Unbelievably so, but the 2016 MLB season is already at the halfway point! It’s been a crazy season so far and Tuesday is the game every fan looks forward too all year, the All-Star game. With the season now half done, here’s our annual post of our picks for the awards for each half if they were given out today, something to hold you over until the Derbt tomorrow night. The Senior Circuit is up first (it’s a long one, we hope you’re in a comfy chair!)
Rookie of the Year: Corey Seager, SS, Los Angeles Dodgers:
With an average at .297, 17 home runs and 42 RBI, Seager gets the nod for this one. With the Dodgers holding a 48-38 record, five games behind the Giants in the West, Seager has carried the offensive load for Dave Roberts’ squad, currently holding an 18 game hitting streak. This is definitely a tough decision with the National League rookie class being as stacked as it is with Aledmys Diaz of the Cardinals who leads all rookies with a .315 average, and then Trevor Story of the Rockies whose 21 home runs are first among all shortstops in the game. I can see Diaz giving Seager a run for his money if the Cards heat up but Seager’s ceiling is just so ridiculously high that I can’t see anyone taking this award from him.
Manager of the Year: Joe Maddon, Chicago Cubs
This decision was ridiculous. The Cubs look destined to make a deep October run and like they’re the best team in baseball. The reason this is so ridiculous is because Bruce Bochy and the Giants have been right with the Cubs step by step. Then there’s the underdog, Don Mattingly of the Marlins. Here’s a team that on paper has about 5 bright spots, those being Giancarlo Stanton, Jose Fernandez, Dee Gordon, Ichiro (because everyone loves Ichiro), and Mattingly himself. Well, cross off Gordon because he got suspended 80 games, Stanton hasn’t been the same hitter this year and the team is still 44-40 and in the wildcard hunt. Shows what a great a move it was to bring Mattingly over from the Dodgers. I will go with Maddon though because it’s impressive to see him make mediocre teams into good teams. This Cubs team was originally good and he’s making it a powerhouse. Anywhere Maddon goes, he wins. Watching him manage a lineup before, during and after a game is the funnest thing to notice as a baseball fan. Ben Zobrist one game will be playing second base one day and then left field the next. Seeing Maddon use pitchers as outfielders in an extra inning game and then bring them in from the outfield to pitch was one of the coolest and maybe funniest things I’ve seen as a baseball fan. The award, for the second straight year, goes to Maddon for the creativity, expertise and brilliance he’s brought to the Cubs.
Comeback Player of the Year: Wil Myers, 1B, San Diego Padres
After having two horrendous seasons, mostly derailed by injuries, Myers has lived up to the “top prospect” hype he’s had on his back since he came into the league in 2013. Myers is currently in the top 10 in the National League with 19 home runs as well as 60 RBI. The outfielder turned first baseman has also been a surprise defensively, not making an error halfway through the season. Unfortunately, he’s been one of very few bright spots for the Padres, as they find themselves dead last in the West. With the trade deadline looming, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Myers finish his strong season with another team, more than likely a contender that could use his offense.
Cy Young Award: Clayton Kershaw, LHP, Los Angeles Dodgers
Come on… Do I really have to elaborate on this? Yes, there has been other pitchers in the NL that have had incredible seasons so far (Johnny Cueto, Jose Fernandez, Jake Arrieta, Jon Lester), but do they really compare to what Kershaw is doing to hitters right now? The herky-jerky southpaw finished the first half on the DL but he possesses a 1.79 ERA (no. 1 in the MLB) and hitters are batting a putrid .185 against him. To put the average in perspective, Kershaw at the plate possesses a .167 batting average which is not far behind the batters he faces. It will be interesting to see how he finishes up the year, and if the Dodgers want to make the playoffs he’s going to have a heavy load on his back to carry the team to October, but for right now let’s just hope the electrifying ace returns soon from his back injury.
Most Valuable Player: Kris Bryant, 3B, Chicago Cubs
It’s very tough to go against Bryant in this case. You can make a case for Kershaw, Nolan Arenado or even Matt Carpenter, but Bryant came in with a high bar to reach and he has gone above and beyond that bar. With an NL leading 25 home runs and 65 RBI to go with it, Bryant has been the anchor in what is a very good Cubs lineup. Bryant will be a starter for the National League All-Star team, rightfully so. The thing that makes Bryant such a unique player is his versatility. Bryant has played six different positions this year (3B, SS, 1B, LF, CF, RF) and in 189 chances only has seven errors. He’s been great for this team that has had to go through some injuries and with a manager like Joe Maddon, if you can prove your versatile you’re going to be used like you’re versatile. It also shows the trust he’s gained from the coaches in only two years that they can feel safe putting him out in right field even though he’s normally at third. He’s proved to everyone that he’s the real deal and in only his second year I believe he takes home the hardware (which would make him the first player since Dustin Pedroia to be Rookie of the Year and MVP in consecutive seasons). Bryant is looking to lead this super-talented young Cubs squad into a deep run where they’ll be looking for some team accolades as well.
Rookie of the Year: Michael Fulmer, RHP, Detroit Tigers
In stark contrast to the 2016 NL rookie class that has been electrified by the likes of Aledyms Diaz, Corey Seager and Trevor Story, the AL hasn’t had many standout rookie performances at all. Nomar Mazara has been very consistent in Texas, but first year starter Michael Fulmer, who may look more like a lumberjack than a baseball player, has been one of the few bright spots for the Titanic of a team that is Detroit and the AL’s best rookie so far. With the MLB network oscillating Brad Ausmus on and off the hot seat more than a Lasko fan and its stars not playing to ability, it’s been a tough year for the Tigers and a rebuild for the aging team may be on the way. However, the one force for the future they have is Fulmer, who finishes the first half of his rookie campaign 11-2 with a 2.11 ERA, 72 Ks and 76.2 IP. In a rotation where Justin Verlander just plain and simple isn’t what he used to be and Jordan Zimmermann has also struggled, Fulmer is a ray of hope for Motown baseball fans, probably the only one they’ve got.
Manager of the Year: Terry Francona, Cleveland Indians
Who expected the Tribe to do what they’ve been doing this season? For anyone who wasn’t paying attention to preseason predictions, the answer is nobody. Cleveland’s 2016 has been surprising but phenomenal. At the All-Star break the Indians are 52-36 and 6.5 games ahead of second place Detroit. Under the ever-cool and intelligent management of Terry Francona, Danny Salazar is emerging as an elite starter, Corey Kluber has regained his 2014 Cy Young form, Francisco Lindor is picking up where he left off last season, and Mike Napoli is once again becoming a consistent long ball threat. As a result, the Tribe is in the midst of what could become a run away with the AL Central and own the second-best record in the Junior Circuit. For getting results from the trust he puts in his players and turning a group of nobodies into a playoff threat, Tito takes the halfway MOY crown, his second with the Indians.
Comeback Player of the Year: Rick Porcello, RHP, Boston Red Sox
The Boston Red Sox have returned to winning form in 2016, but Rick Porcello is the one guy on the team whom I think the media hasn’t given enough credit. Boston invested a fair amount in the sinkerballer when they traded Yoenis Cespedes for him in the winter of 2014. Porcello’s first season in Boston was disastrous, as he posted a 9-15 record with a career high-tying 4.92 ERA and only 97 Ks. He also gave up 25 home runs, another career high and pitched only 172.2 innings. However, Porcello clearly worked out whatever issues he was having as he has returned to form in a big way in 2016. At the All-Star break, Porcello has thrown 113 innings for the Sox and is 11-2. His ERA is 3.66, still somewhat high but still lower than it was at any point in 2015, and he has already tied his strikeouts total from last year. The reemergence of the 27-year-old has helped stabilize Boston’s rotation, something that was nothing less than nightmarish throughout all of 2015. Porcello’s return to form has helped Boston become competitive again and he has thrown his hat into Cy Young talks as well.
Most Valuable Player: David Ortiz, DH, Boston Red Sox
Okay Manigen, get real. Porcello as Comeback Player is one thing but this one is just cause you’re a Red Sox fan, stop being so biased. While that is a little bit true, it would be very tough to deny how incredible of a season Big Papi is having, even for his own high standards. At 40 years of age, Ortiz announced last Fall that he will retire after 2016, and his final season is on pace to be the best of his career. Thus far in 2016, Senor Octubre is near the top of the AL in almost every category, 22 HR (t-4th), 72 RBI (2nd), a .332 AVG (2nd) , a .426 OPB , a .682 SLG%, a 1.107 OPS and 34 doubles (all 1st). It isn’t because of the sentimentality either. Ortiz is retiring after 2016, yes, but these are terrific numbers by anyone’s standards and Ortiz rightfully deserves to be in MVP talks. Jose Altuve is also putting together a phenomenal season and could be the MVP at season’s end. But, if the award was handed out right now, it would belong to Big Papi. If your argument against it is that designated hitters shouldn’t be MVP, I have only one question: then why do pitchers get it if that’s your logic?
Cy Young Award:
Sorry, I’m going to make you read this part because there are so many pitchers deserving. Of all the awards thus far, this is one of the most competitive categories. First, it could be Danny Salazar, the guy from Cleveland who has always been good but not good enough to be top dog, he is 10-3 with a 2.75 ERA. Then there is Steven Wright, the enigmatic knuckleballer who has emerged as Boston’s ace in a season where they acquired David Price, he leads the AL with a 2.68 ERA. But, despite the gallant performances of those two All-Stars, the 2016 AL Cy Young Award at this point has to go to Chris Sale of the Chicago White Sox.
Sale has been one of the AL’s best and most consistent hurlers since 2012, but no matter how much he improves, his performances have still often been overshadowed by pitchers on better teams (let’s face it, the White Sox are just plain bad). In 2016, Sale has stepped up his game to still another level. Despite his ERA jumping from 2.83 to 3.38 over his last two starts, Sale leads the MLB with a 14-3 record and has recorded 123 Ks, 3rd in the AL. In addition, he leads his league with 125 IP and 3 CG and is third and fourth in WHIP and BAA (1.04 and .225, respectively). Though it seemed like Dallas Kuechel may usurp him as the AL’s top southpaw, Sale has reclaimed his throne this year and is currently the Junior Circuit’s best pitcher. His numbers make him more than deserving of the Cy Young Award.
Those are our picks! Agree/ Disagree? Let us both know on Twitter.
NL- Dave Yarger: @YagaBomb24
AL- Matthew Morris: @Flat_Manigen74