With the season equidistant from the actual midway point, in terms of games played, and the artificial midpoint, in the All-Star Game, it seems a good time to delve into some awards for the best and worst of the first half. It has been a season filled with surprises for Yankees fans (albeit mostly unpleasant), yet there remains some reason to be optimistic, as the wins from the team’s inexplicably torrid start remain banked. And, of course, baseball is baseball, so we have seen plenty of amazing and unexpected performances across the league. So, without further ado:
AL MVP: Miguel Cabrera – .364/.457/.673, 28 HR, 3 SB, 203 wRC+, 5.7 fWAR, 5.0 bWAR
Despite the ubiquitous praise for Chris Davis – the only other player to receive a vote from our writers – it seems fairly clear-cut that Miguel Cabrera has been the best player in the American League. As of this writing, Cabrera leads the American League in runs, hits, RBI, walks, batting average, total bases, OPS, OPS+, wRC+, fWAR, and bWAR. His defense at third remains somewhere between serviceable and abominable, yet it seems that not even Greek tragedy-level defense could hold back the greatest hitter of the last half-decade.
NL MVP: David Wright – .306/.394/.519, 13 HR, 14 SB, 156 wRC+, 4.5 fWAR, 4.8 bWAR
I am not sure if it is a side effect of being on a Mets team that has been defined by the Wacky Wilpons more so than the play on the field over the last several years, but I cannot help but feel that David Wright has become somewhat underrated. There is this notion that Wright has slipped in the Citi Field Era of the Mets – however, with the exception of an injury-riddled 2011, Wright appears to be the same player he has always been. And this year is no different. Wright ranks in the top-three in the league in OBP, OPS+, wRC+, fWAR, and bWAR, and in the top-ten in walks, steals (with a 93.3% success rate, to boot), SLG, and OPS. It must be noted that the NL is riddled with stellar players to-date, so this selection was far less cut and dry.
AL Cy Young: Max Scherzer – 123.2 IP, 10.6 K/9, 2.1 BB/9, 3.06 ERA, 3.9 fWAR, 3.7 bWAR
The current crop of American League Cy Young candidates is incredibly deep, with several pitchers putting up fantastic numbers across the board. I know that I went through four different names, with all four finding their way into our spreadsheet, before settling on Max Scherzer as my choice for the first-half Cy Young. As of today, Scherzer leads the AL in wins (please hold all laughter until the end), H/9, and fWAR and places among the top-five in the league in WHIP, K/9, K/BB, and bWAR. And it bears noting that Scherzer is pitching in front of the 11th ranked defense in the league (by UZR/150), with veritable statues at the infield corners.
NL Cy Young: Matt Harvey – 130 IP, 10.2 K/9, 1.9 BB/9, 2.35 ERA, 4.3 fWAR, 4.7 bWAR
While the National League also has its fair share of Cy Young contenders, Matt Harvey stands a bit above the fray with a strong driving narrative and equally impressive numbers. Harvey currently places first in the league in strikeouts and K/9, second in WHIP, FIP, xFIP, and fWAR, and third in ERA. He’s also dating a super model, appearing in ESPN the Magazine’s Body Issue, and winning over the hearts and minds of the Flushing faithful with every 100 MPH fastball.
AL Rookie of the Year: Leonys Martin – .290/.335/.439, 5 HR, 18 SB, 105 wRC+, 1.5 fWAR, 2.5 bWAR
To the best of my memory, this is the least sexy group of rookies the American League has seen in my lifetime. Leonys Martin has been very good – he’s an above-average defender in center field, an excellent base-runner (including a 90% success rate on steals), and his 105 wRC+ ranks 14th in the Majors among his fellow center fielders. In short, there is really nothing wrong with Martin as a candidate for this award – he would be a fine winner in most any year. That being said, the rest of the crop is comprised of Jose Iglesias (he of the .447 BABIP and no secondary skills), 140 some odd PA of Nick Franklin and David Lough, and a few middle relievers. I, for one, am keeping the faith that Kevin Gausman will find his way into the Orioles rotation in the second half, and be the hero that this league needs.
NL Rookie of the Year: Shelby Miller – 99.2 IP, 9.7 K/9, 2.2 BB/9, 2.80 ERA, 2.2 fWAR, 2.5 bWAR
The National League has a fairly interesting crop of rookies thus far, with Shelby Miller leading the pack, and Jose Fernandez, Yasiel Puig (second among all NL rookies in both incarnations of WAR!), Hyun-Jin Ryu, A.J. Pollock, Marcell Ozuna, Julio Teheran, and Jedd Gyorko fairly close behind … and, in all likelihood, superior to any rookie in the junior circuit. Miller has been one of the dozen or so best pitchers in the National League thus far, and, with slightly over 150 IP in 2012, a strict innings limit is likely not in effect. He did hit a bit of a speed bump in June, but he has the build and the stuff to bounce right back after the All-Star Break.
Most Valuable Yankee: Hiroki Kuroda – 113.2 IP, 6.3 K/9, 1.7 BB/9, 2.77 ERA, 2.2 fWAR, 2.9 bWAR
At this point, it is worth discussing whether Hiroki Kuroda is the best free agent signing of Brian Cashman’s tenure. Kuroda has served as the team’s de facto ace over the past season and a half, leading the team’s starters in innings pitched, ERA, and bWAR over that time. The 38-year-old has missed only one turn during his time in pinstripes, and even then his start was pushed back by a couple of days (allowing the Yankees to reset their rotation, in addition to giving Kuroda a bit of a breather). In short, Kuroda has been a model of consistency for a team that has been plagued by inconsistencies – and, in doing so, has given the Yankees the “second ace” that their fans have desperately clamored for.
Least Valuable Yankee: Kevin Youkilis – .219/.305/.343, 2 HR, 0 SB, 77 wRC+, -0.4 fWAR, -0.2 bWAR
This may be the most competitive “award” of them all, with candidates abound throughout not only within the organization, but in the front office, to boot. Kevin Youkilis is an unfortunate centerpiece of this confluence of awfulness – an injury-prone, defensively challenged third baseman signed to replace an injury prone, defensively challenged third baseman. And, to the delight of practitioners of logic everywhere, the process matched the results. Youkilis has quite possibly played his last game as a Yankee, having swung an impotent bat and, to the best of my memory, sat in a barcalounger while manning the hot corner. Everything revolving around Youkilis’ season with the Yankees was a beautiful disaster, and I will never forget it.
* – All numbers current as of 9:00 AM on July 9, 2013
** – Credit for all graphics to the indispensable Jason Rosenberg