Posted 07/09/2012 at 05:08 PM
The All Star Break is here and there are certainly some surprises in the standings. Perennial doormats Pittsburgh, Washington, and Baltimore would all be in the postseason if the season ended at the break. Assumed contenders Philadelphia, Detroit, and Boston have all struggled. On a team basis the results are clear but here is a look at the individual awards at the break.
American League MVP: Josh Hamilton, Texas Rangers
There is a growing case for rookie Mike Trout who leads all AL hitters in WAR but he did not play in the first month of the season and will have a hard time catching up in the counting statistics. Hamilton’s star faded a bit in June but he was on an absolute tear early in the year highlighted by his four home run game. He leads the AL in home runs, RBI, and OPS and he plays for the division leading Rangers who had the best record in baseball for much of the first half.
Other Candidates: Hamilton is by no means the clear choice here. Robinson Cano, Mike Trout, Adam Jones, and Miguel Cabrera could all make a solid case. Unlike last season a pitcher winning the award seems very unlikely and no one is running away this award right now, leaving the door open for anyone with a huge second half.
National League MVP: David Wright, New York Mets
The Mets were expected to be a last place team but they have been in the playoff picture all season long, sitting six games above .500 at the break. There is flood of deserving candidates in the mix in the NL in what looked like Matt Kemp’s award to lose after the first several weeks of the season. Wright doesn’t have huge power numbers but he is fifth in the NL in RBI while being third in batting average and second in baseball in OBP. All while playing above average defense at a very tough position in one of the toughest ballparks to hit in.
Other Candidates: Andrew McCutchen and Joey Votto could easily make a strong case for the award and if the Pirates stay in the playoff picture McCutchen certainly deserves a strong look and is a more exciting choice even though he can’t compete with Wright or Votto in terms of getting on base. Ryan Braun probably has zero chance to win based on the issues last off-season but he’s besting last year’s numbers and Carlos Ruiz deserves mention as the lone bright spot for the Phillies and huge numbers for a catcher.
American League Cy Young: Chris Sale, Chicago White Sox
Few expected the White Sox to contend this season with a rookie manager and the departure of a few key pieces. The Sox are leading the AL Central at the break and Sale has been a huge reason at 10-2 with a 2.19 ERA. The strikeout numbers for the lanky left-hander have come down a bit from early in the season but he has been just as effective. The advanced statistics suggest that some correction may be in order however so a more seasoned veteran may move in to take the award.
Other Candidates: Jered Weaver’s DL stint has him a bit behind in the pecking order right now but he has enjoyed an amazing season and has a no-hitter on his resume. Justin Verlander has to be considered even though he won’t likely come close to last year’s numbers. C.C. Sabathia or David Price could also climb into the mix.
National League Cy Young: Gio Gonzalez, Washington Nationals
One of the best pick-ups of the season has been Gonzalez who has stabilized the Washington rotation and led the Nationals to an amazing start to the season. At 12-3 he is tied for the most wins in the NL and he is third in ERA and near the top of the league in strikeouts. He has not received the attention that some of the other contenders have but he has allowed just four home runs all season and opponents are batting .189 against him.
Other Candidates: Washington teammate Stephen Strasburg can make a great case but his innings may be cut short this season. R.A. Dickey has been one of the great stories of the first half and is also a strong candidate although he has faded a bit in recent starts. Matt Cain pitched the game of the season and his numbers are close enough to be in the conversation and Zack Greinke also has delivered a terrific season despite his team struggling.
American League Rookie of the Year: Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels
The statistics are staggering for Trout who has led a huge turnaround for the Angels since joining the team in late April. It remains to be seen whether he can keep up this pace but the great hitting coupled with the steals and highlight reel catches makes this the easiest award to hand out.
Other Candidates: Yu Darvish was the frontrunner early and still has very strong numbers, albeit as an unconventional rookie. Oakland boasts a few worthy contenders with Tommy Milone and Jarrod Parker delivering excellent numbers in the rotation and Yoenis Cespedes could be in the mix with a healthy second half. Will Middlebrooks has played well enough that Boston traded Kevin Youkilis and Scott Diamond deserves mention as being the only positive in the Minnesota pitching staff.
National League Rookie of the Year: Wade Miley, Arizona Diamondbacks
Bryce Harper will probably win with the attention he gets and he has lived up to unrealistic hype and he is doing it for a first place team. Harper has very good numbers but Miley has a full first half under his belt and has been the best starter on a playoff contender that has otherwise struggled on the mound. Miley has nine wins with a 2.87 ERA and doing it in an offense friendly home park has been impressive.
Other Candidates: If the Nationals win the division it is hard to envision Harper not winning and he will deserve it if he keeps his current pace through the whole season. Norichika Aoki has made an easy transition to leading the Brewers in the lineup and Andrelton Simmons is also hitting well for the Braves albeit with a small sample. Dark horse candidates would be Zach Cozart who seems to be improving after some early struggles and Kirk Nieuwenhuis who has stepped in for the Mets.