May has ended and the San Francisco Giants bid adieu with mixed feelings. They ended the month with a 13-14 record, it’s been nearly two years since the team has finished a month with a sub-.500 record.
The 31 days commenced rather dubiously with a 5-game losing streak. The doldrums returned weeks later with another five game skid, broken up by one of the greatest offensive displays in franchise history against one of the best teams in the National League, only to drop a series against one of the worst days later.
May has been confusing.
The pitching has been terrible while also being kind of elite. Players have surged, others have fallen away, either injured or designated for assignment or traded away. San Francisco has been in the headlines in recent days for things that have incredible importance and absolute triviality.
But through all this rumpus the San Francisco mustaches have grown. The rewilding of the top lip in the fifth month has been a tradition for some clubhouse members in recent seasons and it occurred to me this year that the success of the mustache might have some correlation to the success of the man.
May has been weird. Indulge me.
I hate to start with the duds because, well, we all have different bodies and there is no need to shame one player for “insufficient” facial hair growth.
That being said—Joc Pederson does not have a good mustache.
To even call it a mustache is more than generous. I’m not sure if it’d even qualify as wispy. He’s akin to Dave Fleming in round, boyish features (and we love Dave!)—but the light has to catch Pederson’s scruff just right to become visible to the naked eye.
Above is a picture of Pederson at the start of the month. Keen observers can make out on my pixelated screen grab some shading. But it’s early days! Give the kid a break. Let’s check back in on the 31st.
I can appreciate a stringy, blonde, Larry Bird stache—but I don’t think Joc quite has it here. Luckily, he’s not paid to hit with his facial hair. Pederson’s overall May numbers were modest to a point. His OPS sat at .782 the morning of May 31st. After last night’s 11th inning two-run homer it jumped to .848. Over the last 14 days it’s nearly doubled at 1.590. His wRC+ is 325 (the MLB average is 100). Both lead the team.
He also embodied the hitting spirit of Barry Bonds for one night, powering the Giants to a win in one of recent history’s better games with three home runs and 8 RBIs.
Imagine what he could do with a mustache.
Mauricio Dubón, who was traded in the middle of the month to the Houston Astros, was sneakily one of my favorite mustaches over the month.
Sketchy, thin, but works well with a curled lip—it’d be a mistake to compare these hairs to Pederson’s. The mustache has character, a sense of itself. It wouldn’t be out of place at the Potrero Skatepark, or rocking a Thrasher hoodie while devouring a burrito in the Mission.
Dubón was also putting together some decent numbers, slugging .619 with 2 home runs over his 23 plate-appearances before being shipped to Texas.
LaMonte Wade Jr. and Austin Slater had similar baseball fates over the month yet disparate facial hair aesthetics.
Slater went on the 10 day IL with wrist inflammation on May 23rd. His last appearance came in the previous day’s 10-1 loss to San Diego. Wade went to the IL with his trick knee on the 20th after coming off the list 2 weeks prior. Over their 30 odd PA’s, the pair didn’t do much of note to stand out. Slater displayed a discerning eye at the plate, posting a 27% walk rate. Wade hit an important 2-run homer in a 4-3 win over St. Louis.
As far as play goes, May was mostly mired in frustration for the two outfielders.
As far as facial hair goes, their two roads diverged.
Wade’s mustache was transcendent. Top-three on the team. If we had a fan vote, it might take the top spot, and if he had stuck around to put up half-way decent numbers, the debate over who wore Mustache May best would be pretty one sided. It’s thick and confident, but also sensitive, soft on the edges. I just trust it. If you squint you can see Freddie Mercury. Maybe some “Lethal Weapon” Danny Glover. Most importantly, it lends itself to a great hitting profile.
Slater’s does not. He’s got the bristle-end of a broom up there and I’m not here for it. Maybe it’s his lack of a chin? I don’t know—just gives off Cletus from “The Simpsons” vibes.
Zach Littell came off the IL on May 5th, throwing 11.2 innings over 10 appearances. His mustache is solid, it gets the job done, his 3.86 HRs over 9 innings did not.
Dominic Leone’s mustache is a little more rustic with a bit of a spahetti-western feel. In a rocky month for Giants arms, he’s been on the more reliable side. His K rate of 11.45 per 9 innings is near Camilo Doval’s with a lower walk rate. He held the reins in some recent late inning dog-fights.
Here’s a photo of his scruff about to drop a nasty slider on Nick Castellanos on the 30th. Bryce Harper had just waved and missed at three of them.
I think we all knew that Mustache May comes down to two players: Curt Casali and Mike Yastrzemski.
If you’ve watched the Giants at all this past month, you know that Casali and Yaz are what’s going right for the Giants. They pass the eye-test in more ways than one. Their bats are surging. Their staches full.
Though Casali had only a handful more PAs than Austin Slater over the month, he’s done a lot with a little. His 1.145 OPS led the team. His 9.8 K% was the lowest of anyone with more than 5 PA’s. He started the month batting 9th and ended it batting 3rd. The veteran catcher’s bat came alive at a time when Giants fans started to fear the worst for Joey Bart, flashing clutch power in games against Colorado and Philadelphia.
His mustache is on par with most firefighters. It fits Casali’s face perfectly and even smiles on top of his smile, like it knows exactly what’s going to happen next…
But for me, this article has always been about Mike Yastrzemski.
Yaz’s mustache premiered in Los Angeles on May 4th fully realized. Mike Krukow immediately heralded it as Zappa-esque. Nail on the head. The soul patch accompaniment is absurd, yet foundational. As a whole, the Yaz Stache works because it carries the push-and-pull of both clown and solemnity. It makes you smile, but it does not smile back—a natural fit to Yastrzemski’s on-field demeanor.
Mike Yastrzemski’s Mustache May was the success because he excelled in both fields of lip-growth and play. He only missed two games in May. His 104 plate appearances led the team. He’s been the model of consistency in an up and down month. His on base percentage was 30 points higher than any other player with a similar amount of opportunities. Gabe Kapler has started using him against lefties again—posting an OPS of .947 over 31 PA against southpaws.
Point to any rally or run scored for the Giants in May and Yaz’s mustache was probably in the mix. He spent the month spitting at pitches out of the zone and when he chose to swing, he hit the ball hard. Over 25 games, he accumulated a WAR of 1.3 according to Fangraphs, which pairs well with his 2020 numbers that earned him an 8th place finish in National League MVP voting.
The return of the old Mike Yastrzemski has been a balm in these uncertain times for San Francisco Giants fans. I hope he sticks around in June, even if his mustache doesn’t.