It’s Almost All-Star Game time, a midseason look at individual awards leaders, and more as MLB approaches the halfway mark of the season.
Kansas City Here We Come
Next Tuesday, the 84th MLB All-Star Game will take place in Kansas City. The starting lineups, pitchers, and reserves were announced yesterday by MLB. Other than Pablo Sandoval being voted the NL third base starter over David Wright, which itself isn’t totally outrageous, it appears that the fans sent the most deserving players to the game. The players and managers of the two squads did an outstanding job of filling out the rosters with deserving candidates. While some deserving players were excluded, only Zack Greinke‘s exclusion from the NL squad was a shocker. For all of the things that Bud Selig has done wrong in his tenure as commissioner of baseball, the All Star game deciding home field advantage in the World Series was a fantastic idea. The MLB All-Star Game stands alone in professional sports as the only game of its kind to have consequences that affect the season of the sport in which it is played. The intensity of the players has definitely increased since the advent of the home field advantage in the World Series being decided by the game, as has the intensity of fans. Don’t expect AL manager Ron Washington to view this game as an exhibition. Washington’s Texas Rangers have been on the losing end of the last two World Series. In both losses, the Rangers have had to start on the road due to the results of the last two All-Star games. The Rangers are already assured of being represented by at least 7 players in this year’s game. Yu Darvish is a strong candidate in the Final Vote, taking place now, and Washington could have as many as 8 of his own players to manage and use as he wishes next Tuesday night. It wouldn’t surprise me a bit to see Washington aggressively manage this game and use his own players deeper and longer than players are typically used in this day and age in the All-Star game.
MLB will pass through the halfway point of the 2012 season this week. Time to take a look at who deserves the first half honors.
AL Most Valuable Player -Josh Hamilton
Josh Hamilton’s talent was never in question by anyone who’d ever seen him play. The only things that have ever stopped Hamilton were his own demons or injuries. Before this season began, another writer here and I were debating him and I wondered aloud “Imagine if he could stay healthy for a season?”. Hamilton has surprised many by staying healthy this year, appearing in 73 of the Rangers first 80 games and avoiding the DL. Hamilton has put up ridiculous offensive numbers in the first half of the season, hitting .314 with an OBP of .381, an OPS of 1.023, a slugging percentage of .643, 25 home runs and 73 RBI’s. Hamilton has been a human highlight reel and the best player in MLB in the first half of 2012. Mike Trout and Robinson Cano may emerge as contenders for year-end honors in the 2nd half but right now Hamilton is clearly in charge of this spot.
AL Cy Young- Justin Verlander
Verlander’s 2012 season so far has not rivaled his incredible 2011 season, that’s not really a fair basis for comparison. Verlander is 8-5 with 4 no decisions in 17 starts with an ERA of 2.69 and a WHIP of 0.98 so far in 2012. Verlander has thrown 4 complete games and possesses a slightly better than 4-1 K to BB ratio to give him a slight nod over Jered Weaver.
AL Rookie Of the Year- Mike Trout
Since being called up by the Angels in late April, the 19-year-old Trout has been nothing short of incredible. In 57 games, Trout has hit .339 with a .395 OBP, .542 slugging percentage, and a .938 OPS to go along with 9 home runs, 33 RBI’s and 22 stolen bases. Trout is on his way to one of the best rookie seasons in MLB history and has no peers in this category.
AL Manager Of The Year- Buck Showalter
The Baltimore Orioles are the story of the AL so far in 2012. A perennial doormat for years in the AL East, the Orioles would have a wildcard spot if the season were to end today. Working without the depth and payroll that many of his rivals in the AL have, Showalter has done some of his best work this season. The Orioles have the worst run differential in the AL East(-26) yet still cling to second place in the AL East primarily due to their record in 1 run games(14-6) and extra innings games(9-2). When a manager has a 23-8 record in coin flip games he is definitely doing something right.
NL Most Valuable Player- Joey Votto
Votto has made Reds management look very smart in 2012 by rewarding them with a career season right after a very expensive long-term contract extension.
Votto is batting .350 so far this season, with an unbelievable OBP of .471. Votto has a slugging percentage of .632 and an OPS of 1.103 to go along with 14 home runs and 47 RBI’s.
NL Cy Young- R.A. Dickey
Dickey is 12-1 with 3 no decisions in 16 starts for the Mets so far in 2012. Dickey’s ERA is 2.15, third among qualified starters in the NL this season. Dickey’s WHIP of 0.88 leads all qualified NL starters in 2012 and his K to BB ratio is ridiculous at more than a 4 1/2 to 1 ratio.
NL Rookie Of The Year- Lance Lynn
Lynn has compiled a record of 10-4 with 2 no decisions in 16 starts for the Cardinals. Lynn has been knocked around in his last three starts, which raises concerns for the rest of his season, but to this point has been the best rookie in the NL in a weak crop.
NL Manager Of The Year- Clint Hurdle
If the season were to end today, the Pittsburgh Pirates would be in possession of the last wildcard spot in the NL. Hurdle has done an outstanding job with the Pirates in outperforming clubs who spend so much more on talent. The Pirates were one of only 6 NL teams to have a winning record in interleague(10-8) and are 18-14 in 1 run games as well as 3-0 in extra inning games. Hurdle has turned around a team with a losing culture as deep as any in MLB in the last two decades and deserves a lot of credit for the job he has done in Pittsburgh.
If The Playoffs Started Today……
The Angels would host the Orioles in a one game playoff to determine who would advance to play the Rangers. The Yankees would have home field advantage against the White Sox in the other series.
The Dodgers would host the Mets in a one game playoff to determine who would advance to play the Nationals. The Giants would have home field advantage against the Reds in the other series.
Tweet Of The Week
“Water wet, Fire hot, Dunn strikes out” @NYYEric on Friday night commenting after Adam Dunn struck out again, as he continues on pace to break the strikeout record by a hitter in one season.