The All-Star break is behind us and baseball teams and fans are gearing up for the second half of the season that begins when play resumes tomorrow. With a little more than half the season (depending on teams and schedules) gone, it’s time to start officially talking about where the races for each of the major awards stands. So, we’ll give our best stab at giving you the leader for each award, along with a couple of guys who are in contention. If you don’t see your favorite player on this list, it clearly means I have a bias specifically against you.
Most Valuable Player- Paul Goldschmidt, 1B, Arizona Diamondbacks
Goldschmidt has been one of the consistently great players in the National League since he finished second in the MVP race back in 2013. He’s been somewhat buried in the national conversation by the fact that the Diamondbacks haven’t had the best of seasons the past few years, but that has changed in a big way this season.
While the Dodgers have put together a huge 7.5 game lead in the division by virtue of their 26-4 stretch over the past 30 games, the D’backs are leading the Wild Card in the NL and seem poised for a playoff run. Goldschmidt has posted his consistently great numbers once again, ranking in the Top 10 in the National League in multiple categories: batting average .312 (10th), home runs 20 (T-8th), RBI 67 (4th), WAR with 4.2 (1st among position players, 2nd in NL overall behind Scherzer), and stolen bases with 13 (T-8th). Yep, Goldy is even in the Top 10 in steals. Oh, and his OBP (.428) and Slugging (.577) percentages are in the Top 10 too.
Now, Bryce Harper is having a ridiculous season (.325/.431/.590 with 20 HR and 65 RBI) in Washington and is certainly a 1B to Goldy’s 1A in my book, so really either one is fine with me. Other Notables: Nolan Arenado (COL)
Cy Young- Max Scherzer, SP, Washington Nationals
Cue the Dodgers fans chasing me with pitchforks and torches. I know, I know. Clayton Kershaw is having ANOTHER great season. But, here’s the thing. Scherzer has outpitched him by numerous metrics so far. Want proof? Okay. Scherzer leads Kershaw in: ERA (2.10 to 2.18), WAR (4.8 to 3.7), WHIP (0.779 to 0.877), K/9 (12.133 to 10.814), strikeouts (173 to 159), ERA+ (208 to 189) and FIP (2.61 to 3.01). The areas where Kershaw leads? Wins (14 to 10), K/BB (7.2 to 6.4), and innings pitched (132.1 to 128.1).
Both of these guys are having special seasons but, to this point, Scherzer is leading Kershaw in my book and looks to be on his way to a second consecutive Cy Young. Other Notables: Zack Greinke (ARI)
Rookie of the Year- Cody Bellinger, 1B/OF, Los Angeles Dodgers
Oh look, another year, another candidate from the Dodgers for the rookie of the year award. They do seem to churn these guys out don’t they? Bellinger’s slash line isn’t overly impressive (.261/.342/.619), but he’s ripped off 25 homers and 58 RBI in 70 games. Since his call up, the Dodgers have gone 52-18. Yes, you read that correctly. He leads all NL rookies in WAR with 2.3.
Now, can he keep up this ridiculous pace of hitting homers? Probably not. But, Bellinger has been very good since getting the call up and that’s why he’s the leader at the halfway point. The Brewers Manny Pina (.287/.328/.457 with 6 HR 28 RBI) has been a pleasant surprise for the NL Central leaders this year. Also, have to tip my cap to Rockies rookie starting pitcher Kyle Freeland who’s posted a 9-7 mark with a 3.77 ERA in Coors Field. Actually, the Rockies have multiple young pitchers contributing in a big way this year giving Rox fans plenty of hope for the future rotation.
Manager of the Year- Craig Counsell, Milwaukee Brewers
Look, I thought the Brewers were going to be horrible this year. The fact that Counsell has found a way to have this team leading the NL Central by 5.5 games over the defending champion Cubs? Seems nothing short of miraculous. Shout out to both Torey Lovullo of the Diamondbacks and Bud Black of the Rockies, but Counsell is the leader of my biggest surprise team of the season and therefore, he holds the lead.
Most Valuable Player- Aaron Judge, OF, New York Yankees
Judge has exploded onto the scene this season after a disappointing debut in 27 games last season. You’ve likely gotten used to the talk about Judge’s monster home runs, and there are certainly a lot of them (30 to be exact), but just take a look at the rest of his stats. He’s slashing .329/.448/.629 and leads, not only all rookies in WAR, but the entire league in that category. Many times, we get caught up in arguing over semantics when it comes to the MVP award and you can make a case for multiple guys. But, so far this year, Judge is the clear-cut choice.
Granted, there’s a slight asterisk here as the normal MVP candidate, Mike Trout, has been injured for the last month and change, but, that doesn’t change the fact that what Judge has done has been amazing. Other Notables: Jose Altuve (HOU), Mookie Betts (BOS)
Cy Young- Chris Sale, SP, Boston Red Sox
Similarly to Judge’s dominance of the position players in the AL at the moment, Chris Sale has been just as good on the mound for the Sox. He leads the AL in WHIP (0.901), K/9 (12.5), strikeouts (178), K/BB (8.1), FIP (2.09), while also throwing the most innings in the AL (127.2). Ask any Red Sox fan about Sale’s 11 wins and they’ll tell you the team has blown at least three or four more for him by not providing run support.
Kansas City’s Jason Vargas has had a resurgent year at age 34 and props must be given to him, he’s certainly placed himself in the conversation along with Corey Kluber (DL stint notwithstanding) and the Twins have gotten a great first half from Ervin Santana. That said, Sale’s been the best of the group so far, and he gets the nod at the halfway point. Other Notables: Jason Vargas (KC), Corey Kluber (CLE), Ervin Santana (MIN)
Rookie of the Year- Aaron Judge, OF, New York Yankees
Fun fact. If Judge actually completes the MVP/ROY double, he’d be the first player to do it since Ichiro in 2001. Other Notables: Ben Gamel (SEA), Trey Mancini (BAL), Jacob Faria (TB)
Manager of the Year- AJ Hinch, Houston Astros
The Astros are a half-game behind the Dodgers for the league’s best record. More impressive than the 60-29 mark however, is the team’s 33-11 record away from home. He’s also managed to keep the Astros rolling despite the fact that their pitching staff has been hit with injuries to Dallas Keuchel and Collin McHugh. Credit Paul Molitor of the Twins for keeping that young team in the race and Mike Scioscia for somehow, despite not having Mike Trout for much of the year, keeping the Angels within striking distance (3 GB in Wild Card). But, Hinch has steered the Astros to a spot in the conversation of best team in baseball and towards possibly fulfilling that Sports Illustrated prophecy from a few years back.