“December is the toughest month of the year. Others are July, January, September, April, November, May, March, June, October, August, and February.”
— Mark Twain
© Eric Broder Van Dyke | Dreamstime.com – Rockies pitcher Yohan Flande throws pitch to batter with Angels
December is my favorite month of the year. But what is in the name of a month? Does a month by any other name feel as sweet? August is my least favorite as it initiates the return of reality in my household as school starts again, not to mention it is the hottest month to endure. While August may be meaningful in other regards, I prefer December.
Is August the most common birth month for professional baseball players? I first heard of this suggestion in a Slate.com article I read several years ago, which can be found here. The article presents a table showing a clear lead for August in players born in the United States since 1950. There were 503 players born in August, while July and June shared the lowest total with just 313 birthdays. What explains this occurrence? July 31 has been the standard cutoff date for little league, which means that being born in August allows you an extra year of development in lower divisions and makes you one of the older players at each step, creating a clear advantage. I will let Greg Spira’s article and John Holway’s book, The Baseball Astrologer, provide the rest of the details.
My goal is to see if the trend has continued since Spira’s table included major leaguers through the 2005 season. A change was made however, the cutoff date was changed to April 30 at the time this article was written, but the results of that change wouldn’t be evident in most players today. Mike Trout, born on Aug 7, was 15 when the age cutoff was changed, so it would not have affected him or anyone else his age or older. For now, I will take a look at Canadian and US-born players, 25 years old and older, who played in 2016, and were born in the months of July and August to see if the correlative behavior remains today.
There are 66 Canadian and US-born major leaguers born in July (1991 or earlier) who have played in 2016; Michael Wacha, Colin Rea, Brett Oberholtzer, Mike Montgomery, Charlie Blackmon, Jerad Eickhoff, Brett Cecil, Logan Kensing, Tommy Hunter, Zach Putnam, Brandon Maurer, Jabari Blash, Jared Hughes, Tony Cingrani, Preston Tucker, Nick Goody, Brandon McCarthy, Christian Friedrich, Josh Harrison, Steven Okert, John Lamb, Scott Alexander, Will Smith, Johnny Giavotella, Blaine Boyer, Tom Gorzelanny, Howie Kendrick, Tony Sipp, Nick Vincent, Chasen Shreve, Tyler Skaggs, Tyler Cravy, DJ LeMahieu, Mac Williamson, Peter O’Brien, Eric Surkamp, Tommy Joseph, Matt Purke, Steve Delabar, Adam Lind, Derek Dietrich, Brett Nicholas, Conor Gillaspie, Patrick Corbin, Phil Coke, Tyler Saladino, Matt Szczur, Kevin Siegrist, Steve Selsky, Ty Kelly, Stephen Strasburg, CC Sabathia, Jake Barrett, Ryan Vogelsong, Matt Carasiti, Scott Van Slyke, Alex Presley, Brandon Morrow, Kevin Jepsen, Vidal Nuno, Ryan Flaherty, Max Scherzer, Alex Rodriguez, Darin Ruf, Jesse Hahn, and Scott Diamond
There are 96 Canadian and US-born major leaguers born in August (1991 or earlier) who have played in 2016; Madison Bumgarner, Adam Jones, Brandon Kintzler, Huston Street, Colby Lewis, Matt Joyce, Mark Reynolds, Brian Ellington, Mike Freeman, Nick Martinez, Tim Federowicz, Carl Crawford, Jake McGee, Mike Trout, Tony Zych, Andy Burns, Tommy Kahnle, Josh Smith, Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Wade LeBlanc, Craig Breslow, Ross Ohlendorf, Blake Wood, Anthony Rizzo, Greg Garcia, Drew Butera, Dustin Antolin, Jason Heyward, Anthony Gose, Sammy Solis, Matt den Dekker, Drew Storen, Colby Rasmus, Andrew Lambo, Zach Cozart, Kyle Lobstein, Ryan Weber, Chris Owings, Randal Grichuk, J.J. Hoover, Dustin Garneau, Boone Logan, Jeremy Hazelbaker, Clay Buchholz, Jarrod Dyson, Jon Moscot, Justin Grimm, Ryan Hanigan, Chad Qualls, Dustin Pedroia, Tuffy Gosewisch, Dillon Overton, Daniel Webb, Justin Wilson, Tony Cruz, Evan Gattis, Austin Adams, Josh Fields, J.J. Hardy, Chris Capuano, J.D. Martinez, Dustin Molleken, Melvin Upton, Jesse Chavez, Chris Stratton, Drew Hutchison, David Huff, Luke Jackson, Brett Gardner, Logan Morrison, Justin Upton, Adam Warren, Max Muncy, Matt Marksberry, Deven Marrero, Darin Mastroianni, Eric Fryer, David Price, Brett Wallace, Nick Tropeano, A.J. Achter, Jordy Mercer, Ryan Madson, Will Harris, Matt Andriese, Matt Dominguez, Chris Taylor, Brent Suter, Marc Rzepczynski, Anthony Recker, Billy Burns, Steven Wright, Adam Wainwright, Marlon Byrd, Matt Adams, and Steve Johnson.
August wins again based on the current data, there are 45% more players born in August than in July. Perhaps there is support for the notion that an extra year of development can increase the chance of making it to the big leagues. Let’s compare baseball to brain development. 80-90% of a child’s brain is developed within the first 5 years of life, so it is vital to talk and interact with a child as much as possible to improve cognition. The same can be said of baseball. While opinions may vary, the ability to play baseball is largely developed during the ages of 7 to 12. Gaining an extra year in brain or baseball development would be significant. While the data does suggest that your birth month can be a factor, it is certainly not the only factor in reaching the Major Leagues. I’ll have to revisit this study again in about 10 years to see if May proves to be advantageous over April.