The first-half of the 2012 baseball season has been amazing, perhaps one of the best in recent memory. Between pitchers taking control of the plate for the first time in two decades, five no-hitters which included two perfect games, improbable contenders and a couple of rookies playing the game the way it’s supposed to be played, 2012 has been marvelous.
Here’s a look at some of the first half award winners:
National League MVP: Andrew McCutchen, Pirates (.362, 18 HR, 60 RBI) - The vote may have been close a month ago, but with the Pirates recent revival of the Lumber Company, McCutchen has had a lot more ducks on the pond to bring home and his numbers have soared. Right now, the vote isn’t even close. McCutchen has his team in first-place and is in line to win Pittsburgh‘s first MVP since Barry Bonds in 1992, the last season they had a winning record and made the playoffs.
NL Cy Young: R.A Dickey, Mets (12-1, 2.40 ERA, 123 K) - Dickey’s performance this season might be the story of the year and it’s not just because he uses a gimmick pitch like the knuckleball to get people out. He’s actually dominating games like no other knuckleball ever with his hard delivery and somehow manages to have remarkable control over it like never seen before. However, the knuckleball does give him an edge because it’s unique. Gio Gonzalez would get far more consideration for his first-half contributions (12-2, 2.92 ERA) to the Nationals if he threw a knuckleball rather than his knee-bending curveball.
American League MVP: Josh Hamilton, Rangers (.308, 27 HR, 75 RBI) - This was actually a tougher call than statistics might suggest. Hamilton leads the league in several major categories, but it’s hard to ignore a player like the Yankees’ Robinson Cano, who has taken his team to new heights because of his hitting or the dynamics of Mike Trout‘s game and what he‘s meant to the Angels rise. The difference between them all is that Hamilton has been doing it all season. Even though he’s tailed off somewhat as he attempts to quit chewing/dipping, his numbers still dwarf everyone else and his team is first place of the AL West. If the question was ’who is the player I want on my team’ it would be Trout all day long.
AL Cy Young: Jered Weaver, Angels (10-1, 1.96 ERA, 73 K) - He doesn’t have the strikeout numbers like we’ve seen in the past and he spent some time on the disabled list, but he’s evolved into one of the most complete pitchers in the game. Batters are hitting .188 against him this season, the lowest figure in baseball among all pitchers.
Most Money Won: Pirates +1,899 - The Bucs are 11 games over .500 and have the best home record in baseball. Most of the money won on the season came at big plus-money odds, but lately they have been winning as large favorites. They come into the All-Star break having won 10 of their last 12 games and continue to gain the support of bettors who can now trust them. The Orioles (+1,221) and Nationals (+1,019) are right behind the Bucs.
Most Money Lost: Phillies -2,510 - Most of the Phillies big losses came early when we still respected Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee as -200 favorites, but the cat’s out of the bag: the Phillies are the most overrated team of 2012. Things were supposed to get better when Chase Utley returned to the lineup, but they’ve lost 10 of their past 11 games since he came back. Ryan Howard also made a return to the lineup, but the Phillies lost their next three. It’s not exactly the kind of endorsement Philly was looking for to make them either buyers instead of sellers at the end of the month, but it’s safe to say their season is finished, something bettors have known since May.
Most Interesting Records: The Braves are seven games over .500, four games out of first-place in the NL East, but on Monday’s they are the worst team in baseball. For some reason, when the first game of a series starts after the weekend, the Braves are 0-11. Just think, if they could just manage to be 5-6 on Monday’s they’d be in first-place.
On the same note, the Pirates are 12-2 on Saturday’s having won five Saturday’s in a row. In both the Pirates and Braves cases, these are all random type of occurrences, but it does shed light on things because of their timing. In the Braves case, they aren’t ready for a series to begin and in the Pirates case, they avoid long losing streaks. Winning the second game of a series is essential to all teams overall success.
Pitchers to watch in the second half: Tim Lincecum, Clayton Kershaw and Stephen Strasburg
Just when we thought Tim Lincecum was really back after a couple of good outings, he implodes in his last two starts. The Giants are now 4-14 in all games that Lincecum started, which makes it even more amazing that their record is a good as it is, only a half-game out of first-place in the NL West.
We’ve become a bit spoiled by the play of Clayton Kershaw over the last two seasons which is why his last month of starts comes as somewhat of a shock. The Dodgers have lost three of his past four starts and he’s been battling a case of plantar fasciitis for two months, a painful foot ailment that lingers for up to a year. For the Dodgers to have any chance at winning the NL West, Kershaw will have to be at his best.
At the beginning of the season the Nationals had mentioned that Stephen Strasburg would be closely monitored on a pitch count because of coming off of Tommy John surgery. The number was set at 160 innings, but at the All-Star break, Strasburg already has 99 innings. How will the Nationals be able to make a serious run to make the playoffs when Strasburg only has 61 innings left to work with? They'll tackle that question when it comes and you can bet the innings limit will be expanded. The bigger question right now with Starsburg is what’s wrong as he‘s lost his past three starts