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Month in Review, American League Edition: June
We’re a week into July but it’s not too late to go back and look at the past month of the 2011 season. So, as I’ve done with both April and May, let’s take a look at the month in review. We’ll kick things off with the American League.
Best Team: New York Yankees
The current leader in the AL East and the team with the best overall record in the American League, the Yankees stormed through the month of June to a 18-8 record. They went 11-5 at home and 7-3 on the road in June, outscoring opponents by a 48 run differential (bested only by Boston thanks to a handful of blowouts in the middle of the month).
Minnesota and Boston finished closely behind the Yankees in June. The Twins, coming off of a horrible start to the season, finally began to show some signs of life in the month after being the most disappointing team in April and May as they started to get some of their key players back from injury.
Best Starting Pitcher: Justin Verlander
Detroit’s lanky ace dominated the competition during June and was easily the top starting pitcher in the league, if not all of baseball. In 6 starts he pitched a total of 49.0 innings (an average just over 8.0 innings per start) of 0.92 ERA and 0.71 WHIP with 54 strikeouts and just 6 walks.
Best Relief Pitcher: Mariano Rivera
10 appearances, 10.0 IP, 10 strikeouts, 0 walks, a 0.90 ERA, and 8 saves. Mo just continues to be the dominant closer he has been since the mid-1990s. At his current pace it is entirely conceivable that Rivera will pass Trevor Hoffman as the all time saves leader by the end of the season (Hoffman has 601, Rivera currently stands at 580).
Best Hitter: Paul Konerko
Mark Teixeira may have put up the power numbers (9 HR, 25 RBI) but otherwise struggled at the plate (.213 batting average). Baltimore had a pair of batters with strong months (and nobody outside of Baltimore has noticed) as J.J. Hardy hit .362 with 9 HR, 18 RBI, and 21 runs scored while teammate Nick Markakis batted .351. But the overall best hitter in the league in June has to be Chicago’s Konerko. In 84 at bats, Konerko batted .369/.448/.774 with 10 HR, 20 RBI.
April and May’s best hitter, Jose Bautista, struggled a bit in June. The current MLB home run leader batted just .258/.405/.430 with 4 HR and 14 RBI in the month.
Disappointing Team: Kansas City Royals
The Royals started to show some promise early on and one would think that the minor league reinforcements (such as Eric Hosmer, Danny Duffy, and Aaron Crow) who have arrived should have kept the team afloat. However, June proved to be a dismal month for the Royals despite seeing more of that young talent (Mike Moustakas) arrive in the Majors. The team finished just 9-18 in the month, including a 5-10 home record.
Top Rookie Hitter: Jemile Weeks
As the season continues to roll on the group of rookie hitters to choose from continues to grow. Weeks is the latest to join his AL rookie brethren in the Majors and he hasn’t wasted any time getting himself accustomed to playing everyday. In 81 at bats the second baseman batted .309/.349/.469 with 7 doubles, 3 triples, and 6 stolen bases. While he hasn’t shown much home run power yet, he’s shown enough that the A’s felt comfortable trading their incumbent starter at second base to Colorado before the month concluded so that Weeks could take the job over full time.
Top Rookie Pitcher: Ivan Nova
Nova might not be the most obvious choice here, especially considering he was just sent back to Triple A in the past week to make room in the Yankees rotation for the return of Phil Hughes, but overall he had the best June out of all rookie pitchers. In 5 starts (32.2 IP) he posted a 3-1 record, 3.58 ERA, and 1.22 WHIP.
Jordan Walden of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Orange County, California, USA also deserves a mention. After taking over the closer’s role in April the rookie right hander picked up 6 saves in June with a 2.61 ERA in 10 appearances.