WHEELER: MLB First Half Awards – Cards Get Noticed
The All-Star break is here and for the next several days I’ll be talking quite a bit about the final 2 1/2 months of the MLB season during Sports Open Line. On the shows we’ll talk about the upcoming trade deadline, which teams are serious contenders and which are only semi-serious and a whole host of other topics (including some College Football, NFL and NHL as well).
This space is dedicated to handing out first half awards. Some are plays on the traditional BWAA awards that will be handed out at the end of the season, a few are my own creations. We’ll discuss some of this on Sports Open Line as well.
Here goes nothing…
NL Top Story (Individual) – Jason Grilli, Pirates
Yeah, I know Yasiel Puig is getting all of the headlines with the TV guys flaunting their man-crushes – and yes, I’m a huge fan of Puig’s too – but Grilli is the best story because he is the underdog story. The guy is closing for the first time in his career at the age of 36 and he is dominating. 29 saves in 30 chances, 13.9 strikeouts per 9 innings and a 1.99 ERA. This guy wasn’t even in the Majors in 2010. Now he’s the best closer in the National League? That’s a helluva story.
Honorable Mention – Domonic Brown, PHI; Edward Mujica, STL; Yasiel Puig, LAD
AL Top Story (Individual) – Chris Davis, Orioles
And it’s not even close. 37 HR and 93 RBI at the All-Star break from a guy who had a career high 33 HR in a full season last year? Yeah, that’s a story.
Honorable Mention – Miguel Cabrera, DET; Mariano Rivera, NYY; Max Scherzer, DET
NL Top Story (Team) – Pittsburgh Pirates
So far. They need to avoid their third straight second half collapse, though.
Honorable Mention – St. Louis Cardinals
AL Top Story (Team) – Boston Red Sox
They had 44 wins on this date last year and and this year they have 58. That’s a pretty big turnaround for a team that was dumping gigantic contracts late last season.
Honorable Mention – Oakland A’s
NL Rookie of the Year – Shelby Miller, Cardinals
He’s doing exactly what Jose Fernandez of the Marlins is doing except he’s doing it in the middle of a pennant chase with a bit more pressure than the fellas are facing in Miami. Rough patch lately notwithstanding, Miller has been outstanding this year.
Honorable Mention – Jose Fernandez, MIA; Hyun-Jin Ryu, LAD; Julio Teheran, ATL
AL Rookie of the Year – Jose Iglesias, Red Sox
The guy helped fill-in when Stephen Drew went down and now he’s doing a bang-up job at 3B with Will Middlebrooks in the minors trying to find his swing. He’s hitting .367 and is an outstanding glove man. In a thin crop, that’s the best there is.
Honorable Mention – Cody Allen, CLE; Chris Archer, TB; Dan Straily, OAK
NL Manager of the Year – Mike Matheny, Cardinals
Yeah, I know. “Homer” pick who just happens to do a weekly radio that I co-host. Sorry, but the facts back me up here. This team found out in Spring Training that one of it’s top two starters (Chris Carpenter) was potentially done for the year on top of losing their starting shortstop (Rafael Furcal) and their closer (Jason Motte). Tack on top of that the fact that the best setup man in the NL (Mitchell Boggs) imploded and is now in the Rockies organization and that lefty Marc Rzepczynski pitched himself into a role at Triple-A Memphis and you begin to see the difficulties Matheny has endured in leading his team to the best record in Major League Baseball. All of that with last year’s leadoff man (Jon Jay) not producing, a shortstop that’s not providing offense (Pete Kozma) and a guy batting leadoff and starting at second base (Matt Carpenter) who had never done either of those things at the Major League level. Oh, and they’ve had 536 rookie pitchers appear on the roster so far. Okay, that might be a bit high but you get the point. The Cards are talented but their manager is doing a fine job of steering the club through some rough waters.
Honorable Mention – Kirk Gibson, ARZ; Clint Hurdle, PIT; Don Mattingly, LAD
AL Manager of the Year – Joe Girardi, Yankees
How this team is 7-games over .500 at the break is beyond me. No Derek Jeter or A-Rod in the first half, Curtis Granderson and Mark Teixeira have played a combined 23 games and the only real threat in the lineup is Robinson Cano. I’ve got to give Girardi a lot of credit for holding that thing together, especially in a place like New York.
Honorable Mention – John Farrell, BOS; Terry Francona, CLE; Bob Melvin, OAK
NL Cy Young Award – Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers
This is where I go against that “homer” accusation. Kershaw and Adam Wainwright are neck-and-neck in my book so I had to go to a couple of tiebreakers to make the choice. I know Waino has much better record but his team is a lot better so that’s expected. With so many things being equal between these two I went with the guy who has allowed fewer runs (1.98 ERA to 2.45 ERA) and fewer base runners (132 to 148) with just an inning and a third difference between their workloads. In a real-world vote Wainwright would win because of his record – and I think that’s likely to happen at the end of the year – but Kershaw has pitched better, albeit slightly, to this point. Matt Harvey is a close third with Jeff Locke and Patrick Corbin knocking on the door as well.
Honorable Mention – Adam Wainwright, STL
AL Cy Young Award – Max Scherzer, Tigers
His 13-1 record is awesome but that’s not why I chose him. I’m not a huge fan of won-loss records as a means of evaluating pitcher performance – and Scherzer agrees with that position – but he’s second in the Majors in strikeouts, he’s allowing fewer base runners than any AL starter not named Hisashi Iwakuma and his ERA is 9th in the AL. I could easily go with Felix Hernandez or Bartolo Colon here too. Actually, Hernandez and Scherzer are as close as Kershaw and Wainwright.
Honorable Mention – Felix Hernandez, SEA
NL MVP – Yadier Molina, Cardinals
Molina leads the NL in hitting at .341 and it’s not an empty number when it comes with a .489 SLG. Jay Bruce and Matt Carpenter are the only NL players with more doubles and he has the fewest strikeouts of any hitter in the Top 15 in batting average in the NL. Oh, and he’s the best defensive player in Major League Baseball who completely shuts down his opponents’ running game and manages one of the best, and youngest, pitching staffs in the sport. M. V. P.
Honorable Mention – Paul Goldschmidt, ARZ
AL MVP – Miguel Cabrera, Tigers
Man, what a tough call. If you thought it was tough choosing between Cabrera and Mike Trout last year, despite Cabrera’s Triple Crown, then your mind will be blown by the race between Miggy and Chris “Crush” Davis. Davis has more HR, Cabrera has more RBI. Their OPS numbers are sick – Cabrera’s 1.132 is a little better than Davis’ 1.109 and that’s because he walks more (60 to 38) and gets more hits (132 to 108) and the walks are even more impressive in favor of Cabrera because he has Prince Fielder hitting behind him. Nobody wants to walk Cabrera but everyone should want to walk Davis. But it doesn’t happen. Why? Because Cabrera is tough to strikeout (64) and Davis is not (110). Yeah, and Cabrera leads MLB with a .365 average (Davis is at .315). How about these numbers: in 94 games, Cabrera has only gone hitless 16 times. He has 35 multi-hit games and 13 games with 3+ hits. Tough call but the battle goes to Cabrera.
Honorable Mention – Chris Davis, BAL