Here are four topics from the majors that are on my mind.
Single: Bellinger Bombs
Aaron Judge is the talk of baseball and for good reason. But, one can make the argument that another rookie out west has been just as, if not more valuable.
If Judge is the current unanimous choice for American League Rookie of the Year and an MVP favorite, then Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder and part-time first baseman
Cody Bellinger is the National League’s version of the New York Yankees slugger.
On Tuesday, both Judge and Bellinger homered. For the eighth time, Bellinger and Judge went yard on the same day. Bellinger became the first MLB rookie to hit 10 home runs in 10 games.
Since being called up to the big leagues on April 25, all the 21-year-old has done is rake. On Monday, with the Dodgers entertaining the New York Mets at Dodger Stadium, Bellinger hit two more home runs. In doing so, the rookie became the first player to have at least five multi-homer games in his first 51 games and became the fastest player to reach 21 career home runs.
The next record for Bellinger to chase? The Dodgers all time mark for home runs in a rookie season, 35, set by Mike Piazza in 1993. At this rate, Bellinger might break that record by the end of July.
What Bellinger and Judge are doing got me thinking about another duo’s home run record chase. I was only two-years old at the time, but once I started following baseball, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa’s famous home run chase in 1998 was one of the first historical moments I learned about.
Now, Bellinger and Judge have not reached that level yet, but they are both on pace to hit at least come close to what McGwire and Sosa did in 1998, as rookies. The fact that both guys are putting up historical numbers in their rookie seasons might make what Judge and Bellinger are doing more impressive.
Across the majors, home runs are being hit at a historic pace, but people might forget Ken Griffey Jr. hit 56 home runs in 1998, Greg Vaughn hit 50 dingers and Albert Belle added 49 of his own. It is not like other guys were not hitting home runs. Call me crazy, but if Bellinger and Judge continue to hit home runs, and there is no reason to think they won’t, their battle for long ball supremacy is comparable to Sosa and McGwire.
Along the way, Bellinger is building a legitimate MVP case. If the season ended today, Arizona Diamondbacks first baseman Paul Goldschmidt, who leads the National League in WAR, would get my vote. But, since Bellinger was called up on April 25, the Dodgers own the best winning percentage in the majors.
Double: The Pirates are back
In 2012, Andrew McCutchen had his coming out party. Cutch hit 31 home runs and 96 RBIs and became one of the best players in the National League.
Three years later, he drove in 96 again, helping the Pirates reach the NL wild card game. In 2016, McCutchen was nowhere to be found and many started to realize if Pittsburg’s franchise player was on the decline.
After an ok April, McCutchen hit .206 in May and people were convinced he was done. Not so fast. Ready to quiet his doubters, McCutchen is en fuego this month. In 64 June at-bats, McCutchen is hitting .406 with a whopping 19 RBIs and six bombs. The productive month to this point has raised his season average to .268.
McCutchen is one big reason the Pirates are sneaking back into contention. The other reason is ace Gerrit Cole. Cole has struggled so far in June, but went seven innings and allowed just one run in his last start.
If Cole and McCutchen can continue to produce, their is no reason to think the Pirates cannot contend, especially in a weak NL Central. Plus, they will get Starling Marte back later this season and Gregory Polanco has not hit his stride yet.
Even with a loss Wednesday to the first place Milwaukee Brewers, if Cole and McCutchen keep playing well, it would not make sense for them to sell.
Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reported that McCutchen could be on the move, but if the Pirates hang around in the Central, they might at least stand pat.
Triple: Scioscia, a miracle worker
It is never to early to talk about awards season and Mike Scioscia might be my AL Manager of the Year favorite.
It does not take a whole lot to explain why. On May 28, the Angels lost arguably the best player in baseball, Mike Trout, to a thumb injury. Last season, the storyline for the Angels offense was Trout and everybody else.
Thanks to guys like Cameron Maybin, Andrelton Simmons, Eric Young Jr. and Yunel Escobar, the Angels have survived. In fact, they have done more than just survive. On May 28, when Trout went down, the Angels were 26-27. Even with a loss to the Yankees Wednesday, the Angels are still just a game under .500, just two games back of a wild card slot.
Just imagine how good the Angels could be when Trout comes back, who by the way was on his way to another historic year.
If the Angels can win without Trout, look out.
Home Run: Ben Gamel
The stars are shining this season, which is great. Cody Bellinger, Aaron Judge, Carlos Correa and the list goes on and on. All of these guys deserve all the attention they are getting.
However, in the process, plenty of players are getting overlooked. One of those guys is Seattle Mariners rookie Ben Gamel.
The outfielder’s hair gets plenty of attention, and why not. But, his bat is doing the talking this month. All the 25-year-old left handed hitter has done is lead baseball with a .416 average with six doubles and 16 runs scored.
Oh and with Justin Verlander leading 4-0 after he lost a perfect game on a bunt hit, Gamel delivered an RBI knock into center to break up the shutout.
Gamel’s production has been rewarded with a spot in the two hole.