The Table Setter: Let’s Embrace the Glory of Mike Trout … Again

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The first full week of June is here, meaning we have a little more than two months of the 2018 MLB season in the books. Leaderboards are starting to look a bit more predictable than when we checked in on them after April. Mike Trout and J.D. Martinez are tied for the league lead in homers with 19. Jose Ramirez, Manny Machado and Bryce Harper follow closely behind at 18, with Mookie Betts, Aaron Judge, Edwin Encarnacion, Christian Villanueva and Joey Gallo rounding out the top 10.

No one has driven in more runs than Martinez’s 50, with Machado (47), Javier Baez (45), Jed Lowrie (42) and Mitch Haniger (42) filling out the top five. A five-way tie at 41 among Ramirez, Judge, Andrew Benintendi, Scooter Gennett and Trevor Story rounds out the top 10. RBI is really a team stat, so it’s no surprise to see representatives from the Red Sox, Cubs, Yankees and Indians, the top four teams in runs per game.

Mookie Betts leads the majors with a .359 batting average. This one gets a little weird, with Matt Kemp (.344), Gennett (.342), Andrelton Simmons (.336) and Nicholas Castellanos (.336) in the top five. Trout is atop the OBP leaderboard at .443, followed by Betts (.437), Freddie Freeman (.432), Nolan Arenado (.417) and Judge (.412). Betts leads the way with a .750 slugging percentage, with Trout (.678) second, Martinez (.648) third, Machado (.633) fourth and Ramirez (.624) fifth.

Finally, Trout leads the majors with 4.8 fWAR by nearly a full win over Betts and Ramirez who check in at 4.1. To illustrated just how incredible Trout has been, consider that Freddie Freeman and Lorenzo Cain are likely both locks for the NL All-Star team, and that they have combined for 4.8 fWAR. Trout continues to operate on an otherworldly level.

With that, let’s get to this week’s Table Setter.

Hitters to Watch This Week

Mike Trout, OF, Angels

Where else could we start after that intro? Trout’s a hitter to watch every week. Such is life when you’re the best baseball player on the planet. His recent exploits, however, deserve special mention. He had five hits, including one homer, in the Angels’ three-game series with the Rangers over the weekend. In the last two weeks, he’s 17-for-48 with five bombs, nine RBI, three steals, 11 runs and a .456 OBP. He ranks first in the majors in home runs, fWAR, bWAR, and OBP, and second in slugging, wOBA and wRC+, trailing Mookie Betts in those three. Get ready for an AL MVP race for the ages, assuming Betts’ abdominal injury doesn’t keep him on the DL for too long.

Brandon Nimmo, OF, Mets

Nimmo’s providing a silver lining for the crumbling Mets, whose 11-1 start to the season feels like a lifetime ago. The Mets were swept by the Cubs in a four-game series over the weekend, but Nimmo did his part, hitting two homers and driving in three runs. He’s now slashing .276/.421/.559 with seven jacks, seven doubles, six steals and 14 RBI in 159 plate appearances. This may prove to be another lost season for the Mets, but they may have found themselves a piece of the future in Nimmo.

Eddie Rosario, OF, Twins

We don’t have too many rules here in the Table Setter, but one of them is this: If you have a three-homer game, with your third being a walkoff, you get to be one of the hitters to watch. Rosario did just that on Sunday, belting homers in the first and seventh before walking it off with a two-run shot off Cody Allen in the ninth. Rosario is now hitting .317/.352/.573 with 13 homers and 40 RBI on the season.

Eugenio Suarez, 3B, Reds

The league’s most underappreciated player continues to do his thing, going 16-for-45 with four homers and 12 RBI in the last two weeks. Suarez leads the NL with a .589 slugging percentage, and is hitting .297 with a .378 OBP, 11 homers and 44 RBI this season. As has been the case with Joey Votto for years, it’s a shame to see Suarez doing this for a Reds team that won’t come anywhere near a postseason berth this year, and that’s only more reason to give him his due. We should see him in Washington as a member of the NL All-Star team next month.

Matt Olson, 1B/OF, A’s

Olson suffered through an ugly first seven weeks of the season, but he has finally showed signs of turning the corner. He’s 11-for-36 with five homers, five walks and 10 RBI in his last 10 games. In that timeframe, he has raised his slash line to .248/.332/.472 from .236/.320/.410. The A’s have quietly keep themselves in striking distance of a wild card spot, and while it’s still too early to think seriously about the standings, especially with respect to the wild card, it’s impressive that they’ve done so with Olson struggling for the balance of the season. If his bat is alive for the long haul, they could be a dangerous team the rest of the way.

Pitchers to Watch This Week

Madison Bumgarner, SP, Giants

Bumgarner will make his 2018 debut on Tuesday, taking the mound against the Diamondbacks. Bumgarner hasn’t faced major league hitters since a line drive off the bat of Whit Merrifield broke his pinky finger in the final game of spring training. He cruised through two rehab starts, striking out 15 batters in 8 1/3 innings, and is exactly what the Giants need after sending Brandon Belt to the DL. The ugly NL West has helped keep the Giants in the thick of things, and they just added the best pitcher in the division back to their active roster.

Carlos Martinez, SP, Cardinals

Martinez, too, will get back on the mound Tuesday after a DL stint, making his return against the Marlins. Martinez has missed nearly a month with a strained lat, making his last start on May 8. He got knocked around in his last rehab start, allowing a pair of solo homers in four innings, but the results were secondary to his health, and Martinez reported no issues after the game. The Cardinals just lost Alex Reyes to a similar injury, though it’s believed the rookie’s is more severe. The rotation has been a strength for the Cardinals all season, even with Martinez missing nearly a month. He’ll take the ball a second time this week, squaring off with the Reds on Sunday.

Carlos Rodon, SP, White Sox

Rodon is nearing a return to the majors after spending the entire season to this point on the DL with a shoulder injury that required surgery last September. He has made four rehab starts, pitching to a 1.53 ERA and 0.96 WHIP with 28 strikeouts in 17 2/3 innings. The White Sox have yet to determine if his next start with come at Triple A Charlotte or with the big league club, but he’ll certainly be back in the majors within the next week or two. Rodon’s entire career has been beset by injury, but he’s still just 25 years old with ample potential. If the team does activate him this week, he’ll likely make his season debut over the weekend against the Red Sox.

Michael Wacha, SP, Cardinals

Wacha nearly threw a no-hitter against the Pirates in his last start, making it through eight hitless innings before allowing a single to Colin Moran to lead off the ninth. Wacha has been a true pillar in the St. Louis rotation this season, totaling a 2.41 ERA, 3.31 FIP and 1.10 WHIP with 61 strikeouts in 71 innings. Wacha suffered through ugly campaigns the last two seasons, but his FIP was significantly better than his ERA both of those seasons. It seems his luck is finally evening out. He’ll make one start this week, facing the Reds on Saturday.

Blake Snell, SP, Rays

Snell was electric in his last start, striking out 12 Mariners while allowing just two hits in six scoreless innings. He took a tough no-decision, but it was easily his best start of the year. Snell now owns a 2.36 ERA, 3.07 FIP and 0.94 WHIP, with 88 strikeouts in 76 1/3 innings. The 25-year-old looks like the top-of-the-rotation starter the Rays have always expected him to become. His next start will come on Friday against the same Mariners he shut down last weekend.

Matchups to Watch This Week

The best pitcher vs. pitcher, pitcher vs. hitter, pitcher vs. offense, and series matchups over the next seven days.

James Paxton vs. Dallas Keuchel, Tuesday

Paxton and Keuchel face off in the opener of a brief two-game set between the Mariners and Astros at Minute Maid Park. Paxton has been excellent this season, amassing a 3.13 ERA, 2.96 FIP, 1.00 WHIP and 95 strikeouts in 74 2/3 innings. Keuchel, meanwhile, has been up and down all year, resulting in a 3.65 ERA, 3.92 FIP and 1.23 WHIP in 74 frames. He has had a rough go of it recently, with his last three starts coming against the Indians and Yankees. Now he takes the ball against a Mariners team that is tied for eighth in the league in wOBA, and tied for seventh in wRC+. Give the advantage to Paxton and the Mariners in this one.

Aaron Nola vs. Jose Quintana, Wednesday

The Phillies and Cubs get together for a three-game set at Wrigley Field this week, with the Nola-Quintana matchup on Wednesday the headliner. Nola allowed one run or fewer in five of his six starts in May, getting through seven innings in three of those outings. He’s almost certainly ticketed for his first career All-Star Game, with a 2.18 ERA, 2.61 FIP, 0.93 WHIP and 74 strikeouts in 78 1/3 innings. The rumors of Quintana’s demise have been greatly overstated. He has taken it on the chin a few times this year, but, to be fair, one of those outings was at Coors Field, and another was in rainy, windy conditions so poor that Joe Maddon said after the game that it shouldn’t have been played. Quintana was great in his last start, tossing six shutout innings against the Mets, allowing three hits while striking out six. Unfortunately, Jake Arrieta will not pitch in the Phillies’ only trip to Wrigley Field this season.

Corey Kluber vs. Brewers, Tuesday

Two first place teams get together in Cleveland to kick off the week, with the Brewers visiting for a quick two-game series. The Brewers offense has been just about league-average by advanced metrics, but one thing they can do with just about anyone is hit the ball out of the park. Their 74 homers rank seventh in the league, and that’s made all the more impressive by the fact that Christian Yelich, Eric Thames and Ryan Braun have all spent time on the DL this year. Travis Shaw leads the team with 13 homers, while Jesus Aguilar is second with 10. Kluber is putting together another excellent season, totaling a 2.02 ERA, 3.11 FIP, 0.84 WHIP and 88 strikeouts against 10 walks in 84 2/3 innings. He faced the Brewers at Miller Park on May 8, allowing three runs on five hits, including homers by Shaw and pitcher Brent Suter, in six innings, striking out four and walking one.

Jacob deGrom vs. Yankees, Friday

Here’s the marquee matchup of the week. One of these days the Mets are going to do something novel for deGrom, such as “score more than one run,” or “protect a lead once he has left the game.” That may not happen on Friday, but it will be an absolute joy to watch him take the ball against one of the best offenses in baseball. He was filthy again over the weekend, striking out 13 Cubs in seven innings, while allowing one run on seven hits. The Mets, of course, gave him just one run of support, and the Cubs won the game 7-1 in 14 innings. He shut down the likes of Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo in that one, and he’ll have to do the same against Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Gary Sanchez and the rest of the Yankees’ imposing lineup on Friday.

Mariners at Astros, Tuesday and Wednesday

The Mariners and Astros are in first and second, respectively, in the AL West, and own two of the five best records in the majors. Despite being in the same division, this will be just their second series against one another on the year, which means we’re going to see this matchup a lot in the second half. The Astros took three out of four from the Mariners in Seattle back in April, with James Paxton getting the only win for the home team. As we already touched on, he’ll start the opener of this series, facing off with Dallas Keuchel. It’ll be Wade LeBlanc and Lance McCullers in the finale on Wednesday.

Diamondbacks at Rockies, Friday through Sunday

The bet here is that no team will run away with the NL West, and that it’ll be a muddled mess all season. If that is proved wrong, however, it’s likely that the Diamondbacks or Rockies will be that team. There’s no time like the present to start finding some consistency, and there’s no better way to build some breathing room in a division race than by beating your closest competitor. Just like the Mariners and Astros, these two teams have also played just one series this season, and that was the opening series of the year. The Diamondbacks took two of three, but both teams are much different than they were two months ago. They’ve yet to officially lock in their starters for the series, but assuming they stay on schedule it’ll be Zack Greinke against German Marquez on Friday, Matt Koch against Chad Bettis on Saturday, and Zack Godley against Kyle Freeland on Sunday. In other words, get ready for some offensive fireworks at Coors this weekend.

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