Mustache May started out on an ominous note for the San Francisco Giants.
The circus-like atmosphere of the Mexico City series, trampoline field included, ended a frustrating 11 - 16 March/April. Team members rolled into the month’s first series in Houston dizzy from the altitude change, exhausted from travel, and either doubled over with the stomach bug, or injured.
Mike Yastrzemski, the reigning champ of McCovey Chronicles illustrious 2022 Mustache May rankings (proclaimed by me), and the main driving force behind player involvement had injured his hamstring on May’s eve attempting a diving play in shallow left-center against the Padres.
With Yaz and perennial hair-farmer, Austin Slater, both on the IL at the month calendar flip, the Giants upper lip game was in short supply. The press was there—on MLB Network and in the Chronicle—but where was the facial hair flair?
Clean shaven, Abe Lincoln chin chops, manicured beards, and a County Donegal shepherd—yet many of the players who out did themselves on the field to win baseball games were fundamentally lacking what it takes to win Mustache May.
Michael Conforto was reborn into baseball relevancy this past month.
Appearing in 26 games with 105 plate appearances, Conforto was a constant presence in the batting order while hitting for two with his fellow lefty swinger Joc Pederson out after being hit on the hand on May 10th.
He doubled the home run total of his nearest teammate (7 HR to nearest 3), hit for average (.289), led the team in RBI (18), runs scored (17), and lowered his strikeout-percentage under 20% while his SLG, OPS, ISO, and wRC+ were all in the top-20 for Major League Baseball over May.
It was a renaissance, a sight to behold. But none of it means anything to us if the most important thing is still in doubt...
Did Michael Conforto have a mustache in May?
This freeze frame was yanked from his interview on May 31st after a clean MRI on his heel.
In this image, the lip bridge is certainly prominent, but the connecting cheek, jaw, and chin scruff feel too substantial. The ratio trends more beard than mustache, and only calls more attention to what is lacking.
Let’s turn back the clock to May 24th and crank up the image quality.
It’s not there. I want it to be...it’s just not.
So why couldn’t Conforto commit to the mustache? He was still batting on the interstate with a .597 OPS on May 8th—what did he have to lose?
Low self-esteem? Vanity? An inability to laugh at oneself? Or maybe with the quick turnaround (his OPS jumped from .597 to .810 in about two weeks) he was just superstitious? If my sluggish swing had just emerged out of its chrysalis after a painstaking 2-year metamorphosis as a gorgeous left-handed, rocket launching butterfly, I wouldn’t tinker with the variables in my life either. Morning routines locked: limited undergarment changes; socks then pants; venti dragonfruit refresher from Starbucks, light ice, ordered before hand on the app; meticulous trimming of facial hair to maintain consistent cheek-and-chin weight.
A shame because Conforto with a thin, lippy sneer draped con bro bristle while bopping homers would’ve been a vibe.
Or maybe shaving into a mustache on May 1st would’ve initiated a multiverse jump, an alternate timeline of ultimate destruction, failure, or…greater domination? Best to leave those worlds be. Of all the infinite possible presents, we just have this one now—for Conforto (besides the heartbreaking grooming decision) it was a good one.
Michael Conforto’s 11th home run of the season! pic.twitter.com/pXMAXA1M0b— Talkin’ Baseball (@TalkinBaseball_) May 26, 2023
For Mitch Haniger and J.D. Davis, there’s no debate. Sure, both consistently hit the ball hard and knocked in some important RBIs—but both are not in the Mustache May running.
Davis has maintained the square jaw beard for the whole season, and Haniger is partial to the carefully cultivated uncultivated shadow.
Thairo Estrada and Camilo Doval go out of their way to erase their lip hair from existence. Maybe it tickles their nostrils or the whole mustache month feels a little too dorm-roomy—preferring a more chin-strappy deep thinker, 19th century political/intellectual look à la Thoreau.
Not quite as wired as the transcendentalist—c
Even if Estrada grew out his mustache, his month was a down on offensively, with a sub-.600 OPS and a wRC+ below league average.
Doval on the other hand has been dominant, anchoring a stellar relief corp while juggling a heavy workload. The Giants led the Majors with 14 saves on the month, and Camilo bagged 11 of them while posting a 0.71 ERA and a 14.21 K/9 rate across 12.2 innings before his stay-sharp appearance on the 31st in a non-save situation (he K’ed 3 but allowed 1 ER).
Camilo Doval is the first Giant to save all three games of a sweep since Sergio Romo in 2013 pic.twitter.com/ckcxfIUOAv— KNBR (@KNBR) May 18, 2023
Still none of that matters because he doesn’t have a mustache.
There are no flaws in the system. The integrity of the process will not waver. We have an entirely scientific and legitimate approach in place to uncovering the ultimate performer in terms of quality of mustache and quality of play—it just needs qualifying participants. Casey Schmitt, Logan Webb, Alex Cobb, Anthony DeSclafani, Tyler Rogers, Sean Manaea, Blake Sabol—all had their moments this month, and all are eliminated from the 2023 Mustache May competition.
The field might be limited this year but as my god as my witness, there will be a winner.
Pardon the preamble (did everyone already know what a mustache was?)
The rookie utility man was a late entry in the month’s mustache play. He spent most of May with a boring, non-descript beard, but decided to rock the hat lip after the long road trip on May 29th.
Good dugout energy, a real saloon lounger, spitton spitter that works well with sunglasses. I think it adds a certain amount of necessary attitude to a freshman mug looking to make his mark in the Bigs.
And I love to see it on the mound serving up sub-60’s “sliders” in a 10-run blowout.
Final Takeaway: Solid mustache and glad he joined the party. Better late than never!
I kind of trashed Slater’s mustache in last year’s write-up. In retrospect, the outfielder’s mustache isn’t bad. It’s full, maybe a little curtain-y, a little carpet-y, but you can’t miss it. I like the color too! If I’m stretching for a compliment, it’s reminiscent of Robert Redford’s in “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.”
The Platonic ideal in my book.
Austin Slater is clearly not there.
As far as his play goes, May has dealt Slater a tough hand.
After starting the season on the injured list, Slater appeared in 5 games in May before re-aggravating his hamstring legging out an infield hit against the Nationals on May 10th.
He came back on May 29th in the opener against Pittsburgh and went 3 for 6 with a double, 4 RBIs and his first home run of the year. Slater continues to make loud contact and the impressive return was a welcome sign for the emaciated offense against lefties.
That being said, the universe might not want Slater’s top lip dressed. After the hamstring injury on the 10th, Slater slammed into the left field wall on the 29th attempting to chase down a fly ball, then was nearly kneed in the face on a close play at third base. No injury luckily, but the insult came when he was ruled out after third base coach Mark Hallberg touched his sleeve ushering him back to the bag.
Final Takeaway: Sundance with just a completely different face-shape and worse mustache (not sure why I compared them). Thanks for playing!
What started as a way to give himself a laugh became a conversation starter for mental health. Mike Yastrzemski shares more on how he teamed up with apparel brand Tiny Turnip to tell you that it's okay to not be okay. #MentalHealthAwareness pic.twitter.com/MTdg4nRBht— MLBPA (@MLBPA) May 25, 2023
Yaz is the face of Mustache May and has been doing it for as long as he’s been in a Giants uniform. The mustache is the same as 12 months ago, but dealing with injury and a slow return at the plate, he was unable to replicate his play.
I think he’s got a great top lip game. Its pronounced, serious while the addition of the rectangular soul-patch gives it a wink, a pinch of knowing fun. Packaged with Yaz’s on-field placidity, the whole thing is a bundle of complimentary contrasts. I dig it!
But an 0 for 19 stretch across 5 games after his return to the lineup on the 16th soiled the mustache reveal. Swinging a hot bat in April with lots of hard hit balls off the bat, the strength in the outfielder’s legs seemed weak in his swings. With the lower-half sapped of power, the ball wasn’t quite jumping off the bat as it did before the hamstring injury. Still, Yaz made his value clear with his eye at the plate (walking 3 times in those 5 games) and with his glove.
Once the slump was slayed, Yaz hit safely in 6 of his last 7 games in May, logging a 3-hit game in Minnesota, collecting 2 doubles, a homer in Milwaukee, and a triple against Pittsburgh.
As a team, the Giants spurned a 7-7 start to the month sans Yastrzemski, and turned their month into a standout with a 10-5 record in the concluding half after his return to health.
The CEO and founder of Mustache May, Mike Yastrzemski pic.twitter.com/nZbYztPzWR— SF Giants on NBCS (@NBCSGiants) May 28, 2023
As flashy as a mustache can be, Yaz’s presence is a good reminder that it can be the mark of true selflessness. It also doesn’t hurt that Michael Conforto emerged from hibernation around that same time.
Final Takeaway: Lifetime achievement award.
The moment a mustache mounts the mound, it’s something special. Though the mental game might not be as pronounced with an abbreviated stare down between pitcher and hitter thanks to the pitch clock, a hurler will take any advantage he can get over his opponent. A stern brow for your mouth, sporting a nasty stache while in a stare down is never a bad bet. A hitter is immediately forced back to his childhood: a glare from his father, a reproach in front of the class from a history teacher. It can jelly the knees, send one on a psychological spiral—who am I to this mustache? How can I make this mustache more proud of me?
Dad’s mustache’s curveball will always be un-hittable.
Scott Alexander has maybe one of the best mustaches in the game. It’s so sure of itself, and it’s certainly not a gimmick. The mustache was there in April and it will hopefully be there through the summer. Does this take-away from Alexander’s Mustache May involvement? Like Charlie Chaplin entering a Charlie Chaplin look-a-like contest. I don’t think it should—nor do I think it means the competition is end the bag for the reliever.
One of five relievers to make at least 10 appearances in May, Alexander pitched 9.1 innings with a 0.96 ERA filling a variety of roles for the bullpen. He opened 1 game, collected a save and 2 holds while giving up 1 run on 3 hits, 2 BB and a HBP. His turbo sinker induced a higher percentage of ground balls (66%) than Logan Webb or Alex Cobb.
Alexander has been an integral part of the bullpen’s rebound in the month. His specialty role on the team will keep him from taking home the top prize in Mustache May competitions, though the quality of his facial hair is unparalleled.
Final Takeaway: If I had to choose a mustache to poach, it’d be this one. Not sure a lefty set-up man with a mediocre K-rate would be my dream baseball role though.
LaMonte Wade Jr.
Full, well-manicured with a little roundness to it—Wade’s lip wouldn’t have looked out of place on a police officer in the 80’s, and probably won the popular vote for best mustache in 2022.
So I was a little surprised to see on May 1st the surging first baseman arrive in Houston choosing to go without. Maybe he was on the fence about shifting things around after such a terrific and historic start to the year. Understandable. Homering in the 8th of that 7-3 loss probably settled the matter in his mind.
It wasn’t until May 15th when he appeared as a defensive replacement in the 9th that he brought back the heralded top coat. In his next start, he went 2 for 3 with a walk in a win against Philadelphia.
Wade’s month is an interesting one. Among qualified hitters on the Giants roster in the month, he’s the only player who rocked a mustache for any amount of time. Some might say that that fact should settle the matter.
He played in 29 games and stepped to the plate 113 times—both led the team. His slash line (.292/.393/.385) is rivaled only by Conforto and Davis, who out-slugged him by a significant margin while playing a solid first base in his first real season at the position. San Francisco’s line-up is not the same without Wade at the top of it setting the tone against opposing arms.
The wrinkle for Wade in his Mustache May ascendancy is that he hit a lot better in the first half of the month. He still got on base at a great clip, which is his main role as a lead-off man against RHP, but the goatee > mustache trend is worrying.
From May 1st - May 15th, without mustache. Wade hit .310/.420/.476 with a 151 wRC+ in 51 PA.
From May 16th - May 31st, with stache: .278/.371/.315 with a 99 wRC+ in 61 PA. Major dips in these offensive categories while coming in below league-average in terms of power and offensive production.
It feels problematic to award Mustache May to a player who played significantly worse with one. Perhaps it was the initial spurn at the start, that lack of commitment. A mustache demands immediate and unwavering faithfulness, and Wade hesitated.
Final Takeaway: Good mustache—not great like last season’s. Would’ve been nice to see it on Day 1.
Patrick Bailey has shown a lot of poise already in his brief time in the Majors: Catching multiple bullpen games, handling a variety of arm slots and styles while subtly making each offering look the best it can be to the home plate umpire, stepping out to the mound to offer advice to veteran pitchers, throwing behind runners, hitting big league pitching from both sides of the plate, not trying to do much with pitches he can’t drive and driving pitches he sees in his zone.
Buster Posey says he sees a confidence in the way Patrick Bailey carries himself.— KNBR (@KNBR) May 26, 2023
"That's something that's hard to teach. I think it's just kind of a natural gift that he has." pic.twitter.com/tghdoulf5G
After hitting his first home run on May 21st, Bailey put down a safety squeeze bunt for another RBI in his next at-bat.
Against Rich Hill on May 29th, a man nearly two-decades his senior, Bailey sized up a first pitch curve ball on the outer half of the plate before swatting the second curve to the opposite field for a 2-run double.
Bailey knew a curve ball was coming on the first pitch, instead of trying to jump on it, he took it in order to see it better. Another offering from the same pitch and a similar zone, he had game plan. Don’t try to do much with a pitch, adapt your swing and go with it—it’s maybe my favorite cut of the year so far.
In 41 plate appearances: .333/.350/.564 with a 148 wRC+. A small sample size but the numbers are compelling compared to what Wade did in either half of May.
Patrick Bailey getting it done on his 24th birthday pic.twitter.com/yhNAQDlmwb— KNBR (@KNBR) May 29, 2023
Most importantly, Bailey’s done all of this with a mustache.
It’s not a particularly good one, but it’s there, and it was there from the get-go.
He didn’t have the stache for his brief stint in Triple-A Sacramento, but promotion to the Majors required a new look. Dignified without taking oneself too seriously. Happy to have the opportunity without belittling the importance of success. So when he unmasked himself after receiving Tyler Rogers’ game ending slider on May 19th the highlighted lip was there.
Patrick Bailey introduced to the Giants’ world with a slug draped over a cheeky smile.
Final Takeaway: Baseball is a child’s game played by men. What better encapsulation of this spirit than a mustache—and a bit of a reedy one at that.