The All-Star Break is fast approaching, and symbolizes the half-way point of the baseball season. It's only the symbolic half-way point, though, since most teams have already played over 90 games. Yes, the 2014 baseball season is already more than half over. That's a little depressing, but there's lots of baseball left.
The All-Star Break is a good time to assess who the front-runners are for baseball's MVP, Cy Young and Rookie of the Year awards -- so let's jump the gun a few days early, shall we?
AL MVP: Mike Trout
Trout has been robbed of back-to-back MVP awards, thanks to the Baseball Writers Association of America's infatuation with the almighty RBI. Mike Trout hasn't just been the best player in baseball in each of the last two seasons, he's been historically good. His third full season in baseball is no different. Trout is hitting .303/.396/.590, with 20 home runs and 10 stolen bases through July 9. Somehow, Trout has developed 80-grade power, to go along with an 80-grade hit, field and run tool. That's four 80-grade tools -- I'm not sure if anybody else in baseball even has three 80-grade tools.
No matter how you slice it, Trout is the best player in baseball, and has been for the past few years. Let's hope he's finally recognized this November.
Other contenders for the AL MVP, should Trout have a poor second half include Alex Gordon, Ian Kinsler, Jose Bautista and Miguel Cabrera.
NL MVP: Troy Tulowitzki
For awhile, Tulowitzki was leading the league in fWAR, until Trout caught up to him. Through July 9, Trout has been worth 5.4 fWAR to Tulo' 5.1 -- but make no mistake, both players are having excellent seasons, and both should take home the hardware in each league.
Yes, it's true that Tulowitzki plays 81 games at Coors Field, a hitter's paradise. At home, Tulowitzki is hitting an unbelievable .433/.514/.767, but is hitting just .265/.367/.463 on the road. Coros Field advantage or not, Tulowitzki is having the best year of any player in the National League.
Other contenders include Andrew McCutchen, Giancarlo Stanton, Carlos Gomez and Jonathan Lucroy.
AL Cy Young: Felix Hernandez
How good has King Felix been this year? Well, to date, 5.1 fWAR, but the next closest is Jon Lester at 3.7. He's been nearly a full win and a half better than the next best pitcher in baseball this season, and is a big reason why the Mariners are in contention this year.
Felix has a 10-2 record to go along with a 2.11 ERA, 1.94 FIP, and is striking out 9.57 batters per nine innings, while walking just 1.52 per nine innings. Clayton Kershaw has been considered to be the best pitcher on the planet, but Felix is better right now.
Other contenders right now include nobody, but if Felix has a disastrous second half, Lester, Yu Darvish and Chris Sale could sneak into the discussion.
NL Cy Young: Adam Wainwright
It's been a long time coming for Adam Wainwright, but it looks like he may finally win the Cy Young award. After losing to Tim Lincecum in 2010, Wainwright missed the Cardinals' 2011 championship season after undergoing Tommy John surgery. Wainwright had a bumpy 2012 season as he returned from major reconstructive surgery, but was back to his Cy Young self in 2013.
Now with the aforementioned Kershaw having missed time in 2014, the award is Wainwright's to lose. For now.
Kershaw has been lights out since returning from the disabled list, but he's only made 13 starts. Kershaw does have a 1.85 ERA, .87 WHIP and is holding batters to a .199 average in 87 and 1/3 innings of work, while striking out 115 batters and walking just 12. Once again, video game numbers.
Wainwright has been every bit as good, and has made five more starts. Through 18 starts and 131 innings, Wainwright has a 1.79 ERA, .92 WHIP, and has held opponents to just a .201 average against. Wainwright doesn't have as good of a K-rate as Kershaw this season, striking out just 111 batters so far, but the difference in innings -- 43 and 2/3 -- is too great to ignore.
This is a two-horse race, and unless Wainwright falters in the second half, the award should finally be his.
AL Rookie of the Year: Jose Abreu
Apologies to Yankees fans and Mashario Tanaka. Abreu has been better than advertised when the White Sox signed him, hitting .284/.333/.627. Yeah, the on base is a little low, but when you hit 28 home runs and slug a cool .627 through your first 333 MLB plate appearances, you're doing something pretty good.
Abreu has slugged 28 home runs despite a stint on the 15-day disabled list. Tanaka has been excellent, but unfortunately just went on the disabled list with right elbow inflammation. Hopefully that's all it is for Tanaka, but he could be looking at an extended absence.
Other contenders include Kevin Kiermaier, George Springer, and the unlikely Brock Holt.
NL Rookie of the Year: Billy Hamilton
I was not a believer in Billy Hamilton. If your only true plus-plus tool is speed, then I'm probably not buying what you're selling. Hamilton, however, has turned into a plus-plus defender in centerfield, and is hitting enough to use his excellent speed. At .281/.315/.423, Hamilton is a tremendous asset. The speedy centerfielder also has 37 steals to date.
Cincinnati owes a lot of its success to Hamilton, as his 3.2 fWAR ranks first among rookies in both the AL and NL. With Joey Votto now on the disabled list, the Reds will need Hamilton to continue his excellent play, as the NL Central turns into a four-horse race.
Other contenders include Chris Owings and Tommy La Stella. If Oscar Taveras or Gregory Polanco have excellent second halves, they'll factor into the race as well.
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