Delayed Responses to Some Mid-Season Questions
These answers are from a Baseball Roundtable I participated in over at Daily Shootout.
1. Who do you believe have been the MVPs of the 1st half?
For the AL, my pick is relatively easy, as I believe Mike Trout has been the best player in baseball since his call-up. Despite missing the Angels’ first 22 games, Trout leads the AL in WAR by half a win. Trout also ranks 1st in a variety of other categories including wRC+, batting average, and wOBA. He also has played arguably the best center field in baseball this year. Apologies to Robinson Cano, Josh Hamilton, Austin Jackson, and Mark Trumbo.
In the NL, I believe the race is much closer with Joey Votto, Andrew McCutchen, Michael Bourn, David Wright, and Ryan Braun all having deserving seasons thus far. Ultimately, I think Votto has been the NL’s best player of the 1st half. Despite having half a season left, Votto has already reached the 5 WAR mark. Votto leads baseball in nearly every significant offensive metric OPS, wRC+, and wOBA. You could make an argument for any of the other 4 players I mentioned, but Votto is having a season for the ages.
NOTE: This was written before Votto’s injury occurred. If I had to bet on it, I’d take Andrew McCutchen as the MVP favorite right now.
2. Who do you believe have been the Cy Youngs of the 1st half?
With apologies to Chris Sale, Jered Weaver, and others, I’ll give my hypothetical 1st half AL Cy Young vote to Justin Verlander. He is following up his remarkable 2011 campaign, with another Cy caliber year. Verlander currently leads the AL in innings pitched, which is a notably underrated stat. He also ranks among the leaders in numerous other categories, and is leading a shaky Tigers rotation.
In the NL, I believe Gio Gonzalez is having the best season. Gonzalez is striking out well over a batter per inning and has the best home run rate in the NL. He also is tied for the NL lead in pitchers WAR with Zack Greinke. Gonzalez has a 2.93 ERA, which ranks 12th in the NL. That may not seem that special, but FIP tells us that his true ERA should be around 2.38, which ranks 1st in the NL. He also is a reliable candidate to eat innings, and he won’t be shutdown come September like his fellow Nationals rotation mate. Overall, the NL race is extremely close right now, and you could easily make a case for RA Dickey, Greinke, Stephen Strasburg, and others.
3. Who do you believe have been the top rookies of the 1st half?
In the AL, it’s really no contest. Mike Trout has been by far the best rookie in baseball.
The NL is much closer, with Wade Miley currently leading NL rookies in WAR. But I’ll give my vote to Bryce Harper. Harper has held his own in the big leagues at the age of 19, and despite missing the 1st month of the season, he has been the Nationals’ 2nd most productive position player behind only Ian Desmond.
4. What has been the biggest surprise of the 1st half?
The 1st half of the 2012 season has been full of surprises, ranging from the Orioles competitiveness to the domination of RA Dickey’s knuckleball. For me, the Pittsburgh Pirates have been the biggest surprise so far. Who would’ve thought they’d be in first place this late in the season? Who knew the pitching staff would be this good? They arguably have baseball’s best player in Andrew McCutchen, and they continue to win games despite an offense that ranks 21st in runs scored. They have been baseball’s most exciting team, and nobody predicted them to be this good. It has been a pleasant surprise, and hopefully things continue to look up for Pittsburgh.
5. What has been the biggest disappointment of the 1st half?
The biggest disappointment for me has easily been the Detroit Tigers. They have been playing better of late, and have pulled themselves into the midst of the Wild Card race, but it’s hard to ignore how they played for the first few months of the season. Largely picked as a preseason favorite to make the post season, Detroit has many weaknesses, and I really don’t know if they will be able to make the playoffs, let alone win their division, in the end. Their lack of acknowledgement to defense has seriously hindered them, and injuries have rattled the rotation. The offense has also proved to not be as good as we thought. Despite having 3 of the AL’s best hitters in Miguel Cabrera, Austin Jackson, and Prince Fielder, the lineup is incredibly thin. It’s hard to see Detroit as a serious threat when they are starting Delmon Young, Brennan Boesch, Ramon Santiago, and Quintin Berry on a regular basis.
You can follow Justin Millar on twitter at @justinmillar1, or email him at Justinmillar1@gmail.com. Comment below to join the discussion.