June Awards aka The Brooksies

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It was August of the year 2017. The average fuel price was less than three dollars. Non-Spanish speakers in Baltimore Oriole country were learning what “Despacito” meant.

Bitcoin was below $5,000 and the crypto craze was still months away from taking off in earnest. We took a lunch break to go out and watch a solar eclipse. It was also the last time the Baltimore Orioles finished a month with a record above .500.

That is, until now.

In a month that included playoffs against five of the top six teams in the American League Wild Card rankings, the O’s went 14-12 to bring their overall record to 35-42; for reference, the team only won their 35th game last season on July 28.

The offense posted a collective wOBA of .316, but was buoyed by standout performances from Ryan Mountcastle, Austin Hays and the first full month of greats Adley Rutschman. The starting rotation saw an improvement in production from Tyler Wells and the revival of Dean Kremer (and his hair). Things are looking up again in Birdland!

Baltimore Orioles: June Awards, aka The Brooksies

Given the occasion, it seems fitting that the Birds’ budding accomplishments in June be recognized. Some sort of awards ceremony…quite possibly the most prestigious monthly baseball awards banquet this side of Federal Hill.

“June Awards” seems a bit corny, so why not name our metaphysical trophies after a franchise hero and the most outstanding defensive third baseman to ever cross the lines? Without further ado, I present to you The Brooksies.

Best Performance by a Batter – Month: Ryan Mountcastle

Even in a month when five other Orioles had a wRC+ above 100 (league average), Mountcastle stood head and shoulders above the rest. Its .297/.345/.614 slash line for the month is even more extraordinary when you remove the wrapper; Ryan led the team in homers (7), sniping power (.317), wOBA (.407) and wRC+ (167), all good enough to place him among the top 20 hitters in MLB in each respective category. Cedric Mullins and Austin Hays did everything they could to ward off the Brooksie, but Mountcastle’s grip was just too overwhelming.

Best Performance by a Pitcher – Month: Jorge López

Baltimore Orioles’ Jorge Lopez #48 and teammate Adley Rutschman #35 celebrate. (Photo by Rich Gagnon/Getty Images)

Dean Kremer has every right to feel slighted here; he was spectacular and deserves credit for his starts in June, but the Brooksie have to go to the guy who didn’t give up a single earned run in June. López has been nothing short of dominant since taking on the role of closer in April and releasing a line of stats in June that would put the 2016 incarnation of Zack Britton to shame.

13.2 innings, 49 batters faced, four hits, no earned runs, one walk and 17 strikeouts. Five of his 11 appearances went over an inning, including June 2 against Seattle, where he recorded seven outs. It was easy to see a scenario in which López became a valued reliever, given his electric fastball and off-pitch arsenal. Yet even its most ardent supporters could not have imagined this degree of dominance.

Best Single-Game Performance – Hitter: Austin Hays (vs. WAS, June 22)

When you’re squeezing your career undergraduate in a torrential downpour as a maelstrom forms in the outfield, the Brooksie is just a formality. Hays made light work of Nationals starter Patrick Corbin in his first three at bats with a single, homer and triple.

Corbin was retired after four innings of work, leaving Steve Cishek responsible for knocking Hays out late in the sixth inning with the pouring rain and his bat on fire; he failed and Hays doubled wide from left-centre. The cycle was complete, the game was called off shortly after, and the Orioles won 7-0.

Best single-game performance – Pitcher: Félix Bautista (vs. TB, June 17)

Honestly, it wouldn’t be out of place for Dean Kremer to pull a Kanye and rush onto the stage to feel slighted, as his seven scoreless innings in Seattle on June 28 makes a compelling case for the award. Unfortunately, the offense didn’t do him any favors that night, and the Mariners emerged 2-0 winners, so Bautista gets the nod.

Bautista went into a 0-0 game in the top of the 7th to take on the heart of the Tampa roster and proceeded to takedown, reigning AL ROY Randy Arozarena, Harold Ramirez and Brett Phillips in succession.

The Orioles took the lead in the bottom of the 7th thanks to a flare from Adley Rutschman at center, then Bautista retired another batter in the eighth before giving way to Cionel Perez. Baltimore deservedly took the 1-0 win with record-breaking pitcher Bautista for his quick dispatch of three of the Rays’ best hitters in a high-leverage situation. This Brooksie belongs to Big Felix.

Best moment: Adley Rutschman’s first career home run (@TOR, June 15)

Adley Rutschman had been eyeing the role since his promotion from Norfolk in May; however, the stat line didn’t give him his due as he was down just 0.176/0.256/0.257 going into Wednesday’s game.

After failing to lead the start of the second, Rutschman stepped in on Jays starter José Berríos with the Baltimore Orioles trailing 5-0 and Austin Hays at first base. Rutschman decided that the first fastball pitch was worth hitting and what happened next can only be described as magical:

I mean, would you just watch it! A prodigious explosion for a prodigious prospect and an easy Brooksie winner.

Michael Scott “How The Turntables” Award: Jorge Mateo scores after being intentionally hit, allegedly (@CWS, June 24)

The unwritten rules of baseball could be described as anachronistic at best and stupid at worst, a relic of an era that should be gone that often stifles fun and excitement at the expense of “playing the right way”.

Baltimore Orioles fans reaped the benefits of their “app” in the second of a four-game series against the White Sox when starting pitcher Michael Kopech appeared to intentionally hit Jorge Mateo in the top of the second inning (this came in response to Josh Harrison being hit by a Dean Kremer pitch the night before as Kremer threw a shutout and tried to hold a two-run lead).

As an elite baserunner who is currently tied for the most stolen second bases in MLB, Mateo quickly took advantage of the situation by stealing second base and scoring the very next at bat when Richie Martin picked him. .

In short, the White Sox gave the Baltimore Orioles a run while seeking revenge for a play that happened 24 hours prior and was almost certainly an accident. These unwritten rules are effective!

And with that, the June 2022 Brooksies Inaugural Ceremony is over. Let this month be remembered as a catalyst for the next entertaining era of Orioles baseball and a reminder of how hugely fun baseball is when your team is exciting to watch.

Mike Elias’ visions are finally starting to manifest and Birdland is reaping the benefits. May we meet again soon to distribute even more Brooksies to recognize and honor the contributions of present and future Orioles!

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