We still don’t know exactly what the 2020 MLB season is going to look like, but any season we do have is going to be short. That means one hot player having one hot month can make a massive difference. You could have one guy carry you almost to the playoffs by himself.
So, today, we take a look at the hottest month for a hitter on every team since 2000. We used a combination of OPS, total bases, home runs (because home runs are awesome) and, if everything else was equal, good old-fashioned marquee-name value. Some of these players are stars; some of them just had one month where everything landed exactly right. But for that one month, they were Hall of Famers.
(Note: The months of March and April are combined, as are September and October, in individual instances. And each player is listed with his AVG/OBP/SLG slash line for that month.)
American League East
Blue Jays: Edwin Encarnación, 1B
May 2014: .281/.369/.763, 16 HR
Season: .268/.354/.547, 34 HR
The parrot home run trot came out 16 times in 30 games in May of 2014, the season before the Blue Jays would start making some serious postseason runs.
Orioles: Nelson Cruz, DH/OF
May 2014: .339/.388/.748, 13 HR
Season: .271/.333/.525, 40 HR
And somehow, that exact same month, Cruz was even better. This was Cruz’s one year in Baltimore, and he sure made it count.
Rays: Carlos Pena, 1B
September 2007: .318/.484/.795, 13 HR
Season: .282/.411/.627, 46 HR
This was the year that Pena hit 46 home runs, and he was at his best at the end, in the final month of the Devil Rays' existence.
Red Sox, David Ortiz, DH
July 2006: .339/.429/.798, 14 HR
Season: .287/.413/.636, 54 HR
We’re not counting postseason in this search, so what happened in October 2013 doesn’t make the list. But he was obviously capable of such brilliance in the regular season as well.
Yankees: Aaron Judge, RF
Sept./Oct. 2017: .311/.463/.889, 15 HR
Season: .284/.422/.627, 52 HR
Judge certainly had quite the finishing kick in what probably should have been an MVP season. Somehow we’ve bypassed Bernie Williams’ June in 2001, when he hit .450.
Indians: Travis Hafner, DH/1B
Aug. 2006: .361/.484/.856, 13 HR
Season: .308/.439/.659, 42 HR
We’ve already talked about how great Hafner was for a few years there, and this was the peak of that run.
Royals: Jermaine Dye, RF
March/April 2000: .388/.459/.847, 11 HR
Season: .321/.390/.561, 33 HR
Dye was, of course, much more famous for his time with a division rival, but he was never better than this.
Tigers: Miguel Cabrera, 1B
May 2013: .379/.455/.767, 12 HR
Season: .348/.442/.636, 44 HR
As has been noted many times, Cabrera won the Triple Crown in 2012, but was probably better in 2013. And this was his best month of that best season.
Twins: Joe Mauer, C/1B
May 2009: .414/.500/.838, 11 HR
Season: .365/.444/.587, 28 HR
Mauer has a quiet case for the Hall of Fame, and this month would be the perfect highlight reel.
White Sox: Magglio Ordonez, RF
July 2003: .429/.474/.771, 7 HR
Season: .317/.380/.546, 29 HR
Ordonez never had the staying power to be discussed nearly as much as he should be today, but when he was on, he had a thunder in his bat that few others could boast.
Angels: Mike Trout, CF
July 2015: .367/.462/.861, 12 HR
Season: .299/.402/.590, 41 HR
The thing that’s so great about Trout is that he doesn’t really have “hot” months. He’s just amazing, all the time, always. So pick any month. I just went with this one.
Astros: Richard Hidalgo, OF
Sept./Oct. 2000: .477/.532/.953, 11 HR
Season: .314/.391/.636, 44 HR
That Astros team had Jeff Bagwell, Craig Biggio, Moises Alou and Lance Berkman. But Hidalgo was dramatically better than all of them that year, smashing 44 homers. (On a team that lost 90 games, somehow.)
Athletics: Jason Giambi, 1B/DH
Sept./Oct. 2000: .396/.536/.844, 13 HR
Season: .333/.476/.647, 43 HR
This was back when Giambi had the long hair and crazy goatee and won the AL MVP Award, before the Yankees cleaned him up and made him look disappointingly respectable.
Mariners: Edgar Martinez, DH
May 2000: .441/.508/.814, 10 HR
Season: .324/.423/.579, 37 HR
Better than A-Rod or Griffey ever put up. Also, if you’re wondering, the fourth-best OPS in a month by a Mariner? Dan Vogelbach’s March/April of last year (1.195).
Rangers: Alex Rodriguez, SS
Aug. 2003: .340/.454/.849, 15 HR
Season: .298/.396/.600, 47 HR
Right before the Rangers made the trade in the offseason that would basically set up the next decade of baseball in the AL East, Rodriguez had the best month of his career. (And was more than worth the money.)
National League East
Braves: Chipper Jones, 3B
July 2006: .500/.575/.984, 7 HR
Season: .324/.409/.596, 26 HR
OK, fine, this was in only 16 games due to foot and oblique injuries. But what a 16-game stretch it was!
Marlins: Giancarlo Stanton, RF
Aug. 2017: .349/.433/.899, 18 HR
Season: .281/.376/.631, 59 HR
Stanton’s 18 homers this month were the most of any player in any month this century.
Mets: Mike Piazza, C
July 2001: .397/.506/.762, 6 HR
Season: .300/.384/.573, 36 HR
Piazza’s September of 2001 is, for very understandable reasons, remembered more today, but this was the Hall of Fame slugger at his best.
Nationals: Bryce Harper, RF
May 2015: .360/.495/.884, 13 HR
Season: .330/.460/.649, 42 HR
The best Harper year ever, with the best Harper month ever. It looked like he would fly forever at this point.
Phillies: Bobby Abreu, RF
May 2005: .396/.535/.792, 11 HR
Season: .286/.405/.474, 24 HR
This was when Abreu was on the hot streak that would lead to him winning the 2005 Home Run Derby … and then almost immediately stop hitting home runs.
Brewers: Christian Yelich, RF
Sept./Oct. 2018: .370/.508/.804, 10 HR
Season: .326/.402/.598, 36 HR
You may remember this month -- it’s the month that won Yelich his MVP Award (and his team the NL Central).
Cardinals: Jim Edmonds, CF
July 2004: .381/.475/.952, 13 HR
Season: .301/.418/.643, 42 HR
Albert Pujols put together many, many great months, but Edmonds might have been the MVP of that 2004 season, and he was unconscious in July.
Cubs: Sammy Sosa, RF
Aug. 2001: .385/.469/.936, 17 HR
Season: .328/.437/.737, 64 HR
Sosa famously hit 20 homers in June back in 1998, but this month may have been just as good. It would be all downhill from here, though.
Pirates: Josh Bell, 1B
May 2019: .390/.442/.797, 12 HR
Season: .277/.367/.569, 37 HR
Bell, for that month, became the player the Pirates had been waiting for him to be. Injuries followed, but now they know he can do it.
Reds: Joey Votto, 1B
July 2015: .405/.549/.667, 5 HR
Season: .314/.459/.541, 29 HR
The ultimate OBP star had an OBP that month that’s impossible not to stare at.
D-backs: J.D. Martinez, RF
Sept./Oct. 2017: .396/.431/.950, 16 HR
Season: .303/.376/.690, 45 HR
You may remember this as the year when Martinez was the best Trade Deadline acquisition possible … and made himself a pretty incredible free-agent case too.
Dodgers: Cody Bellinger, 1B/OF
March/April 2019: .431/.508/.890, 14 HR
Season: .305/.406/.629, 47 HR
Bellinger was still pretty good the rest of 2019, but he won himself the MVP Award with that torrid start to the year.
Giants: Barry Bonds, LF
Sept./Oct. 2001: .403/.607/1.078, 16 HR
Season: .328/.515/.863, 73 HR
Honestly, you can pick just about any Barry Bonds month if you want to. But this one is jaw-dropping, and it’s the month where he set the single-season home run record with 73. Reminder: That’s slugging, not OPS, there at the end
Padres: Ryan Klesko, LF/1B
June 2000: .353/.470/.824, 8 HR
Season: .283/.393/.516, 26 HR
It is odd how few people remember how good Klesko was at his peak. And as we see here, not just in Atlanta.
Rockies: Troy Tulowitzki, SS
Sept./Oct. 2010: .303/.366/.754, 15 HR
Season: .315/.381/.568, 27 HR
Tulo never did make it back from all the injuries, but when he was at his peak, he was basically Nolan Arenado, but at shortstop. Maybe even better?