As we come into the All-Star weekend, Alex and I are going to unveil our individual picks for the usual awards: Cy Young, MVP, ROY, Comeback player, and Manager. Keep in mind, this is only for the first half of the season; this is not meant to be a prediction on who will end up winning these awards in the fall. While Alex will tackle the National League, I will be reviewing the American League, so as to not give every award to Jose Altuve (joke!). Feel free to comment/debate our picks in the comment section below. Without further ado, I humbly(ish) present my AL Midseason Awards!
Most Valuable Player: Josh Hamilton, Rangers. This was a tough call due to a plethora of deserving candidates, but Hamilton is simply outstanding. FanGraphs ranks him 4th in the AL in WAR (behind Mike Trout, Robinson Cano and Austin Jackson) but he is easily 1st in ISO at an absurd 0.328. He is 2nd in both wOBA and wRC+, which shows his ability to hit and produce runs in a consistent manner. Mike Trout, first in those categories, in my opinion was helped by a high BABIP while Hamilton is right about his career average at 0.337. In other words, I am more comfortable giving the MVP to Hamilton because his BABIP shows normalization, and given his numbers are close to Trout, his ability and skill is shockingly apparent.
Other notable candidates: Trout, Cano, Miguel Cabrera
Cy Young: Chris Sale, White Sox. The chorus of “But he has gotten lucky” can commence right about now. I do understand the arguments that Justin Verlander should be considered and I definitely understand the King Felix crowd that point out his solid 9.47 K/9 and that his FIP is below his ERA. Among all that, I have to give the nod to Mr. Sale. His FIP is 2.58 is leading the AL. Yes, his xFIP is a more modest 3.24 but so far, his switch from the bullpen has paid off for Chicago. As I mentioned in a post earlier this year, a striking feature is that he has focused on control and while his strike out rate has diminished, it is still above league average while his walks have been cut way down (2.19 BB/9 compared to a league average of 3.10 and a career average of 2.83). It remains to be seen if his great pace will continue, but so far he has been a dominant pitcher.
Rookie of the Midseason: Mike Trout, Angels. This was the most obvious selection, and for good reason. Trout has gone on a vicious tear in his official rookie season. He has made some highlight reel catches, flashed his unbelievable speed (26 stolen bases) and has shown some decent power while maintaining a decent average (0.343/0.399/0.55 on an ISO of 0.213). Seeing a rookie with a OPS near 1.000 is pretty amazing- his is currently 0.954- especially considering that the MLB average is only 0.725. Obviously, his 0.398 BABIP will be watched to see if this level of offense is sustainable, but even if he negatively regresses, he will still be one of the most fun players to watch.
Comeback Player: Jake Peavy, White Sox. The White Sox continue to clean up in this post (see below for more!) with a great feel-good story. Peavy has already thrown more innings this season than he did in 2009, 2010 and 2011 thanks to injuries. There were questions if he was durable enough to pitch in the Majors. His ability to get swings and misses was lagging (down to a SwStr% low of 8.3% in 2010). Sure, his FB% is way up this season (career high of 47.1%) but his control is back (1.95 BB/9) and he is getting back to his strike out form as compared to recent years (currently 8.10 K/9). Peavy could still get hit by the injury-elephant (to me, it’s not just a ‘bug’ at this point) but his first half has been productive and fairly dominant.
Manager of the Midseason: Robin Ventura, White Sox. Raise your hand if you had the White Sox leading the AL Central. I will be honest with you, I did not think highly of his hiring and I agreed with most pundits that the White Sox would be lucky to play 0.500 baseball. They are currently 47-37. While it is always difficult to ascertain how much control a manager has on a teams success, and nearly impossible to quantify, personnel moves such as moving Sale to the rotation, getting Kevin Youkilis to fill a needed role, and using Alejandro de Aza (I discuss him here) as a lead-off speed weapon have been made in part by Ventura. Also, apparently the players are responding well to his quiet leadership in the clubhouse. All in all, it has been a wildly successful season so far for one manager in the Windy City.