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    Monday, July 9, 2012

    2012 First Half Awards

    I know that the All-Star Break is slightly over half-way through the season, but everyone else calls it the first half when they’re referring to things, so I may as well, too (although it’s close enough that we’re splitting hairs). So, without further ado, my first half award winners.

    AL Manager of the Year 
    1. Buck Showalter, Orioles
    2. Robin Ventura, White Sox
    3. Joe Girardi, Yankees

    Pretty straight-forward. The two surprise teams at the top, with the best record manager in third. Granted, there’s a lot of season left to play, and picking first half Manager of the Year is a little silly, but I’ll do it for the sake of completeness.

    Baltimore has been outscored by 27 runs this year. I hope they can keep up winning, but I’m a little worried by this. I wouldn’t mind them making a small trade or two, but don’t give up on the rebuilding plan and trade away good prospects just yet.

    NL Manager of the Year
    1. Davey Johnson, Nationals
    2. Terry Collins, Mets
    3. Clint Hurdle, Pirates

    This was easy: the three surprise teams. I thought the Nationals would be able to compete this year, but I was definitely not expecting the best record in the NL at the half. I was not expecting more than last place from the Mets.

    AL Rookie of the Year
    1. Mike Trout, Angels
    2. Yu Darvish, Rangers
    3. Will Middlebrooks, Red Sox

    Well this is a silly question. Trout is making a run for MVP. I think he will fall somewhat back to earth in the second half, though, if only because I don’t think he can realistically hit .404 on balls in play the rest of the year. Trout and Darvish have both had All-Star-level starts, and lead AL rookies in Fangraphs’ WAR (with 4.7 and 2.2, respectively). Also, Darvish is fairly young compared to some past former Nippon Professional Baseball stars, and at 25, is still realistically rookie-aged. It’s a bit of a drop-off after them. Middlebrooks’ .298/.335/.538 batting line and 130 weighted Runs Created (wRC+, meaning he’s hit 30% better than league average once on-base percentage and slugging percentage are properly weighted) is impressive. I don’t know if he’ll keep it up striking out almost five times as much as he walks, though.

    NL Rookie of the Year 1. Bryce Harper, Nationals
    2. Wade Miley, Diamondbacks
    3. Zack Cozart, Reds

    This is sort of a two-way race at the moment as of right now. Miley leads all NL rookies in WAR, with 2.0. Harper has 1.7, which is close, but not particularly closer than other players. I think Harper deserves some bonus for being significantly younger than every other player I look at though.* I think that’s enough to put those two ahead of everyone else. And the tiebreaker between the two, for me, was that I think Bryce Harper is more likely to keep it up over the second half-his .330 batting average on balls in play seems much more likely to continue than Miley’s .261 BABIP allowed. Also, I’d be lying if I said this didn’t factor into my thinking, at least a little.

    Like the AL, the third slot is really up for grabs at the moment. Cozart, Todd Frazier, Andrelton Simmons, and Yasmani Grandal all earned my consideration, with the latter two being really impressive, but over much shorter time frames. I ended going with Cozart based solely on games played, so I expect this to change by year’s end. Also, Fangraphs lists Lance Lynn as a rookie, and he didn’t pitch enough innings in 2011 to lose rookie status. However, I think he spent too many days on the 25-man roster, something their listings had problems with last year (that time, regarding Allen Craig).

    *For reference, their ages:

    Simmons and Grandal are the closest in age, but Grandal has only played in eight games so far (with four homers, and as a catcher of course, but still), and Simmons gets a lot of his value from his fielding. I know the fielding counts, but most fielding metrics take a season or three to stabilize, while Simmons only has 31 games. If that holds up over the rest of the season, I’ll reconsider.

    AL Cy Young
    1. Justin Verlander, Tigers
    2. Felix Hernandez, Mariners
    3. Chris Sale, White Sox
    4. Jake Peavy, White Sox
    5. Jason Hammel, Orioles

    Verlander has been more or less as good as last year; 8.68 K/9 this year compared to 8.96 last year, 2.04 BB/9 both years, .75 HR/9 this year compared to .86 last year, 2.58 ERA versus 2.40, and 2.94 Fielding Independent Pitching versus 2.99. He also leads the league in innings pitched and fWAR for pitchers (132.2 and 3.8). He probably won’t get as much MVP talk this year, though, because his teammates have more or less cost him a shot at 24 wins.

    Hernandez is third in K/9 (9.47), fWAR (3.0), and fourth in innings pitched (116.0), and has gotten unlucky on batted balls. Sale has been good, but has two fewer stars than Felix. I would feel a lot more comfortable putting him first if I thought he could continue allowing a .255 BABIP. He does have a 2.19 ERA, a 2.58 FIP, and 3.5 fWAR.

    Peavy is third in innings pitched (120.0), fourth in fWAR (2.9), and has a strong 8.10 K/9, 1.95 BB/9, and 2.85 ERA. He gives up a few too many home runs, though. Jason Hammel is having a great year and is a deserving all-star (2.6 fWAR), but he gained the fifth spot mostly because it’s nice being able to put an Oriole on the ballot.

    NL Cy Young
    1. R.A. Dickey, Mets
    2. Zack Greinke, Brewers
    3. Gio Gonzalez, Nationals
    4. Stephen Strasburg, Nationals
    5. Matt Cain, Giants

    This is a very close race still. There are about a dozen pitchers who could all realistically receive votes. Cain and Dickey are second and third in innings. Strasburg, Gonzalez, and Dickey are first, second, and fourth in K/9 (with the first two way out in front). Gonzalez and Greinke are first and third in HR/9. All of them have and ERA below 3 except Greinke, who is thirteenth at 3.17, although he plays in front of the Brewers’ defense. Greinke, Strasburg, Gonzalez, and Dickey are 1 through 4 in FIP, and Cain is ninth, but he always seems to be underrated by it. In the end, this seemed like the best order, although by the end of the year, James McDonald (Pirates), Johnny Cueto (Reds), and Clayton Kershaw (Dodgers), among others, may move onto the ballot.

    AL MVP
    1. Robinson Cano, Yankees
    2. Mike Trout, Angels
    3. Josh Hamilton, Rangers
    4. Justin Verlander, Tigers
    5. Austin Jackson, Tigers
    6. Adam Jones, Orioles
    7. Jose Bautista, Blue Jays
    8. Josh Reddick, Athletics
    9. Miguel Cabrera, Tigers
    10. Felix Hernandez, Mariners

    Cano and Trout are close. Trout actually has a small lead in fWAR (4.7 to 4.3). In the end, though, I went with Cano peartly because of the extra playing time (not Trout’s fault, and he more than made up with it since WAR is a counting stat), but also because I feel like Trout will not continue to bat .400 on batted balls the rest of the way. On the opposite end of the spectrum of luck is Bautista, who has hit an unfortunate .212 on batted balls. He has counteracted this be tying Hamilton in home runs-they can’t catch it if you hit it over their heads. He should improve with some luck, too. Hamilton has cooled off some from his hot start. Also, it feels good to put an Orioles sixth; hopefully, he’ll move up by year’s end.

    NL MVP
    1. David Wright, Mets
    2. Joey Votto, Reds
    3. Andrew McCutchen, Pirates
    4. Michael Bourn, Braves
    5. Carlos Ruiz, Phillies
    6. Ryan Braun, Brewers
    7. Matt Holliday, Cardinals
    8. Yadier Molina, Cardinals
    9. R.A. Dickey, Mets
    10. Martin Prado, Braves

    Like the NL Cy Young, a lot of close candidates with a lot of room for change. fWAR has Wright and Votto tied with 4.9 each, while Baseball-Reference’s WAR has Wright with a slim (4.7 to 4.5 lead). There were a bunch of small reasons for my ranking: the small bWAR lead, the slightly more unreasonableness of Votto’s BABIP (.407 to .385), the fact that Votto has one MVP already while Wright was inexplicably passed over in 2007, and maybe also the fact that Wright is a third baseman.

    McCutchen has been great lately; both WAR’s have him in the top five of the league. Bourn has contributed his usual great center field defense while hitting better than ever. Braun has hit comparably to his MVP year last year; the rest of the league has just gotten better. Holliday and Molina have been great lately.

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