Another day, another month down in the Astros season. Today, we'll take a break from the draft coverage to look at who the best players were over the last month for Houston. As always, these awards are capricious and arbitrary, just like I like them.
Hitter of the Month: Hunter Pence - Let's see...Pence led the team in home runs, RBIs, batting average, slugging percentage, on-base percentage, isolated power, weighted on-base average and was second in runs scored. Pretty safe to say he's your hitter of the month. Pence hit .342/.376/.538 with four home runs, 22 RBIs, 17 runs scored, nine doubles, one triple, seven walks, 23 strikeouts and two stolen bases.
But, we should start expecting that of Pence. This is the best month of baseball he's played since May of 2009, but before that it was May of 2008 and before that it was May of 2007. Pence just mashes in May. In his career, he's hit .345/.392/.550 in 578 May plate appearances, by far his highest slash line of any month in his career. In fact, that's what got him promoted in the first place all those years ago.
If there is cause to be concerned (or if monthly splits mean anything predictively, which they do not), Pence has not fared well in June, hitting .255/.309/.469 in that month in his career. Now, I guess we just have to appreciate him being the best player on this team.
Pitcher of the Month: Bud Norris - Do you realize that, although he started just one game, Jordan Lyles was within .2 WAR of Bud Norris for the pitching WAR lead in May? I'm not sure if that's an indictment of the Astros pitching staff or of the statistic itself. Either way, this award has to go to someone, right?
That someone is Norris, who struggled some, but who's peripherals support him pitching this way for the near future. Though Budly was just 1-3 in six starts, he had an ERA of 3.69, an FIP of 3.81 and an expected FIP of 3.36. His strikeout rate fell after a super April to a still very good 9.46 in May. His walk rate was also up at 3.69, but it's still respectable.
The biggest problem Norris had was stranding men on base. His LOB percentage was at 68 for the month of May, which is lower than you'd expect. A good power pitcher can probably sustain a percentage higher than 70, though I haven't actually seen any research to back this up. If Norris can limit the damage when he allows baserunners, he should return to form and hold onto the title of the best pitcher on this staff.
Fielder of the Month: Michael Bourn - I know, you were expecting me to stick Clint Barmes here, and I was very tempted to do so. He's been a revelation at shortstop and even last week, I argued that him playing that position well trumps Bourn's excellence in center field. But, I had a change of heart this week. Bourn's been so solid this season (though the advanced metrics still haven't caught up to that), and Barmes had some bad errors, so I slotted in Bourn here. Either would have been deserving, but I felt some loyalty to the Gold Glover.