Cal alumni Marcus Semien (AL) and Alex Morgan (NWSL) earn Player of the Month (May) honors

A couple of Pro Bears have excelled in the month of May

A couple of Cal greats have recently returned to their past top form and enjoyed a rather special month of May.

Marcus Semien is the American League Player of the Month

Marcus Semien, an MVP candidate with the Oakland Athletics in 2019, had to settle for a one-year deal with the Toronto Blue Jays after a rough two months in 2020. After a slowish start in April, Semien had posted MVP-level output at the top of the vaunted Blue Jays lineup for the month of May.

Hitting in front of current AL-MVP frontrunner in Vlad Guerrero Jr., Semien playing primarily as a 2nd baseman this year led the AL in fWAR for the month of May. Semien also slashed .368/.429/.702 for an AL-leading OPS of 1.130.

The nomadic Blue Jays had to play their early home games of the 2021 season in Dunedin, Florida (their Spring Training site). They have since moved to Buffalo, NY for home games starting in June (yesterday). The hope for the lone Canadian franchise in MLB is a return to Toronto before the end of the 2021 season.

The month of May started with Marcus Semien receiving a nice tribute when the Blue Jays visited the Oakland A’s in the first series of May. Drafted and made his debut with the Chicago White Sox, Semien was traded to the A’s where he played for 6 seasons. The East Bay native, somewhat shockingly, did not receive a qualifying offer from the A’s in the offseason and ended up signing a one-year, $18 million deal with Toronto.

Simply put, Semien achieved his great May by not missing on the pitches in the middle of the strike zone. Semien hit 8 home runs in the month and nearly hit for the cycle in a game (he was a single short).

Semien also did a great job of not chasing the pitches outside the strike zone to post a 0.429 OBP as the leadoff batter. Baseball Savant’s Swing-Take breakdown credits him with +9 Run in value earned from taking all those balls.

Somewhat surprising, Semien’s K-rate in 2021 has gone up slightly but so did his hard-hit rate. His career-best 44.2 hard-hit rate on the batted ball is responsible for his May success. He is also not missing many fastballs nor change-ups during this hot streak, often pulling through the infield hole despite facing a defensive shift.

At age 30, Semien will hope to turn a strong one-year in 2021 into the long-term deal that he did not get this past offseason. With the young, fun core with Vlad Jr and Bo Bichette, the Blue Jays and Marcus Semien also have the ambition to take the AL East and make noise in October. Best of luck to Marcus to maintain his high level of play for the rest of the season. Cal fans can also vote for him as a starter for the MLB All-Star game.

Alex Morgan is the National Women’s Soccer League Player of the Month

After giving birth to her first child last year, Alex Morgan has finally returned to form, just in time for the 2021 Tokyo Olympics.

In the first month of NWSL play, Alex Morgan scored 4 goals in 4 matches to be named the Player of the Month.

Her fourth goal was reattributed from Marta (Morgan originally was credited with an assist) a couple of days after the match. Check out her other three goals in the embedded tweet below.

While she did not do too much in matches during her brief stint with the Tottenham Hotspurs Women earlier this year, Morgan and her hot start have allowed her Orlando Pride squad to have a 3-0-1 start in their 2021 NWSL campaign. All four goals (3 via her left foot, one via her head) came inside the penalty area as Alex Morgan also became the first NWSL player to score in the first four matches of the season.

Hopefully, Morgan’s NWSL success will also translate to her USWNT matches. Morgan’s international goal scoring rate has dropped in recent years as she only has two in 2021, so far. Her 109 international goals tie her with her Orland Pride teammate Marta as 8th in history. USWNT will have three tune-up matches (vs. Portgual, Jamaica, Nigeria) in June and two more (vs. Mexico) in early July in preparation for the Olympics. It would be great for Morgan to add to her tally in these matches on home soil and move up both the US and international goal-scoring ranks.