First-half MLB awards: Red Sox's rebound, Pirates' surge earn honors
MVPs go to Central studs Miguel Cabrera and Yadier Molina, while big efforts in the first half lead Jon Heyman to celebrate the Red Sox and Pirates.
We might need a few more trophies for our first-half awards. Too many great players are having special years, or more to the point, similarly special years.
How to pick between Miguel Cabrera and Chris Davis ?
Or Clayton Kershaw and Matt Harvey ?
And how about that National League Rookie of the Year? All-Star Jose Fernandez and almost-All-Stars Yasiel Puig and Shelby Miller are all worthy, while Hyun-Jin Ryu , Julio Teheran and Evan Gattis aren't far behind.
Just about every player race for the midyear awards is tight. No call at all was easy, except possibly Clint Hurdle for NL Manager of the Year. You take a team that hasn't had a winning season in 20 years to nearly 20 games over .500, well, it's hard to make a case against him. Without further ado, the first-half awards, with all the bests (and a couple of worsts mixed in).
1. Miguel Cabrera, Tigers: Hard to believe someone can win the Triple Crown one year and improve the next but that's the case for Cabrera. His OPS is up well over 100 points to 1.132. His .365 batting average is 43 points better than anyone else, and his .458 on-base percentage is 56 points better. He earned his very first All-Star Game start this year. Maybe it's time we start recognizing how special he is.
2. Chris Davis, Orioles: It's hard enough to hit 37 home runs before the All-Star break (only three players have done it previously) but to do it while defending yourself has to be that much harder. It isn't fair that the only reason he's questioned is that he's so extraordinarily good. Davis has always been a good hitter, he just needed an opportunity and a position to call his own. Roger Maris' legit home-run record could go down, though it obviously won't be easy.
3. Josh Donaldson , Athletics: He embodied the A's great attitude, and put up a surprise .900 OPS to boot. It's an outrage he didn't make the All-Star team.
4. Dustin Pedroia , Red Sox: He's the leader of the best team (so far) in the AL, and he embodies the spirit of a revamped and improved club, setting the tone for the turnaround. The .396 on-base percentage and 51 walks have helped Boston lead the league in both categories.
5. Manny Machado , Orioles: He has so many doubles (39) that two Orioles could be going for all-time records (the doubles mark is 67 by Earl Webb in 1931). At third base, he's bringing up comparisons to Brooks Robinson. Hard to believe he just turned 21. Adrian Beltre and Evan Longoria would make it five third basemen in the top 10.
LVP (Least Valuable Player): Josh Hamilton , Angels. If Arte Morneo's intention was to show up his rival Rangers, it isn't working. One Rangers player said Hamilton would be doing much better if he was still with Texas. My question: How could he not?
1. Felix Hernandez , Mariners: In Seattle, you're going to suffer a publicity deficit. But this is a bit much. Nobody mentioned him as a possible All-Star starter. But so far he's the league's best, if he's only doing what he usually does. King Felix has 140 strikeouts to go with the 10-4 record and 2.53 ERA.
2. Max Scherzer , Tigers: If the 13-1 record is aided a bit by the league's best support, the 3.19 ERA doesn't do him justice, either. The 0.98 WHIP is second in the league and so are the 152 strikeouts. Some claim pitching wins shouldn't count for much (or anything), but the fact is he has given his team a chance every time out by being consistently excellent.
3. Chris Sale , White Sox: The debate over who's been better -- Scherzer or Sale -- is very interesting, as Sale's 6-8 record is really only a reflection of his team's offensive struggles. His 1.01 WHIP and 2.85 ERA are closer approximations of his value. NL hitters looked overmatched during the All-Star Game on Tuesday, no surprise considering his overwhelming stuff and funky delivery.
4. Bartolo Colon , A's: It's more fair to question Colon, since he failed a PED test last year and earned a penalty that leaked into this season. But since he's passing tests this year (as far as we know), it's hard to eliminate him. At 12-3 with a 2.70 ERA two years after some thought he was on the cusp of retirement does conjure suspicion.
5. Yu Darvish , Rangers: He has been worth every penny of the $112 million spent, as he is as spectacular as advertised. Another great call by the Rangers people.
Cy Old (Worst pitcher): Phil Humber, Astros. In an effort to have symmetry, both our Cy Olds pitched perfect games last year. So far Humber is having an imperfect season -- 0-8, 9.59 ERA.
Rookie of the Year
1. Jose Iglesias , Red Sox: This is a rare runaway (so far, anyway). Many wondered whether he would hit enough to play shortstop in the bigs, but so far he's hitting enough to play third. His .367 batting average, down from better than .400, has to be one of the biggest surprises in baseball. Very wise (he spent the winter under Pedroia's wing) and instinctual. "Jose has done a great job stabilizing our infield defensively and also made great strides offensively. It's obvious he put a lot of time into his game this winter," Red Sox GM Ben Cherington said.
2. Alex Torres , Rays: Very quietly, he has been one of the better middle relievers in the league. Has a 0.34 ERA, if you like that sort of thing.
3. Leonys Martin , Rangers: Looks like Rangers people were right about him, too. Really coming on lately. Star in the making.
Manager of the Year
1. John Farrell, Red Sox: Cherington's choice has been exactly what they hoped for, "He made a point the day he got here to put the focus on the field and that is exactly where it has been," Cherington said.
2. Joe Maddon, Rays: Quite possibly the best manager in the bigs is definitely tops at getting guys with character issues to play. Yunel Escobar is the latest example.
3. Bob Melvin, A's: The 2012 winner is right back there again. Everyone knows their role in that crazy, winning clubhouse.
Executive of the Year: Cherington. Farrell was the right call, but an even better one was enhancing the clubhouse mix with above-average players who have terrific attitudes. Few have mentioned what a great pickup Mike Carp was, too.
1. Yadier Molina , Cardinals: They have to figure out that WAR thing, as his 4.0 mark just doesn't do him justice. Beyond leading the NL with a .341 batting average, he's invaluable as a handler of the best staff in the league. Also, nobody runs on him.
2. Paul Goldschmidt , Diamondbacks: His monster numbers (21 homers, 77 RBI, .952 OPS) are dwarfed by the AL guys. But in a pitching-dominated league, he stands out as the most productive slugger in the NL. He and Patrick Corbin are keeping the D-Backs atop the tight West.
3. Joey Votto , Reds: Nobody has a better idea about the strike zone. Doing his usual.
4. Andrew McCutchen , Pirates: He's finally getting some help. Brings speed (20 steals), defense and power to the party. Could be a special year in Pittsburgh.
5. Matt Carpenter , Cardinals: He beat out Daniel Descalso for the job in spring training and the rest is history. Michael Cuddyer , Carlos Gomez , Carlos Gonzalez , Buster Posey and others are in the mix, but players on teams in playoff position or at least contention are preferred here.
LVP: Melvin Upton , Braves. Maybe the $75.2 million deal is weighing on him, because this is a good player. He also isn't preventing Atlanta from leading the East by a lot.
1. Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers: It's not really clear why NL manager Bruce Bochy made a point of saying Matt Harvey would have started the All-Star Game even if it had been somewhere other than Citi Field (was he playing to the home crowd?), but Kershaw gets the slightest of nods here. Leads in WHIP at 0.91 and ERA at 1.98.
2. Matt Harvey, Mets: No surprise he leads the NL with 147 strikeouts as he has been dominating in all but a couple outings. A worthy successor on the Mets' tree of pitching greats, after Tom Seaver and Dwight Gooden.
3. Adam Wainwright , Cardinals: He leads the league in innings, and the nearly 9-to-1 strikeouts-to-walk ratio (130 strikeouts, 15 walks) is crazy. Terrific team man, too.
4. Patrick Corbin , Diamondbacks: Out of almost nowhere, the kid who started the year as the D-Backs' No. 5 starter is 11-1 with a 1.00 WHIP.
5. Jordan Zimmermann , Nationals: He has surpassed Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez , at least so far this season. Has a 12-4 record and 0.97 WHIP.
Cy Old: Matt Cain , Giants. Obviously he has been far from the worst pitcher in the league. But grading on an expectation curve (and wanting to keep our perfect-game symmetry going), Cain gets the nod. After a season in which he pitched the clincher in every round in addition to throwing the perfecto and signing a deal for $127.5 million, he's struggling enough that folks are wondering whether he's hurt.
Rookie of the Year
1. Yasiel Puig, Dodgers: The impact he has had has been immense, even if Bochy (and apparently enough fans) didn't want him on the All-Star team.
2. Jose Fernandez, Marlins: Does anyone have a bigger future than him? Had the best stuff of anyone on All-Star night. Turns 21 later this month.
3. Shelby Miller, Cardinals: Another good spring call by the Cards. Close to an All-Star. Ryu and Teheran have been excellent as well in quite a year for young NL pitchers. Evan Gattis was huge early for the Braves, as well. Didi Gregorius of the D-Backs, too.
Manager of the Year
1. Clint Hurdle, Pirates: He has them believing, not easy in Pittsburgh.
2. Mike Matheny, Cardinals: Not easy to follow a legend. He has done it as well as anyone possibly could.
3. Fredi Gonzalez, Braves: Despite Atlanta's offensive struggles, he has had them in front from Day 1.
Executive of the Year: Neal Huntington, Pirates. Huntington looked like he was falling out of favor in Pittsburgh, but with the Nate McLouth deal looking like a home run ( Jeff Locke was an All-Star), Gerrit Cole coming up to help and the back-end bullpen duo of Mark Melancon and Jason Grilli both making the All-Star team he is the obvious choice.