Good morning and a happy holiday weekend to all of you and yours. I hope everyone has a safe and enjoyable celebration this weekend (we don’t need any more Jason Pierre-Paul incidents popping up). As we flip the calendar to July this morning, let’s take a look at some of the hottest Junes around baseball!
Yankees, Braves, and Red Sox Dominate June
As the weather began warming up in June, so did a few teams. The Yankees have been hot all season, but they won a whopping 22 games and finished the month at 22-6 and 56-21 overall on the season with a 12.5 game lead over the Boston Red Sox in the AL East.
Aaron Judge led the Yankees with 11 home runs in June and now has 29 on the season as he flirts with the possibility of chasing down Roger Maris’ franchise record of 61. We also learned today that Judge led all American League players in the first round of All-Star voting, so he’ll be guaranteed a spot in the starting lineup later this month in Los Angeles.
The Atlanta Braves fell a win behind the Yankees for the most in baseball last month but finished the month 21-6 after starting the month with a 23-27 record. The Braves’ hot month that included their second-longest winning streak in franchise history (14 games) has them entering July with a 44-33 record and they trail the Mets by just 3.5 games with plenty of baseball to be played.
Atlanta’s 21 wins this month tied their franchise-best mark for wins in a single month. The Braves went from World Series hangover to World Series contenders again in 30 days. Pretty darn impressive.
Dansby Swanson mashed in June for the Braves. Swanson is tied with Mike Trout for the most home runs since June 13 (6) and posted a .953 OPS. The Braves shortstop is a strong candidate for the NL Player of the Month thanks to his scorching June performance at the dish.
Like the Braves, the Red Sox did all they could to turn around their bad start with a sizzling month in June. Boston came into June with a 23-26 record and entered July with a 43-33 mark after they went 20-6 last month. Unfortunately for the Red Sox, they’re chasing the Yankees, so they made up very little ground in the American League East.
Aside from the hottest three teams in baseball right now, the Phillies (19-8), Guardians (18-10), and Astros (16-9) all had winning percentages north of .600 last month.
The Phillies are still 7.5 games behind the Mets in the NL East, but after firing Joe Girardi, they’ve turned things around. The big question for the Phils now is whether or not they can continue their winning ways of June with Bryce Harper sidelined for the foreseeable future with a thumb injury that might require surgery that will push his return to the end of the season.
Cleveland is doing the most with the least right now, thanks to some savvy moves by their front office the past couple of seasons. The Guardians took three-of-five from the Twins in a massive series at Progressive Field this week and won in walk-off fashion on each of the last two nights. And, get this, both players to pick up the game-winning hit for the Guardians the past two days were acquired in those aforementioned savvy trades the past couple of seasons. Josh Naylor, acquired in the Mike Clevinger trade with San Diego in 2020, hit a walk-off two-run home run on Wednesday night and Andres Gimenez, acquired in the Francisco Lindor trade last season, got the job done yesterday. Cleveland trails the Twins by just a game in the AL Central.
The Astros also had a strong month winning 16 games and running their lead in the AL West up to a sizable 11.5 games over the Texas Rangers. It’s entirely possible that the Astros had one of (if not the) more impressive months despite the win total not being quite what the other teams in this group have when considering who they did it against. The Astros wrapped up a nine-game stretch against the Yankees and Mets (the two top records in each league), in which they went 7-2.
Yordan Alvarez and Kyle Schwarber Raked in June
There were 13 players with an OPS north of 1.000 in June, with Houston’s Yordan Alvarez leading the way with a 1.346 OPS in 96 plate appearances. Alvarez turned 25 on Monday, and he’s in some elite company regarding left-handed hitters. Jeremy Frank tweeted a cool nugget this week about just how elite Alvarez has been early in his career:
I mentioned Dansby Swanson as a strong candidate for the NL Player of the Month honor earlier, but Kyle Schwarber has made just as good a case as anyone. Schwarber’s 1.065 OPS ranked seventh in baseball in June, and the Phillies DH clubbed 12 home runs and drove in 27 runs.
Schwarber’s 12 home runs in June have his season total up to 23, which is tied with Yordan Alvarez for second in baseball (behind Aaron Judge’s 29) and tops in the National League. ESPN Stats & Info pulled together some wild stats for Kyle Schwarber whose favorite month is apparently June!
Schwarber’s 12 dingers were the most in baseball last month, but he wasn’t the only one who broke out the big lumber. Aaron Judge (11), Anthony Rizzo (10), and Mike Trout (10) joined Schwarber in double-digits for the month. The ball was flying in June, with a total of 960 home runs hit, more than any month this season but still down from last June’s 1,016 home runs.
Cease, Ohtani, and Gray Among Top Hurlers in June
Dylan Cease quietly (because the White Sox suck) had a dominant month of June for the South Siders. Cease led baseball in ERA among starters with at least three starts with a 0.33 ERA and led all starters in both strikeouts (45) and K/9 (14.82). Cease twice notched career-bests in punchouts this month in back-to-back starts with 11 strikeouts against the Blue Jays on June 21 and 13 against the Orioles on June 26.
Not much is going well for the Washington Nationals this season, but Josiah Gray was filthy in June. Gray finished second to Cease in the ERA department (1.13) and third in strikeouts (44). Tony Gonsolin (1.24), Carlos Rodón (1.25), and Dean Kremer (1.29) rounded out the top five in ERA this month behind Cease and Gray, while Charlie Morton (45), Aaron Nola (43), and Shane Bieber (42) and Shane McClanahan (42) joined Cease and Gray in the top five in strikeouts last month.
While all of those guys were impressive as heck, we can’t forget about Shohei Ohtani. On the mound, Ohtani has allowed one earned run in 26.2 innings (over four starts) for a minuscule 0.34 ERA with a 12.15 K/9. Ohtani’s strikeout to walk ratio in that span is 36-6, and Ohtani rang up 11 White Sox hitters in just five and two-thirds innings in Anaheim. The two-way phenomenon has a 21 and two-thirds innings scoreless streak right now.
Odds and Ends …
- While we’re on the topic of incredible June performances, Sammy Sosa’s power display in June 1998 was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever witnessed as a baseball fan.
- June is cool, but Bobby Bonilla’s favorite month is July:
- July 1 also marks the anniversary of the release of A League of Their Own. This year’s anniversary is the 30th.
- The San Diego Padres officially dropped their Nike City Connect uniforms today:
- Here’s the Padres release video:
- The Cubs are playing with their much less creative City Connect uniforms today, but at least the hats are sick.
- The MLB Draft is right around the corner. MLB Pipeline put together a list of every team’s best draft picks of the last decade:
- Michael Perez became the THIRD Pirate to hit three home runs in a game this season, joining Bryan Reynolds and Jack Suwinski!
- Here are your NL All-Star Game finalists:
- Here are your AL All-Star Game finalists:
- Plenty of great baseball on the national slate for this 4th of July Weekend. Enjoy!