MLB midseason awards: Mike Trout is the AL MVP
Baseball is just past the halfway point of the 162-game season, with some teams (Boston, New York Yankees) building Secretariat-like leads over the rest of the pack and others (Baltimore, Kansas City) so far out of contention they could be mathematically eliminated in early August.
Rosters for the July 17 All-Star Game will be announced this weekend, and rumors are already heating up in advance of the July 31 trade deadline — where will you go, Manny Machado? — so it’s a good time to take stock of the first three months and issue some midseason awards.
The envelopes, please:
American League MVP
Angels center fielder Mike Trout gets the nod over Red Sox right fielder Mookie Betts in a tight race in which supporting casts — or lack thereof — could factor in eventual voting.
Trout entered Tuesday with a major league-best 6.8 wins above replacement (WAR), according to Baseball Reference. He’s batting .310 with a 1.08 on-base-plus-slugging percentage, 24 homers, 49 RBIs, 75 walks — 11 of them intentional, most in the AL — and 73 strikeouts.
He did this despite batting second in a lineup that has received a major league-worst .280 on-base percentage from the leadoff spot and inconsistent production in the third (Justin Upton) and fourth (Albert Pujols) spots.
Betts, who has a 5.0 WAR, is batting .336 with an AL-best 1.0988 OPS, 21 homers and 42 RBIs and more walks (40) than strikeouts (37). But he benefits from a prolific lineup that has scored a major league-high 454 runs.
National League MVP
Freeman boasts a .313 average, .930 OPS, 16 homers, 21 doubles, 48 walks — nine intentional — 70 strikeouts, 56 RBIs and a .378 average with runners in scoring position.
Arenado is batting .310 a 1.003 OPS, 22 homers and 63 RBIs but benefits from hitter-friendly Coors Field, where he has 13 homers and a 1.141 OPS compared to nine homers and an .860 OPS on the road.
Kemp is surging, with a .318 average, .911 OPS, 15 homers, 55 RBIs and a .419 mark with runners in scoring position, but he’s not as strong defensively.
AL Cy Young
This is the deepest category of the traditional awards, with eight worthy candidates— Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole and Charlie Morton (Astros), Trevor Bauer and Corey Kluber (Indians), Luis Severino (Yankees), Chris Sale (Red Sox) and Blake Snell (Tampa Bay).
It’s a virtual toss-up for the top two spots, but we’ll give Severino (13-2, 1.98 ERA, 138 strikeouts, 29 walks in 118 1/3 innings) a slight edge over Verlander (9-4, 2.12 ERA, 144 strikeouts, 22 walks in 118 2/3 innings).
NL Cy Young
New York Mets right-hander Jacob deGrom has an NL-best 1.84 ERA, but Washington ace Max Scherzer’s dominance gives him the edge.
A three-time Cy Young winner, Scherzer is 10-5 with a 2.16 ERA and 174 strikeouts in 120 2/3 innings, 40 more whiffs than deGrom and Arizona’s Patrick Corbin, who are tied for second with 134.
AL rookie of the year
NL rookie of the year
Nationals outfielder Juan Soto, 19, gets the nod with his .308 average, .977 OPS, eight homers and 21 RBIs in 39 games. Braves outfielder Ronald Acuna, who returned last week from a knee injury, could challenge Soto. Acuna is hitting .273with an .818 OPS, seven homers and 18 RBIs in 34 games.
AL manager of the year
As good a job as Oakland’s Bob Melvin has done with the perennially rebuilding A’s, who are 47-39, the nod goes to Seattle’s Scott Servais, who has guided the Mariners to a 55-31 record despite the loss of second baseman Robinson Cano to an 80-game suspension on May 15.
NL manager of the year
Arizona’s Torey Lovullo has the edge over Atlanta’s Brian Snitker and the Dodgers’ Dave Roberts for leading the Diamondbacks to first place in the NL West despite first baseman Paul Goldschmidt’s brutal two-month, season-opening slump, A.J. Pollock’s injury and a stretch in which Arizona lost 15 of 17 games from May 9-27.
Most surprising team
Few picked the Braves, who went 70-92 last season and were thought to be “tanking” this season, to finish better than fourth in the NL East.
They have used a blend of experience (Freeman, catcher Kurt Suzuki, outfielder Nick Markakis, pitcher Anibal Sanchez) and youth (Acuna, infielders Ozzie Albies and Dansby Swanson, pitchers Sean Newcomb and Mike Foltynewicz) to go 49-35 and build a 2 1/2-game division lead.
Most disappointing team
The Orioles have a 24-60 record, sit 3 1/2 games back and are on pace to go 47-115, which would be the 15th-worst record in the modern era (1900-present).
Best free-agent signing
Concerns over a right foot injury scared off a number of would-be suitors for J.D. Martinez, and the slugger didn’t sign a five-year, $110-million deal with the Red Sox until Feb. 26. But Martinez, 30, has been a middle-of-the-order force, with a .325 average, 1.031 OPS and a major-league-leading 26 homers and 71 RBIs.
Worst free agent signing
So many candidates — Yu Darvish, Jay Bruce, Alex Cobb, Jason Vargas, Bryan Shaw, Zack Cozart — how can you pick just one? For the least bang for the buck, we’ll go with Darvish, who is 1-3 with a 4.95 ERA in eight starts after signing a six-year, $126-million deal with the Chicago Cubs. Darvish hasn’t pitched since May 20 because of a triceps injury and suffered a setback in his rehab last week.
The Dodgers’ acquisition of Kemp from Atlanta for Adrian Gonzalez, Scott Kazmir, Brandon McCarthy and Charlie Culberson. Not only did the Dodgers shed enough bad contracts to get under the $197-million luxury tax threshold, they picked up an outfielder who is being serenaded by “MVP” chants in Dodger Stadium.
Marlins fans have become all too familiar with fire sales, but the wrecking ball they took to last year’s team was brutal by even their standards. Miami traded away four of its five best players, reigning NL MVP Giancarlo Stanton, fellow outfielders Marcell Ozuna and Christian Yelich and second baseman Dee Gordon, who combined for a 20.3 WAR on a 77-win team in 2017. The Marlins are 35-52 and in last place in the NL East.
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