Question: Which American League outfielder is tied for the AL lead in hits and is tied for third in RBIs?
If you guessed Michael Brantley, give yourself a pat on the back. Yes, Michael Brantley, the 26 year-old left handed hitter whose biggest claim to fame is being traded for CC Sabathia, is having a monster May.
After hitting just .245 in April, Brantley has made this month count so far, hitting safely in all seven Indians games to the tune of .400 batting average. After dropping their final six games last month, Brantley has lead the Indians to three straight wins as well as five in their last seven games, culminating with his 3 for 5 performance last night that included a home run, a double, two runs, and three RBIs in a 9-4 win over the Twins.
For the season, Brantley has upped his batting average to .289 and is tied for third in the AL with 29 RBIs. Thanks in part to 6 early season home runs (which already puts him more than halfway to his career high of 10, set last year), Brantley owns a .492 slugging percentage, over 100 points higher than his career slugging percentage, .388.
Perhaps even more impressive than his unforeseen power and his ability to drive in runs is his strikeout rate. Brantley has struck out just ten times this, averaging 12.80 at bats per strikeout. That rate puts him at third in the Majors, behind just Victor Martinez and Andrelton Simmons. Brantley has the fewest strikeouts of any player with at least 115 at bats.
With the help of Michael Brantley this month, the Indians have already climbed out of the basement in the American League Central. While it will be tough to catch the Tigers, they are just a half a game behind the Royals and 1.5 behind the White Sox. If they hope to make the playoffs for the second year in a row, Michael Brantley will need to keep hitting like one of the top players in the American League.