MLB’s MVP, Cy Young, and Best Teams of July

It’s hard to talk about the best players and the best teams from July without mentioning the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Dodgers, currently with an MLB best record of 75-31, won 20 of 23 games in July. When looking at the rest of the league, no other team had more than 16 wins or less than 8 losses. It was a tough month for many teams fighting for playoff spots, deciding whether they should buy or sell with the trade deadline approaching at the end of the month.

We also saw a lot of fun months from players like Bryce Harper, Chris Taylor, Tommy Pham, James Paxton, Chris Sale, and many others. Below the best teams, position players, and pitchers for the month of July:

July’s Best Teams

 

1. Los Angeles Dodgers (20-3)

As mentioned above, the Dodgers dominated their competition in July with just 3 losses in 23 games. The Dodgers had an 11 game winning streak from 7/4 to 7/19, lost two in a row to the Braves, and won the last 8 games of July to close out the month. They widened the gap in the NL West to 14 games over the Dbacks and 14.5 over the Rockies in a month where both teams struggled to win much. The Rockies went 12-12 while the Dbacks were fighting to keep their head above water at 10-14.

The effort by the Dodgers to win so many games was done by finishing 2nd in both position player fWAR at 5.9 behind the Astros (8.5 fWAR), then at 5.3 pitching fWAR behind the Indians (5.4 fWAR). During the month, the Dodgers hit .275/.353/.488 with a 120 wRC+, including standout performances from Chris Taylor (.394/.412/.660), Corey Seager (.333/.388/.622), and many others on the offensive side. No starting player on the team had lower than a 109 wRC+, with only Kike’ Hernandez (86 wRC+) and Trayce Thompson (-16 wRC+) failing to hit above average.

On the pitching side, Brandon Mccarthy was the only Dodger pitcher with more than 1.1 innings pitched to have higher than a 4.10 ERA. The charge was lead by Clayton Kershaw (0.72 ERA, 1.52 FIP in 25 IP) and Rich Hill (1.45 ERA, 2.09 FIP in 31 IP), but the overall pitching staff was excellent pitching to a 2.60 ERA and 3.00 FIP, leading in both categories for the month.

2. Kansas City Royals (16-10)

Though three other teams had slightly better records in the month of July, the Royals get this spot for rising up and taking the second Wild Card spot from a large number of contenders in the American League. During the month, the Royals went 5-2-1, only losing series to the Dodgers and the Rangers while tying a four game series with the Tigers. Three of their series wins (Twins, Mariners, Red Sox) were against other AL playoff contending teams, showing that they weren’t just beating 4th and 5th place teams all month.

The Royals had maybe their best month of the season, finishing 6th in position player fWAR at 4.9, and 9th in pitching fWAR at 3.5. Some standout performances on the offensive side were Eric Hosmer (.379/.434/.592, 6 HR), Mike Moustakas (.287/.293/.596, 9 HR), and a breakout month from Whit Merrifield (.330/.371/.583, 5 HR).

Although Jason Vargas had the worst month of his season with a 7.23 ERA and 7.33 FIP in just 18.2 innings pitched, Danny Duffy (3.20 ERA, 2.95 FIP in 39.1 IP) and Ian Kennedy (3.68 ERA, 3.50 FIP in 29.1 IP) stepped up big to help out the staff. That combined with an excellent month from the Royals bullpen helped the Royals avoid becoming sellers and decided to make 2017 their last hurrah.

3. Chicago Cubs (16-8)

The 2017 season has been a weird one for the Cubs. As the defending champions, they came into the season with huge expectations and a stacked roster. But the first few months of the season was not kind to them, and they have been at or just under .500 most of the season. July didn’t start off well for the Cubs either, losing 5 of their first 8 games before the All-Star Break. Since then, however, the Cubs won 13 of the last 16 games of the month and are now finally in first place in the NL Central.

Not only did the Cubs offense come to life in July, finishing 5th in position player fWAR at 5.3 and hitting .270/.346/.481, but their pitching finally stood up with a 3.54 ERA. The pitching staff’s peripheral numbers did not fair as well, however, with just a 4.23 FIP and finishing 14th in pitching fWAR at 2.3. Still, Quintana has been great since joining the Cubs pitching with a 2.37 ERA and 2.68 FIP in 19 innings pitched. Arrieta and Lackey both pitched with very nice ERAs well ahead of their own FIP numbers (2.25 ERA and 4.37 FIP for Arrieta, 3.27 ERA and 4.38 FIP from Lackey).

Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo both had very nice offensive months, but the real star for the Cubs in July was Willson Contreras, hitting with a superstar line of .321/.400/.619 and 7 HR from the catcher’s spot. Kyle Schwarber has even started to come back to life hitting .250/.333/.607 with 5 HR in 63 PA.

Overall this was the kind of month the Cubs needed to spark themselves back into life.

Honorable Mentions:

Washington Nationals (16-8), Cleveland Indians (15-11), Houston Astros (15-9)

July’s MVPs

1. Jose Altuve (.485/.523/.727, 4 HR, 8 SB in 107 PA)

Jose Altuve was phenomenal in July. Not only did he lead the MLB in wRC+ at 242, but he led by nearly 30 points over the second best hitter of the month, Bryce Harper. According to @theaceofspaeder, Altuve was the first player to bat .485 or higher in a month with at least 90 at bats since Wade Boggs in June of 1987. His 242 wRC+ this month is actually the highest of any player in 2017 in a single month, behind teammate Carlos Correa with his 244 wRC+ in July, though that was in just 44 PA.

2. Bryce Harper (.378/.456/.778, 9 HR in 103 PA)

After above average months (116 and 118 wRC+s) following a monster April (220 wRC+), Harper regained his April mojo hitting to a 213 wRC+ and blasting 9 HR in the month of July. Were it not for Jose Altuve going out of his mind in Houston, Harper would have been the talk of the MLB last month. Harper is a big reason why the Nationals had such a great month of July, however, he was not the only one.

3. Anthony Rendon (.392/.500/.689, 5 HR in 90 PA)

This was a tough call between Harper and Rendon for 2nd and 3rd on this list, and they are actually pretty interchangeable. I went with Harper 2nd because of the extra home runs and the extra PA, but it could go either way. Rendon was incredible during July, and just looking at he and Harper, it’s a wonder pitchers are ever able to make it through the Nationals lineup without giving up 8 runs a game. Rendon’s wRC+ of 206 was 3rd highest during the month of July, and 17th best of any month for a player this season min. 40 PA.

Honorable Mentions:

Chris Taylor (.394/.412/.600, 3 HR in 97 PA), Nolan Arenado (.389/.423/.744, 8 HR, 30 RBI in 97 PA), Giancarlo Stanton (.280/.407/.731, 12 HR in 113 PA), Andrew Mccutchen (.322/.434/.667, 8 HR in 106 PA), Andrelton Simmons (.378/.409/.598, 3 HR in 88 PA), Tommy Pham (.344/.421/.591, 5 HR, 5 SB in 107 PA).

July’s Cy Youngs

1. James Paxton (1.37 ERA, 1.50 FIP, 6-0 in 39.1 IP)

Despite Chris Sale having arguably the best month of his 2017 in July, James Paxton was the man last month. Paxton was perfect going 6-0 with just a 1.37 ERA and 1.50 FIP. Paxton led all pitchers during the month with 2.0 fWAR, and pitched the third most innings of any SP with 39.1. While Chris Sale was right on his heels, no one else really came close to the two when considering results and innings pitched overall.

2. Chris Sale (1.04 ERA, 1.45 FIP, 3-1 in 34.2 IP)

While talking about Paxton I mentioned that Chris Sale may have had the best month of his phenomenal 2017 season in July. This means that the best pitcher in 2017 just had his best month, but somehow was not the best pitcher of July. Both things can be true, however. This just shows how exemplary James Paxton was in the month of July, just edging out Sale in my opinion for the top spot. Sale had an insane 14.5 K/9 during the month, with still just a very low BB/9 of 1.6 and HR/9 of 0.5. On top of that he allowed just a .167 opponent batting average, doing just about everything possible to not only any runs. He is having a special season.

3. Clayton Kershaw (0.72 ERA, 1.52 FIP, 3-0 in 25 IP)

Unfortunately for Kershaw, he hurt his back for the second straight season and missed the last week or so of July. Luckily he seems to be doing very well already and may come back sooner than the 4-6 week window he was given, but missing a start or two hurt his chances of winning this award. However, in the 25 innings that he did pitch, he did everything possible to match Paxton and Sale’s numbers. Kershaw has been great in the month of July traditionally, not having an FIP higher than 2.20 since the start of 2011, and not an ERA higher than 1.40 since the start of 2013. Again, despite pitching just 25 innings, Kershaw did more than his competition for this last spot in my view.

Honorable Mentions:

Aaron Nola (1.32 ERA, 2.10 FIP, 3-1 in 34 IP), Rich Hill (1.45 ERA, 2.09 FIP, 4-1 in 31 IP), Michael Wacha (1.93 ERA, 2.24 FIP, 4-1 in 32.2 IP), Corey Kluber (2.62 ERA, 2.11 FIP, 1-1 in 34.1 IP), Luis Severino (2.58 ERA, 2.53 FIP, 3-1 in 38.1 IP).

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