MLB has reached its halfway point in 2019 about a week ago. With the All-Star Game looming it’s time to go back and see the highlights and such of the season as well as give out the awards for mid-season MVP’s, Cy Youngs, Rookies of the Year, etc. So sit back and enjoy.
AL MVP: MIKE TROUT, ANGELS: So much for a heavy contract changing a guy. Trout’s numbers are still on par with what he’s done (meaning Hall of Fame levels) and is still destroying everything he sees. The issue will be of course is the team he is on. The Angels aren’t good enough to be a serious contender in the AL, but not bad enough to be considered with the likes of the Tigers, Royals, Orioles, and Mariners. He will likely take MVP honors if all continues as the chief competitors for him are Joey Gallo, Carlos Santana, and DJ LeMahieu. Nothing against those guys at all and I would love to see how they do the rest of the way (especially Santana since he’s on my fantasy team), but with Gallo and Santana you wonder when the other shoe will drop on both of them. Honorable mentions: LeMahieu, Santana, Gallo
NL MVP: CHRISTIAN YELICH, BREWERS: You could easily go with Bellinger here. Yelich has shown 2018 was no fluke and continues to mash the ball. I think why I give Yelich the slightest nod over Bellinger is that if Bellinger and Yelich were off their respective teams, the Brewers would find themselves near the bottom of the NL while Los Angeles would still be near atop. Is it a fair assessment? Probably not, but it is something to factor in. But it will be a major race for MVP as those two and coupled with Freddie Freeman of the Braves, Josh Bell of the Pirates and Nolan Arenado of the Rockies are having amazing years. If both the others fall off, it could get very interesting in the NL. But Yelich to me is the MVP largely because he’s kept the Brewers afloat in the NL Central. Honorable mentions: Bellinger, Freeman, Arenado, Bell
AL CY YOUNG: JUSTIN VERLANDER, ASTROS: This will be a tough race to project. Verlander for the most part has been back to his old dominant ways ever since being traded to Houston (though his final year and a half in Detroit he was pretty strong again). However, he’s slipped in his last few outings and the ERA is climbing closer and closer to 3. But he still dominates with a low WHIP, high K/9 rate, and a good, solid ERA to this point. However, keep an eye out for Lucas Giolito, whose ERA is lower than Verlander’s, a strong whip, and just slightly under Verlander’s K/9 ratio himself. Another guy to keep an eye on is Verlander’s former teammate in Houston in Charlie Morton whose ERA is way lower than both. This will be a major toss-up assuming all three continue their stellar seasons. But right now Verlander gets it…barely. Honorable mentions: Giolito, Morton
NL CY YOUNG: HYUN-JIN RYU, DODGERS: We probably should have seen this coming last year with Ryu’s abbreviated numbers, but he’s taken his game to the next level. He’s been as dominant as any other pitcher in the majors this year. The 1.73 ERA is sick and his WHIP leads the NL. He doesn’t walk many guys (10 to this point) and is probably the most reminiscent of Greg Maddux we’ve seen. His primary competitor will be Max Scherzer without a question especially after the run Max has had, he is still behind on Ryu on ERA by a good margin and WHIP. Ryu will obviously get offense being with the Dodgers, so you have to think he will be flirting with 20 wins by season’s end, assuming all goes well. Honorable mention: Scherzer
AL ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: BRANDON LOWE, RAYS: Surprisingly, Lowe still falls under the Rookie status and has been raking for Tampa Bay. Eloy Jimenez may have something to say too (if he continues hitting like he did in June), but right now Lowe is doing great things down at the Trop and his not an easy out for any opposing pitcher to this point. But again, it may be him and Jimenez in a two man race for Rookie of the Year. Vlad Jr. hasn’t gotten heated up to this point. Honorable Mention: Jimenez
NL ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: FERNANDO TATIS, JR, PADRES AND PETE ALONSO, METS: I’ve flip-flopped over both guys winning this so I will do the best thing: they both have earned it. Alonso has the power while Tatis has the all-around ability. Alonso has played 30 more games than Tatis so that does factor into it (which also may be a factor if the end of the year votes give it to Alonso). But both Alonso and Tatis are raking in ballparks that are considered hitter’s nightmares (Citi Field, Petco Park) and they are doing it with ease. Of course, Braves fans (and their announcers) will be screaming for Mike Soroka and Austin Riley. Soroka is definitely up there and should be considered with his numbers (9-1, 2.42 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 7.0 K/9), but Riley’s inability to draw a walk hurts him. And if either the Mets or Padres were over .500 both guys would be considered MVP candidates themselves (well, San Diego is close enough to compete for a Wild Card right now). But this will be a puppy fight the rest of the way with those four players. Honorable mentions, Soroka, Riley
AL MANAGER OF THE YEAR, ROCCO BALDELLI, TWINS: Minnesota for a while now has been considered a team on the rise. In 2015 they made noise in a big way. In 2017 they got a Wild Card. But the years in between with high hopes they fizzled out. Badly. The move was made from Paul Molitor to Rocco Baldelli, more of a new wave kind of guy and it has paid off. Minnesota got off to a big led in the AL Central (really their primary competition in Cleveland) and an offense that is murdering pitching staffs around the league. The pitching has been serviceable which has distanced themselves from the pack and Minnesota should be playing October baseball when all is said and done (assuming they can make a move for a front-end pitcher by the deadline). But all the credit to Baldelli on getting Minnesota rolling again. Honorable mention: Kevin Cash, Rays; Chris Woodward, Rangers.
NL MANAGER OF THE YEAR, BRIAN SNITKER, BRAVES: The current reigning winner of the title gets my nod right now. Snitker (whom I’ve criticized a lot over the years including the beginning of this year) has pretty much got the magic touch going for him in Atlanta. Yes, it does help that the prospect-filled Braves are showing what they are made of (Acuna, Albies, Soroka, Riley, etc.), but questions were aplenty with the pitching, notably the bullpen. After one month where the bullpen was a disaster, moves were made (notably getting Anthony Swarzak and making some roster call-ups) and the bullpen has been a *gasp* strength. Questions still are abound with the starting pitching (after the struggles/injuries of Gausman and Foltynewicz) even with Dallas Keuchel being signed, but Atlanta is running away with the NL East and you do have to credit Snitker for some of that.
AL SURPRISE TEAM: TEXAS RANGERS: The Rangers looked to be more of a team in limbo than a contender. In fact, I thought they would have been a team selling their veteran pieces at the deadline and on pace for a 90+ loss year. And then Chris Woodward comes in. He gets Joey Gallo from being an all likely Chris Davis 2.0 to a player who is having an MVP year, being able to draw some walks, and cut down some of his strikeouts. Sin-Soo Choo has been a consistent player and continues to do so and Elvis Andrus has been having a career year at the plate. But two newcomers who were pretty much on their final legs in the majors that have made all the difference have been Hunter Pence and Danny Santana. Pence has been a feel-good comeback story (and probably gets my nod as Comeback Player of the Year to this point) and Santana has been hitting. Also speaking of comebacks, Mike Minor and Lance Lynn heads the rotation of being respectable (Minor will garner some Cy Young votes given how well he’s pitched) and the bullpen has been solid with Shawn Kelley closing games out to go along with Jesse Chavez and Chris Martin setting him up. This right here I never dreamt of typing back in April. Had it not been for Baldelli getting Minnesota as a frontrunner in the AL, Woodward would get my vote for Manager of the Year for what he’s done in Texas.
NL SURPRISE TEAM: PITTSBURGH PIRATES: It’s somewhat of a default one, but I didn’t think Pittsburgh after the moves made would have been in the thick of it. Then again, the NL Central teams can’t get their acts together, in Chicago, Milwaukee, or St. Louis. The Pirates are in the race thanks to Josh Bell destroying the ball. Adding on to the likes of Bell, Starling Marte is quietly having a good year as is rookie Bryan Reynolds. What has killed Pittsburgh has been the starting pitching (as it has gone downhill since the first part of the season and Chris Archer is on a milk carton ever since joining the Pirates). But thanks to the inconsistencies of the other teams, the Pirates still have a fighting chance.
AL DISAPPOINTING TEAM: BOSTON RED SOX: With an offense that the Red Sox have (and their offense is still pretty good even with “down” years by Betts and Benintendi) and a staff that has Sale, Price, Porcello, this team shouldn’t be “slightly over .500” at this point. Porcello has been horrible to this point and the bullpen has been a mess. And Boston is somewhat in trouble for trying to improve their team as the once plentiful farm system has been dried up (a Dave Dombrowski staple everywhere he’s gone) so making a trade to get bullpen help (Kirby Yates? Shane Greene?) will be very interesting to see. But right now Boston has fallen like the 2017 Cubs of having that World Series hangover.
NL DISAPPOINTING TEAM: NEW YORK METS: I would have given the nod to the Phillies but many wondered if Philadelphia had the arms to begin the year and that answer is “no.” The Mets however, had a strong pitching staff headed by deGrom and Syndergaard while having quality hitters like Michael Conforto and adding the consistent Robinson Cano. Instead, while there have been surprises (Alonso, McNeil, JD Davis), there have been disasters all around. Cano has been atrocious. Amed Rosario has not been what the Mets had hoped. And Juan Lagares is an epic disaster at bat. And the oft-reliable starting pitching has been a disaster. deGrom hasn’t lived up to his Cy Young season, but compared to his pals in the rotation has been smooth. Wheeler has been mediocre, Syndergaard is declining badly and Matz has been a disaster. And the bullpen where the Mets heavily invested in with Diaz and Familia, two guys who know how to close games out, are way worse than the starters. And then Mickey Callaway has shown he is not cut out to manage in the Majors.
BIGGEST KNEE-JERK STORY: SEATTLE MARINERS: Remember when the season started in Japan and the Mariners drubbed the Athletics? Then April rolled around and the Mariners were the talk of the town? Jerry DiPoto was hailed as a genius for getting veterans in on a rebuild mode (which the Mariners didn’t need to do to begin with) and that they were the most exciting team in baseball? And then Seattle realized they had too many “swing for the fences or bust” hitters and were in a park that the fences are a little too far away. They went from being darlings to afterthoughts. Jay Bruce was traded before June and Edwin Encarnacion was traded right before Father’s Day. And now the Mariners are more likely to finish 30 games under .500 when all is said and done, in a year that if they were hoping for a high pick….well….given where Detroit, Baltimore, and Kansas City are, good luck with that.
STORY WHO SHOULD GET MORE PRESS: Texas Rangers. Honestly I don’t know what else Texas can do to get more love. But being in the same division as the Astros who are getting all the love doesn’t help.
FREE AGENT FLOP: JEURYS FAMILIA, METS: 3 years and $30 million for a guy with a 7.53 ERA. People want to bash Harper and what he hasn’t done in Philadelphia, but at least he is still contributing in a positive way and Machado has started to come around in San Diego and the numbers are pretty good on him now. Familia was supposed to shut down games after the 7th innings for the Mets. Well, he and Edwin Diaz are roasted by everybody. Opposing hitters, Mets fans, New York media, etc.
“IF I COULD TURN BACK TIME AND NOT MAKE THAT TRADE AGAIN” AWARD: PHILLIES TRADING JP CRAWFORD AND CARLOS SANTANA TO MARINERS FOR JEAN SEGURA AND JUAN NICASIO: From the Phillies standpoint, at the time it seemed great because Santana had an off-year for the Phils and you were ridding his contract so you can add more to get Bryce Harper. But you also added an underrated shortstop in Segura and relief help in Nicasio. Instead, Segura hasn’t panned out (much like the other Phillies acquisitions to this point) and Nicasio has been a mess. JP Crawford, who was slated as one of the future players for the Phillies has started doing well in Seattle while Carlos Santana (after a trade from the Mariners to the Indians) has enjoyed an MVP caliber season. Of course I would praise Jerry DiPoto, but honestly the trade of Santana for Edwin Encarnacion and then Encarnacion (plus cash) for a former Mariners prospect in Juan Then really was silly. Anyway….
During the All-Star Break I will try to do previews of the second half
-Fan in the Obstructed Seat