Baseball is endlessly fascinating. As teams approach the halfway mark of the season, we thought we’d take some time to review the award frontrunners, surprises, disappointments and downright oddities that make up the sport that we all hold so dear.
AL MVP – Mike Trout – Los Angeles Angels
It is increasingly hard to understate the dominance and sheer brilliance of Michael Nelson Trout. Having arguably his/anyone’s best season ever, he continues to defy detractors and sometimes physics with his insane play. In line to lead the league in OPS+ for the fourth straight season while slashing a ridiculous .306/.452/.619 the only knock on him is his teams’ overall success with the Angels an even 45-45 at the time of writing. The best player on the planet may be sitting out another October, but that should not stop him from winning his third MVP.
NL MVP – Lorenzo Cain – Milwaukee Brewers
I know, everyone wants Freddie Freeman to win this year. I get it. Good dude, great season. He wins, we have no qualms. For my money though nobody in baseball has been more of a spark plug or played with more passion than LoCain. A huge part of the Brewers surprising 53-36 record and slashing .291/.394/.438 with superlative defense in center and world class bserunning and leadership, nothing would be more progressive for baseball than to give the award to the guy who has been the most valuable player on his team, not the most popular.
AL Cy Young – Luis Severino – New York Yankees
After finish third in last years voting, Severino apparently had a bit of a chip on his shoulder. This year he has been flat out dominant going 13-2 over 118.1 innings with a minuscule 1.98 ERA. Riding a 98 mph four-seamer while mixing in a slurvy breaking ball and change, he has made hitters look foolish all year long and is well on his way to winning his first Cy Young and becoming a household name outside the Bronx.
NL Cy Young – Max Scherzer – Washington Nationals
Old crazy eyes is back at it again and in line to lock up his third Cy Young in a row with a dominating season. At the time of writing, he is 11-5 with a 2.33 ERA and leading the National League in games started, shutouts, innings pitched, strikeouts, and WHIP. Armed with a deceptive low three-quarters delivery and riding a 95 mph four-seamer, slider, change, cutter, and curve, Mad Max has been mowing hitters down at historic levels and doing it with a fire and competitiveness that we have all come to expect and he should lock up his fourth overall Cy Young award with relative ease.
AL Rookie Of The Year – Shohei Ohtani – Los Angeles Angels
The two-way prodigy has done nothing but live up to his billing as the best international player available during the off season. In 130 trips to the plate as the Angels primary DH he has slashed .269/.349/.492 with six bombs and two stolen bases. He is also sporting a 4-1 record and a 3.10 ERA and 61 strikeouts in 49.1 innings. He has been on the shelf with an elbow impingement recently and a certain New York second baseman has also made a case for himself, but it is hard for me to write off how he has made excelling on both sides of the baseball spectrum look so easy.
NL Rookie Of The Year – Juan Soto – Washington Nationals
Soto has taken D.C. and the league by storm this year when he was called up towards the end of May never having played above the Single-A level. The 19-year-old has done nothing but rake since then slashing an accumulative .308/.420/.548 with 19 extra base hits and almost as many walks as strikeouts. Such an advanced approach at the plate is incredibly rare for such a young player and he has been a breath of fresh air for a struggling Nationals club. He does look lost in the field and the metrics back it up but his approach and willingness to learn has been lauded by veterans and analysts alike and he should be a joy to watch for years to come.
The Good – SP Miles Mikolas – St, Louis Cardinals
Mikolas was a fairly middling pitcher who reached the majors with the Padres in 2012. After that he was shuttled back and forth between AAA and the majors nine times, traded twice, and then released. He found some footing in Japan with the Yomiuri Giants going 13-3 with a 1.92 ERA in 2015. He followed that up with two more solid years in Japan culminating in a 2 year – $15.5 million dollar deal with the Cardinals. He has rewarded the faith and brought the moxie, going 9-3 with a 2.63 ERA over 17 starts so far and demonstrating impeccable control and poise.
The Bad – 1B Chris Davis – Baltimore Orioles
Davis, playing in the second year of a 7 year – $161 million contract has easily been the worst regular in baseball. In fact, he is on pace to have the worst full season by anyone ever. Batting an ice cold .155/.229/.269 in almost 300 plate appearances, he has not rewarded the faith in him by the organization and is further complicating things by getting hurt over comments made by Hall Of Famer Jim Palmer. When your batting line mirrors that of a NL pitcher or Mario Mendoza, shut your mouth and get to the cage. Hire some help, quit lying about your off season work and stop over analyzing. There is little sympathy in this game for a player who makes that amount of money and deflects blame on everyone but himself.
Strangest Position Player – Willians Astudillo – Minnesota Twins
Astudillo has been fascinating the baseball world since his no-look pick off behind the plate in spring training. Astudillo is listed at 5’9 – 225 and primarily a catcher but has lined up at second base, third base, center field and left field for the Twins this season. The other thing he does well is not strike out or walk. As a professional Astudillo has struck out only 3.2% of the time. He has walked only 3.4 % of the time. Think about that. 67 strikeouts in 2,154 plate appearances. He has a little power, versatility, hidden throws, and simply puts the barrel on the ball for better or worse. A fascinating player that I look forward to watching Currently hitting .357/.357/.500 over his first 14 plate appearances since his call up.
Strangest Pitcher – Kazuhisa Makita – San Diego Padres
A mysterious and apparently eccentric NPB import, Makita’s delivery and fastball velocity are interesting in their own right. His average release point, at 2.35 feet, is second only to teammate Adam Cimber, another submariner. His 81.04 average fastball velocity is easily the slowest in the majors, then he’ll spin a 59 mph “curveball” on you and it simply offsets the timing of these hitters who are used to 90-99 velocity. A testament that cunning and intelligence are still a viable skill in the high velocity, maximum effort age of baseball we live in.
The Wildcard West
AL Dark Horse Wild Card – Seattle Mariners
The Mariners have been playing with swagger this year, with GM Jerry Dipoto being as aggressive as ever and many of the moves paying off. They are currently 56-34 and only 3.5 games back behind the Astros after going 78-84 last year. Gordon has been versatile, Segura has been a boss and Haniger looks like a complete steal and is leading the team in WAR. The AL team to look out for no doubt, and if the Northwest is any indication, they have something to prove.
NL Dark Horse Wild Card – Atlanta Braves
Going 50-39 over the first half has the Braves think in the middle of it and tied with the Phillies for the division lead. A resurgent Nick Markakis and a slew of young talent have propelled them this year, as has a career year from cornerstone Freddie Freeman. The rotation looks solid, Ronald Acuna Jr. looks like a stud and they may still get Mike Soroka back before the playoffs.