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Yankees’ Trio of Excellence: Judge, Gil, and Soto Shine in May

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Yankees playing baseball

Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge and starting pitcher Luis Gil dominated in May, earning them well-deserved accolades.

Monday morning, Judge was honored as the AL Player of the Month, while Gil earned both AL Rookie and Pitcher of the Month awards.

Judge’s Explosive May: A Historic Performance

After a lackluster April, Aaron Judge exploded in May, batting .361 with a 1.397 OPS, bolstered by a .479 on-base percentage. He also hit 15 home runs in 30 games, putting him on a 162-game pace of 81 home runs.

Judge’s May surge was both impressive and incomprehensible. He consistently barreled the baseball with a frequency rarely seen in MLB history. Over 97 at-bats in May, Judge posted a barrel percentage of 47.8 percent. In other words, nearly half of his batted balls were barreled up. This level of precision is extraordinary.

For context, during his record-breaking 2022 season with 62 home runs, Judge’s highest monthly barrel percentage was 32.3 percent. In his 2017 Rookie of the Year campaign, his peak was 36.1 percent in September. The MLB league average for barrel percentage is over seven percent.

Judge’s blend of power and plate discipline in May was remarkable. Katie Sharp noted that Judge is one of only four players in MLB history to record over 25 extra-base hits and draw over 22 walks in a calendar month, joining legends like Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Ted Williams, and Jimmie Foxx. Judge and Ty Cobb (in 1921) hold the record for most extra-base hits in May, with 26.

The turnaround from Judge’s tepid April to his scorching May was remarkable. At the start of May, Judge was tied for 60th in the league in WAR. By the end of the month, he was first in all of baseball, a meteoric rise in just 31 days. Judge now leads the league in home runs, slugging percentage, wRC+, and walk rate.

In terms of wRC+, where 100 is the league average, Judge posted a 282 wRC+ in May. The next highest was Jose Ramirez at 195.

Was it one of the best months of baseball ever? Not exactly. Babe Ruth posted a higher OPS in July 1920, and Barry Bonds had nearly five better months between 2001 and 2004. However, it could be argued that it was Judge’s best month ever, surpassing his final month of 2017 and any month in 2022. It was a special month by a special player, perhaps deserving even more appreciation than it has received.

Kicking off June, Judge is already 4-for-6 with a home run, three walks, and three runs scored. We might be back here in a month for another chat about his incredible performance.

2 in 1 Gil

Luis Gil received his first career Pitcher of the Month award, becoming the first Yankee to earn the honor since reigning AL Cy Young winner Gerrit Cole won it last April. Gil also joins an elite group as the fifth pitcher in MLB history, and the fourth in the AL, to win both the Pitcher and Rookie of the Month awards in the same month. He follows the Angels’ Matt Shoemaker (August 2014), the Rays’ Chris Archer (July 2013), the Rays’ Jeremy Hellickson (May 2011), and the Marlins’ Dontrelle Willis (June 2003).

Over six starts, the right-hander went unbeaten with a 6-0 record and an impressive 0.70 ERA (3 ER/38.2 IP). He allowed just 14 hits, issued 12 walks, and struck out 44 batters, resulting in a 0.67 WHIP and a .109 opponents’ batting average, averaging 10.24 strikeouts per 9.0 innings. The 26-year-old led the Majors in wins, opponents’ average, and WHIP, ranked second in ERA and innings pitched, and third in strikeouts.

Gil’s standout performance included a career-high 8.0 innings pitched on Wednesday against the Los Angeles Angels, allowing just one run on two hits with two walks and nine strikeouts. This dominant start lowered his ERA to 1.99, a significant improvement from the 4.01 mark at the beginning of May.

On May 18, the rookie struck out 14 batters over 6.0 innings, setting a Yankees’ rookie record, surpassing the previous record of 13 strikeouts by Orlando Hernández on August 13, 1998. During this game, Gil recorded seven consecutive strikeouts from the fourth through the sixth inning.

Gil pitched at least 6.0 innings and allowed no more than one run in all six of his starts in May, joining Steve Kline (1972) as the only pitchers in Yankees history to achieve this feat in six consecutive starts. Overall, he is only the 14th pitcher since 1901 under the age of 26 to make at least six consecutive starts of 6.0 innings while allowing no more than one run.

Back-to-back with Soto 

On the same day Aaron Judge and Luis Gil received their monthly honors for May, outfielder Juan Soto was named American League Player of the Week.

This marks Soto’s second Player of the Week award this season and the fifth of his career.

In six games last week, the lefty dominated, hitting .435 with three homers, nine RBIs, three triples, four walks, and seven runs scored. He posted an impressive 1.000 slugging percentage and a .500 on-base percentage.

Soto capped off his stellar week with two home runs against the San Francisco Giants on Sunday, including the go-ahead blast in the ninth inning.

For the season, Soto is slashing .322/.417/.614 with 17 home runs, 53 RBIs, 46 runs scored, and 40 walks, making a strong case for the AL MVP.

Read more: Inside MLB’s Bat-Speed Revolution: What We’ve Learned So Far

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Biggio’s Arrival Leads to Vargas’ Departure to Triple-A

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Biggio's and Vargas trade

The Los Angeles Dodgers acquired super-utility man Cavan Biggio in a trade with Toronto, following the Blue Jays designating him for assignment last week.

In return, the Blue Jays received right-handed reliever Braydon Fisher, who has been playing between Double-A and Triple-A this season.

Following the acquisition, the Dodgers optioned outfielder Miguel Vargas to Triple-A Oklahoma City. Vargas had appeared in eight games, hitting .250 with three doubles, one home run, and four RBIs.

Biggio’s Move

Biggio was in the lineup for the Dodgers’ home game against the Texas Rangers on Wednesday night, playing third base and batting ninth.

“To have a team like the Dodgers pick me up after my time in Toronto, where I spent so many years and built so many relationships, and playing against this team about a month and a half ago, is very special. I’m very fortunate and grateful to be here,” Biggio said.

Biggio, 29, was removed from the Blue Jays’ 40-man roster last week after struggling in the first third of the season, hitting .200/.323/.291 with two home runs in 131 plate appearances for Toronto, which holds a 33-34 record and occupies third place in the American League East.

“A lot of emotions that I sat and went through and processed,” Biggio said. “I put myself in a good position to make my next step forward being here, so I’m excited about it.”

Blue Jays manager John Schneider commented, “I think it’s good for Cavan. I was pretty sure he’d land on his feet. It’s tough to have him leave.”

Primarily a second baseman, Biggio has also played first, third, and right field this season. He joins a Dodgers team holding a 7½-game lead in the National League West but struggling to get offensive production from Chris Taylor, Gavin Lux, and Kiké Hernández. The team is also missing third baseman Max Muncy, who is on the injured list with a strained oblique.

“I just want to be a good piece for this team and, hopefully, be the last team standing at the end of the year,” Biggio said.

Biggio’s Background

Biggio debuted in 2019 and, along with Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette, was one of three sons of longtime major leaguers expected to form the core of a rising Blue Jays team. He hit 16 home runs in 100 games his rookie season and posted a .375 on-base percentage in the COVID-shortened 2020 season, positioning himself as a foundational element at second base.

Injuries limited Biggio in subsequent years, and he lost playing time this season to Davis Schneider and Isiah Kiner-Falefa. With the Blue Jays struggling offensively, they designated him for assignment to make room for Spencer Horwitz, who has started all four games at second since his recall. Biggio has one season of club control beyond this year and will be eligible for free agency after 2025.

Biggio’s father, Craig, accumulated 3,060 hits over 20 seasons with the Houston Astros. The younger Biggio fondly recalled a visit to Dodger Stadium with his dad.

“I don’t think I was allowed on the field, but I remember having a Dodger Dog or two,” he said. “The only thing I remember is Shawn Green was on the team.”

Does Miguel Vargas have a future with the Dodgers?

Last season, the Dodgers intended for Vargas to assume the role of their everyday second baseman, but he never fully secured the position.

Some of that was attributed to getting hit by a pitch during Spring Training and again early in the year, along with defensive growing pains while adjusting to a new position. Vargas’ struggles ultimately led to his demotion to Oklahoma City during the All-Star break.

He remained in Triple-A to finish the year and began this season with Oklahoma City. Vargas was added to the Dodgers roster just last month when Max Muncy landed on the 10-day injured list with a strained right oblique.

The Dodgers optioned Miguel Vargas to Triple-A Oklahoma City to make room for Cavan Biggio on their active roster before Wednesday’s game against the Texas Rangers

While there doesn’t appear to be a role for Vargas with the Dodgers at present, he could factor more prominently in their outfield next season and beyond. Another possibility is that the former top prospect becomes a trade chip, similar to Michael Busch.

Read more: Yankees’ Trio of Excellence: Judge, Gil, and Soto Shine in May

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Inside MLB’s Bat-Speed Revolution: What We’ve Learned So Far

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MLB's Bat-Speed Revolution

Statcast has introduced a groundbreaking bat-tracking leaderboard on Baseball Savant, revolutionizing how hitter performance is measured. Among the array of new statistics available, bat speed emerges as a crucial metric, gauging the velocity of the bat’s sweet spot upon contact with the ball. This metric holds particular significance for power hitters, as it directly impacts exit velocity and, consequently, fly-ball distance.

The Technology

Renowned physicist Alan Nathan underscores the importance of bat speed, noting its direct correlation to exit velocity. Each additional mile per hour of bat speed translates to a 1.2 mph increase in exit velocity, potentially adding six feet to fly-ball distance, particularly at optimal launch angles.

Utilizing the Hawk-Eye tracking system, which deploys 12 cameras around every major league stadium, including high-speed cameras operating at 300 frames per second, MLB meticulously refined its bat-tracking model over two years before releasing it on its Statcast platform. By measuring swings using the sweet spot about 6 inches below the bat’s head, MLB captures every hitter’s swing objectively, providing a wealth of data for analysis.

King of Speed

When Statcast emerged in 2015, thrusting exit velocity into baseball’s forefront, Giancarlo Stanton, then of the Miami Marlins, dominated nearly every leaderboard. That season, of the 12 balls hit at least 117 mph, nine belonged to Stanton, with one each from Mike Trout, Nelson Cruz, and Carlos González.

The now New York Yankees hitter, Stanton’s bat-speed figures still hold up. His average swing velocity hovers around 80.6 mph, almost 3 mph faster than the next contender, Pittsburgh Pirates’ shortstop Oneil Cruz. Notably, Stanton maintains a consistently rapid swing pace, with over 98% of his swings clocking above 75 mph, far surpassing his peers.

Additionally, Stanton ranks near the top in swing length, trailing only Baez. Standing tall at 6-foot-6, it’s no surprise that Stanton’s swing spans an impressive 8.4 feet.

However, as Stanton’s recent struggles highlight, sheer exit velocity or bat speed alone doesn’t guarantee success. Despite boasting the hardest-hit ball of the MLB season at 119.9 mph and leading in average exit velocity on his hardest-hit balls, Stanton’s overall performance has been only slightly above league average, with a batting line of .230/.283/.452.

The takeaway: While having the fastest swing is impressive, it’s clear that success at the plate involves more than just raw power.

On the Flip Side

On the opposite end of the spectrum lies San Diego Padres’ artisan Luis Arráez, whose slow bat speed of 62.4 mph earns him a new distinction in baseball: the slowest bat in the league. Arráez trails behind the next slowest hitter, Cleveland Guardians’ outfielder Steven Kwan, by 2 mph, showcasing a unique approach to thriving in Major League Baseball without elite bat speed.

Arráez and Kwan exemplify the controlled, short swings that consistently make solid contact. Arráez’s swing covers just 5.9 feet, while Kwan’s extends to 6.4 feet. Joining them in the category of sub-68-mph bat speed and sub-6.4-foot swing length are Milwaukee Brewers’ second baseman Brice Turang (128 OPS+), Yankees outfielder Alex Verdugo (107), and Toronto Blue Jays’ DH Justin Turner (111), all of whom contribute significantly offensively.

Some may argue that their success is despite their swings, but perhaps it’s time to recognize that their hitting prowess is intertwined with their unique approach. Arráez leads MLB by making solid contact on 43.9% of his swings. This metric is determined by comparing bat speed and pitch speed to determine the maximum exit velocity, with a ball considered squared up if it reaches at least 80% of the peak velocity. 

When hitters square up the ball, they boast an impressive .372 batting average and slug .659. In contrast, when they fail to square up, their average drops to .127, with a meager .144 slugging percentage. Therefore, players like Arráez and Kwan, despite not possessing immense power, deserve recognition for their mastery of the art of hitting.

The Hardest Hitters

AL East

Blue Jays: Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (75.6 mph)

While Guerrero’s traditional stats may suggest a downturn in 2024, with his slugging percentage (.390) and OPS (.753) potentially hitting career lows, his bat speed hints at a comeback. Averaging 75.6 mph (14th in MLB), Guerrero ranks impressively in metrics like xBA, xSLG, xwOBA, average exit velocity, hard-hit rate, and barrel rate, indicating that his performance might be better than it appears in Toronto.

NL East

Phillies: Kyle Schwarber (77.0 mph)

Known for his boom-or-bust hitting style, Schwarber’s average bat speed ranks third in MLB, trailing only Stanton and Cruz. With a hard-swing rate of 73.9%, he consistently delivers powerful contact, evident in his nine homers for the Philadelphia team. While unconventional for a leadoff hitter, Schwarber’s success speaks for itself, ranking second in MLB with 11 “swords” behind Zach Neto.

AL Central

Tigers: Javier Báez (75.4 mph)

Báez boasts the longest swing among MLB hitters, spanning 8.7 feet, yet he holds the fastest swing speed among Detroit’s roster. Despite a high chase rate (44.7%), Báez manages to swiftly connect with the ball, with 57.4% of his swings categorized as fast, showcasing his ability to make quick contact.

NL Central

Pirates: Oneil Cruz (77.7 mph)

Cruz’s exceptional bat speed places him second in MLB, just behind Stanton, showcasing his prowess at the plate. As a towering 6-foot-7 shortstop, Cruz leads his fellow Pirates teammate Rowdy Tellez by a significant margin in bat speed. Supported by a 73.5% fast swing rate, Cruz consistently crushes the ball, boasting the hardest-hit ball (122.4 mph) of the Statcast era (since 2015).

AL West

Angels: Jo Adell (76.3 mph)

Once hailed as the Angels’ top prospect for his blend of power and speed, Adell is starting to showcase his potential in his fifth MLB season. With 64.7% of his swings surpassing 75 mph, Adell ranks among the top 10 in fast swing rate, demonstrating his evolving offensive prowess.

NL West

Giants: Matt Chapman (76.9 mph)

While not fitting the modern power hitter mold, Chapman consistently ranks among the top hitters in hard-hit rate. His fourth-highest average bat speed among MLB qualifiers, behind Stanton, Cruz, and Schwarber, highlights his ability to generate impressive contact. Chapman’s presence near the top of the leaderboard speaks volumes about his hitting prowess and consistency.

Read more : MLB Revives Players’ Weekend: A Fresh Take on Tradition for 2024

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MLB Revives Players’ Weekend: A Fresh Take on Tradition for 2024

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Los Angeles Dodgers MLB Player Batting

This year, Players’ Weekend returns to MLB for the first time since 2019, dedicating three days in August to spotlighting players beyond their on-field stats. From August 16-18, MLB aims to celebrate players’ personalities, interests, and the charitable causes close to their hearts, making the event appealing to young baseball enthusiasts and fans alike.

MLB Revives Players’ Weekend in August 2024

This three-day festivity promises a dynamic mix of activities and experiences designed to captivate fans both in-stadium and online. Attendees can look forward to exciting in-stadium game presentations that bring an extra layer of entertainment to the live sporting experience. 

Social media engagement will play a significant role, offering fans interactive opportunities to connect with their favorite players, participate in contests, and share their experiences in real-time. This immersive approach aims to create a vibrant and inclusive atmosphere that resonates with fans of all ages, whether they’re cheering from the stands or following along from afar.

  • Day 1 (Fun): Spotlights the playful side of players, delving into their personalities, friendships, and off-field hobbies, offering fans a better connection and understanding of the athletes beyond their on-field performances.
  • Day 2 (Causes): Focuses on the charitable and community efforts players are passionate about, highlighting their commitment to making a positive impact off the field and inspiring others to give back to their communities.
  • Day 3 (Appreciation): Honors the individuals who played pivotal roles in guiding players to the Major Leagues, celebrating the coaches, mentors, and supporters who have shaped the athletes’ journeys and contributed to their success.

A New Spin on Tradition

This year, instead of the usual special uniforms and nicknames, players will wear unique New Era caps. These caps will feature each player’s uniform number on the side in a “youthful design.” Additionally, players will have the freedom to use customized bats and wear cleats with personalized designs.

This revamped initiative is termed a “reimagined Players’ Weekend,” moving away from its previous version between 2017 and 2019 that showcased unique uniforms with player nicknames on the jerseys.

In previous years, players seized the chance to add a playful twist. Toronto Blue Jays reliever Ken Giles sported “100 Miles Giles” on his jersey during his time on the mound. Cleveland Guardians pitcher Shane Bieber went with “Not Justin” as his nickname, and Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Walker Buehler opted for “Ferris” on his uniform.

Reflecting on Players’ Weekend

Introduced by MLB and the MLBPA in August 2017, the concept was developed collaboratively, with key contributions from players like CC Sabathia, Bo Schultz, and Josh Thole, along with league and union representatives. 

The initial editions saw some unique twists:

  • In 2017, the traditional MLB logo was replaced with one showcasing a player’s evolution from Little League to the big leagues.
  • 2017 and 2018 featured pullover jerseys instead of the usual button-downs, adorned with tribute patches where players could honor those who influenced them the most.
  • Players also got the chance to sport nicknames on their jerseys—a first for the traditionally nameless New York Yankees.

The 2019 edition took it a step further with monochromatic uniforms and caps, allowing for customizable logos and accessories.

However, due to the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the shortened 2020 season, and changes in uniform suppliers, Players’ Weekend was on hiatus in 2021.

The aim of this weekend is to engage younger audiences, a demographic that has been growing steadily over recent years. League data indicates a decrease in the median age of ticket buyers from 51 to 45 since 2019, with a nearly 10% rise in ticket purchases from individuals aged 18-35 during the same period. MLB hopes to continue this positive trend.

Two nationally televised games are set for the weekend: the Los Angeles Dodgers versus the St. Louis Cardinals and the Little League Classic featuring the Detroit Tigers and New York Yankees in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball.

Read More: TGL 2025 Preview

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