
Justin Turner 4/71 5/65
Corey Seager 0/0 5/80

On this date 06/20/2016 Kenley Jansen broke the Dodger save record (161).

And two years later he is targeting save number 250 sometime this week.

Player            SV From   To   G    IP  ERA  FIP
Kenley Jansen    248 2010 2018 506 510.2 2.10 1.94
Eric Gagne       161 1999 2006 298 545.1 3.27 3.40
Jeff Shaw        129 1998 2001 235 235.1 3.37 4.06
Todd Worrell     127 1993 1997 269 268.0 3.93 3.59
Jim Brewer       126 1964 1975 474 822.0 2.62 2.94
Ron Perranoski   100 1961 1972 457 766.2 2.56 3.02

Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 6/20/2018.

Overall Kenley is now 36th but if he continues his current pace of 40 plus saves a year he could be pushing toward the top ten by the end of the 2020 season.