This post is not about Yoenis Cespedes’ amazing run of late for the New York Mets. Not really, anyway. You have probably heard about Cespedes since his trade to the Mets. He is hitting .302/.352/.676 with 17 home runs and a wRC+ of 179 in 193 plate appearances with his new club. Even more amazing, from August 12 through September 14, Cespedes hit .323/.379/.805 with 17 homers and a wRC+ of 220 in 145 plate appearances. During this time the Mets went 22-9 and seized control of the National League East from pre-season, early-season, and even most of late-season favorites Washington Nationals. What Cespedes has done is incredible, but he is not the only major league player to have a great run along these lines.
This post is also not about Cespedes’ MVP candidacy. Matthew Kory did a good job breaking that argument down and discussing whether Cespedes’ time in the American League should be a part of the consideration when discussing MVP. What this post is about is recognizing those performances throughout the season on the hitting side that have been up to par with Cespedes’ great run. Some of the performances are from players on winning teams, some are from non-contenders, many of these runs have been covered by various FanGraphs authors as the runs were happening, but they all deserve recognition for playing incredible baseball for a stretch at least a month long.
We’ll start with the very best players in baseball this season. Looking at the top ten in WAR on the season, we have four players from the American League, five players from the National League, and Cespedes, who has split time with both. First, Cespedes’ line, mentioned above.
Here are the best streaks each player from the AL has had that lasted at least one month, sorted by weighted batting.
Josh Donaldson has been on an impressive run simultaneous to Cespedes, his team’s record is just as impressive, and he likely passed Mike Trout for AL MVP during that time. Mike Trout has struggled a bit of late, but over a nearly two-month period before the All-Star break, he had a run of play that actually exceeded Cespedes’ statistically. Lorenzo Cain actually had a shorter streak than the one represented above during which his wRC+ exceeded 200, but I made the judgment call of putting the longer run with more plate appearances as I deemed it more impressive. Manny Machado had a great streak of his own as the Orioles fought their way back into the playoff race before the trade deadline.
Below are the National League counterparts:
It is almost unfair to include any Bryce Harper “streak” in this list as his wRC+ on the season is over 200 and the whole season has been one long streak. Joey Votto has been fantastic of late on the sinking Reds. Posey’s production has been more consistent month to month, but he did produce one period approaching a 200 wRC+ as the Giants remained in contention. There is a reason that Arizona has made Paul Goldschmidt untouchable in trade talks as they try to build around him for the future. Andrew McCutchen has now built up his candidacy as the non-Harper MVP on a contending team with an amazing August. On May 6, McCutchen was hitting .188/.279/.292 with a wRC+ of 63 as he struggled with discomfort in his left knee. Since that time he is hitting .327/.428/.557 with a wRC+ of 169 as the Pirates have surged toward a return to the playoffs.
It is not just the year’s great players who are capable of great runs. There are many other players who are very good who have made good runs. Looking at monthly splits, there have been 19 players who have had a wRC+ over 200 during a calendar month and another 11 who met or exceeded 190 during April through August. Looking at those players as well as the leaderboards over the last 30 days, I compiled a list of players who had at least a 200 wRC+ for greater than a one-month period. It is possible that a few guys have slipped through the cracks, but this is my attempt at finding all the runs somewhat similar to Cespedes’ current run over the course of the season.
As we did above, these lists are separated by league. First, the American League:
|Jackie Bradley Jr.||7/30-9/7||123||7||.370||.439||.759||219||21-24|
Nelson Cruz has actually had two such runs since joining the Mariners this season, and both runs exceeded a 240 wRC+, with only Bryce Harper above besting Cruz’s torrid summer run. The Boston Red Sox are actually represented on this list twice, as David Ortiz continued his run toward 500 home runs and Jackie Bradley Jr. flourished in his first shot in 2015 at extended playing time. Cleveland also shows up twice, as Kipnis had a incredible May following a disappointing 2014 season and Michael Brantley found the form that made him a breakout player last season. Miguel Cabrera did Cabrera-like things before going down with an injury, Albert Pujols and Mark Teixeira looked like vintage versions of themselves for a bit, and Edwin Encarnacion joined the offense party in Toronto.
The National League did not have quite as many runs, but there were a few noticeable performances.
Adrian Gonzalez started the season on a tear, while Carlos Gonzalez got hot right after rumors began to circulate about a potential trade. Giancarlo Stanton was briefly spectacular before injuries cut down his season, and Jung-ho Kang provided a burst and depth that the Pirates have not had in recent seasons. Brandon Belt had a good run in May, and perhaps the most surprising player on the list, Gerardo Parra, exploded in Milwaukee before returning to earth after his trade to Baltimore.
Pointing out these performances is not meant to diminish Cespedes’ accomplishments with the Mets. He has been amazing, but baseball is filled with great players doing amazing things. These type of runs are rare, and it is easiest to remember the run that is freshest in our minds. However, we should not ignore or diminish other great runs that are equal to Cespedes simply because they happened earlier in the season or on teams that are not contenders.
Craig Edwards can be found on twitter @craigjedwards.