The All-Star break has come and gone, and tonight is the start of baseball’s dog days of summer. Pennant races are heating up and emotions are going to be high as the trade deadline looms and the crucial part of the season begins.
The first half was a very interesting one this year. There have been plenty of surprises, both pleasant and disappointing. Some players and teams have stood out above the rest, and they are rewarded with MLB Midseason Awards. Let’s do it!
- AL MVP: Mike Trout, Angels. To pick anybody else at this point would be foolish, because Trout is the best all-around player in baseball without a doubt. His 1.005 OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging percentage, 1st in AL), .310 average (7th), 22 homers (4th), 73 RBI (3rd) and only two errors in the field back that up pretty nicely. His wins above replacement value (WAR) is second in the majors behind only Troy Tulowitzki and his Angels are finally in contention again, only 1.5 games back in the AL West. You can’t discredit him because he’s on a bad team anymore, so there are really no reasons to vote against him. Trout gets first-half MVP and will most likely get the award at season’s end as well.
- NL MVP: Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies. I’m not a big fan of giving the MVP to a player on a losing team, but Tulo is the best player in the National League without a doubt. Tied for first in the NL in home runs with 21, running away with the batting title at .345, leading in OPS at 1.048, and 53 RBI. He probably won’t get the triple crown (he’s 11 behind in the RBI category), but only Trout is a better player right now. Despite the losing record, he’s the MVP.
- AL Cy Young: Felix Hernandez, Mariners. King Felix has been absolutely unfair this year. He’s got an 11-2 record, a 2.12 ERA, 154 strikeouts in 144 innings, and allowed just five homers in the first half. He’s a big reason Seattle is tied for the AL Wild Card lead right now, and he doesn’t appear to be slowing down anytime soon. The standard of excellence he has displayed these past few years has been simply remarkable, and he finally has a good team behind him. East Coast fans should make the effort to stay up and watch some of his starts this second half; you won’t regret it.
- NL Cy Young: Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers. The Clayton Kershaw-Adam Wainwright debate came to a fever pitch this All-Star break when Cardinals manager Mike Matheny picked his guy to start the game. Wainwright struggled and became the center of controversy, while Kershaw was solid as usual. Now I’m not using an exhibition game to settle this, but the performances were indicative of why Kershaw is a better pitcher; he simply gives his team the best chance to win every time he goes out there. He has an 11-2 record, the best ERA of any pitcher, a no-hitter in June and a 41-inning scoreless streak that ended last week but definitely won’t be the last one this year. Wainwright is great, but Kershaw may be the best pitcher since Randy Johnson. He gets the nod.
- AL Rookie of the Year: Jose Abreu, White Sox. Seeing a rookie on top of the home run charts is rare, but Abreu is anything but ordinary. He got the richest contract of a Cuban defector in major league history, and he’s earned every dollar. His 29 homers and .630 slugging percentage lead the majors, while his 73 runs batted in are tied for third. Chicago is still in the hunt for October, and he will need to keep up his production if they hope to get to the postseason. With Masahiro Tanaka likely out for the season, the Rookie of the Year is Abreu’s to lose.
- NL Rookie of the Year: Billy Hamilton, Reds. Don’t blink; you might miss another stolen base or web gem from Cincinnati’s electric center fielder. Hamilton has swiped 38 bags, good for third in the majors, but he’s not a one-dimensional player at all. He’s batting a respectable .285, has 38 runs batted in, and has only committed one error in the field. At season’s end, he could very well win Rookie of the Year, a Gold Glove, the stolen base title, and possibly even a World Series. The Reds are one game out of the Wild Card race and will be looking for #6 to help lead them to October. He’s one of the most exciting players the game has seen in a long time; when he takes off for second, just watch him fly.
- AL Manager of the Year: Bob Melvin, A’s. The A’s are the best team in baseball, and Melvin deserves a lot of credit for that. Most people expected Oakland to have a great season, but when you consider that two starting pitchers had to miss 2014 with Tommy John surgery and Melvin was forced to turn to previously-unknown Sean Doolittle as closer, only to see him become an All-Star, it makes sense why Melvin is the best in the game. He’s made all the right moves, and he’s put his team in position to make a deep playoff run.
- NL Manager of the Year: Ron Roenicke, Brewers. On July 18, 2013, the Brewers were 19.5 games out of the NL Central with one of the worst records in the game (38-56). Their pitching staff was awful, and they only had 16 wins away from Miller Park. Flash forward to today, July 18, 2014, and it’s a completely different story. The 53-43 Brewers lead the NL Central by a game over St. Louis. Their pitching staff is no dynamo, but the lineup is second-best in the National League, and they’ve won 28 games on the road. Roenicke has been praised for the turnaround, and rightly so; he deserves all the praise he has been given. Not only is he one of the good guys in the game, but he’s extremely resilient as well.
Will these award races stay the same after the regular season ends? Drop a comment or tweet me @chuckiemaggio