At the traditional halfway point of the baseball season, I would like to submit my choices for various individual awards that are given out at the end of the year. Keep in mind that my choices are for performances up to the All Star break and not necessarily my choices to win the award at the end.
Most Valuable Player
American League: Mike Trout of the Angels. This guy just keeps getting better and better every year. He won this award last year and there is no reason to believe he cannot do it again. Trout already has 26 homers and is project to finish with 38 dingers and 99 RBI. Miguel Cabrera of the Tigers would be a close second to Trout. It is going to depend on how many games he misses while battling a calf strain and how quickly he returns to form.
National League: Bryce Harper of the Nationals. He has already established career-highs in homers (26) and RBI (61). If he continues at the same pace, he will be close to Trout with 36 homers and 98 RBI. Giancarlo Stanton is in the same boast as Cabrera…on the disabled list. He is expected to return at the end of July, but it is very difficult to recover from a hand injury.
Least Valuable Player
American League: Just as the top players are rewarded, I also recognize the players who are not doing as well, hoping that they can turn it on in the second half of the season. Boston’s Mike Napoli is hitting only .191 with just ten home runs. His lack of offense could be a key reason why the Red Sox are in the cellar of the AL East. If Napoli can come on strong in the second half, the BoSox could make up the 6-1/2 game deficit. Teammate David Ortiz is also struggling, hitting only .231 with 15 homers and 43 RBI. His projected number of 85 RBI would be his lowest total since 1993 when he was with the Twins.
National League: Ryan Howard’s numbers have been on the downslide since 2011, when he collected 33 homers and 116 RBI. His first half totals (.222, 15, 43) are hardly worth the $25 million he is making. Ditto for Matt Kemp. Most expected the outfielder to have a resurgence in 2015 after being traded from Los Angeles to San Diego. He, however has only eight homers and 47 RBI…not good enough to justify his $21 million salary.
Rookie of the Year
American League: In just four short years, Oakland OF Billy Burns has made it to the bigs. He is hitting .306 and has a shot to steal more than 30 bases this year. Burns had 74 steals in 2013 and 53 thefts last year. He could make the A’s fans forget about Ricky Henderson…NOT!!! Carson Smith, of Seattle, is poised to take over as the closer for the Mariners. He has converted six of seven save opportunities and has a WHIP of 0.77.
National League: The only reason I am not mentioning Kris Bryant of the Cubs is that he has only played in 47 games. Most experts agree that he will probably win the NL R-O-Y award at the end of the year. For the first half, though, the award would have to go to Joc Pederson of the Dodgers. He is only hitting .230 but has socked 20 homers. Pederson is projected to slam 32 out of the ballpark.
CY YOUNG AWARD (Top Pitcher)
American League: Young Dallas Keuchel of Houston is having a great half-season, with an 11-4 record and a 2.23 ERA. He is certainly one reason why the Astros got off to a hot start…only question is: can he and they keep it up? “King” Felix Hernandez is having another great year, pitching for a team that continually under-achieves. Hernandez is 11-5 with a 2.84 ERA. He has already won in double figures for nine of the last 10 years and could equal or surpass his 19 wins in 2009. This would be Hernandez’ 2nd Cy Young.
National League: Gerrit Cole of the Pirates has already won 13 games but he would not be the only starter who fizzled in the second half of a season. In 1970, Wayne Simpson was 13-1 for the Cincinnati Reds and was chosen to the All Star team. Simpson, however, won only 14 games all year and won only 36 games in a six-year career. Cole is only project to win 20 games…let’s hope he stays healthy. Don’t anybody snooze on Zack Greinke. He only has eight wins but he has suffered through eight no-decisions. He has a microscopic 1.39 ERA and will start the All Star game for the Nationals. If he wins two more times, Greinke will have had eight seasons of double-digit wins.
I also want to recognize the pitchers who are not doing so well at the halfway point. I call this award my “Cy Yuck” award!
American League: Even though the Yankees are leading the AL East at the break, lefty C.C. Sabathia cannot really take a bow. The burly southpaw is only 4-8 with a 5.47 ERA. Still, a magic turnaround for the 34-year-old could propel the Pinstripers into the playoffs. Right behind him in futile efforts is knuckleballer R.A. Dickey. He used his first Cy Young award, in 2012 to propel him into a huge contract with the Blue Jays but Dickey has not lived up to expectations, going only 31-36 since. Not the good kind of stats for someone making $12 million a year.
National League: James Shields of San Diego has done the same as Dickey, winning in double digits for eight consecutive seasons and landing a big contract (four years/$75 million) with the Padres. He has been less than stellar, however, winning only seven times and carrying a lofty 4.01 ERA. Ditto for Matt Garza, Shields’ teammate at Tampa Bay from 2008-2010. The Milwaukee Brewer has not come near his 15 wins in ’10, winning in double figures only twice since then.
FIREMAN OF THE YEAR This award is not based on speculation; however, it is based on pure numbers. Each candidate received a plus/minus grade based on wins plus saves then subtracting losses and blown saves.
American League National League
Glen Perkins (Twins) +27 1.21 ERA Mark Meloncon (Pirates) +28 1.50 ERA
Huston Street (Angels) +22 2.27 ERA Jeurys Familia (Mets) +29 1.25 ERA
COMEBACK PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Prince Fielder .343 14 54 ($1.71 per homer) Adam Lind 15 HRs vs. 6
Jason Kipnis .240 to .323 Joey Votto .277 15 42
MANAGER OF THE YEAR
A.J. Hinch Houston 49-42 Mike Matheny Cards 56-32
Ned Yost Royals 52-34 Joe Maddon Cubs 47-40