Picking a 2nd-Half MVP for Every MLB Team
With the MLB regular season wrapping up midway through next week, there is still a lot to be decided, and while the playoffs will now take center stage, this is as good a time as any to look back on the second half of the season.
From the New York Mets and Pittsburgh Pirates collapsing, to the Baltimore Orioles and Oakland A's shocking everyone by remaining in contention, it has been an exciting second half. Players have risen from relative obscurity to make a major impact (I'm looking at you Kris Medlen), while other players have fallen off.
Here is a look at each MLB team's second-half MVP, taking into account not only their statistical production but also what they mean to their respective teams in terms of value.
Arizona Diamondbacks: C Miguel Montero
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.316/.418/.495, 7 HR, 43 RBI, 30 R
After he signed to a five-year, $60-million extension back in May, Montero got off to a slow start and was hitting just .251 BA with six HR, 33 RBI on June 18.
He got hot from there though, and has once again been a driving force in the middle of the Diamondbacks' lineup and one of the premiere offensive catchers in all of baseball.
Atlanta Braves: SP Kris Medlen
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17 G, 10 GS, 8-0, 0.77 ERA, 83 Ks, 82.1 IP
Medlen opened the season as the long man out of the Braves bullpen. It was not until July 31 that he made his first start of the season.
Since joining the rotation, he's gone 8-0 with a 0.76 ERA in 10 starts and has legitimately emerged as the ace of the Braves staff. He'll get a chance to showcase his skills on the national stage in the postseason. It'll be interesting to see how he responds.
Baltimore Orioles: CF Adam Jones
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.295/.353/.498, 12 HR, 37 RBI, 47 R
A breakout star this season after getting progressively better each year since joining the Orioles, Jones has managed to avoid a let down after a big first half.
He's been among the most clutch hitters in all of baseball this season.
There is no question he is the most important player in the Orioles' lineup day in and day out.
Boston Red Sox: 2B Dustin Pedroia
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.318/.366/.513, 9 HR, 30 RBI, 38 R
With the injury to David Ortiz, sub-par performance of Jacoby Ellsbury and the trade with the Dodgers, there has not been much to get excited about in Boston during the second half.
Pedroia has been one familiar face who has produced though. After a relatively slow first half (.266 BA, 6 HR, 33 RBI), he's back on track as one of the game's premiere offensive second basemen and is a building block for the Red Sox as they revamp their lineup.
Chicago Cubs: LF Alfonso Soriano
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.260/.310/.545, 16 HR, 57 RBI, 32 R
Soriano is enjoying perhaps his best season as a member of the Cubs, and his 57 RBI in the second half rank as the fourth most in all of baseball.
With two years and $36 million remaining on his contract after this season, the Cubs could look to use his impressive season to save some money and move him to a team looking to add an impact-veteran bat.
Chicago White Sox: CF Alex Rios
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.276/.303/.502, 12 HR, 38 RBI, 40 R, 10 SB
Coming off of a dreadful season (.227 BA, 13 HR, 44 RBI in a full 537 at bats), Rios has been a different player for the Sox this season.
Other players on the roster have better cumulative stats than him—as it has been an impressive effort in the White Sox' lineup from top to bottom—but Rios has been a consistent force all season and his bounce-back effort (along with Adam Dunn's) has been a huge reason for the White Sox' surprise success.
Cincinnati Reds: LF Ryan Ludwick
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.312/.385/.585, 14 HR, 46 RBI, 31 R
The Reds signed Ludwick to a one-year, $2.5 million contract this offseason with a $5-million option for the 2013 season. After batting .239 with 12 HR and 34 RBI in the first half, it seemed unlikely the team would pick up that option.
However, when Joey Votto hit the disabled list in the second half, Ludwick emerged as the team's cleanup hitter and has put up terrific numbers. Given his current level of production, the $5 million price tag for next year now seems like a steal.
Cleveland Indians: C Carlos Santana
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.296/.392/.533, 13 HR, 45 RBI, 39 R
Many expected this to be the year that Santana broke out and became one of if not the top offensive backstops in the game. However, he struggled early and was hitting just .221 BA with 5 HR and 30 RBI at the All-Star break.
He's done a complete 180 in the second half, serving as one of the lone bright spots on a struggling Indians team. If he could only put two terrific halves together, he'd live up to his lofty expectations.
Seeing as he's just 26, there's certainly time.
Colorado Rockies: C Wilin Rosario
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.303/.351/.554, 12 HR, 33 RBI, 34 R
The Rockies inked Ramon Hernandez to a two-year contract in the offseason, the idea being that he would bridge the gap to 23-year-old prospect Wilin Rosario.
Instead, Rosario used a 14-HR, 36-RBI first half to seize the starting job, though he showed he still had room to improve with a .247 average and .279 OBP.
That improvement came quicker than expected, as he's taken a big step forward with a terrific second half and looks ready to join the game's offensive elite at the position.
Detroit Tigers: 3B Miguel Cabrera
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.340/.413/.688, 24 HR, 62 RBI, 54 R
Cabrera has enjoyed a second half that would be a great season by most players standards. He is as hot as any player in baseball with a 1.156 OPS over the past month.
As a result, he's currently in position to win the first Triple Crown since 1967 and has to be considered the front-runner to win the AL MVP right now, despite what Mike Trout has accomplished in his remarkable rookie season.
Houston Astros: SP Lucas Harrell
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13 GS, 3-4, 3.04 ERA, 67 Ks, 80 IP
Harrell, a 27-year-old who was selected off waivers from the White Sox at the trade deadline in 2011, has been one of the few bright spots for the lowly Astros this season.
He's emerged as the ace of their young staff, and is 10-10 with a 3.89 ERA on the season. He'll certainly factor into their future plans, and with Jose Altuve falling off in the second half, he may very well be the best player on their roster.
Kansas City Royals: DH Billy Butler
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.343/.389/.535, 11 HR, 50 RBI, 36 R
Butler has finally tapped into his power this season as he has already surpassed his previous career bests of 21 HR and 93 RBI.
He's hit .312 BA, 27 HR, 102 RBI so far on the season, and has not missed beat from the first half to the second. Still only 26 years old, this could be more than just a breakout season, but instead could be him taking the next step in his career.
Los Angeles Angels: CF Mike Trout
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.306/.392/.547, 16 HR, 38 RBI, 65 R, 20 SB
After a .341 BA, 12 HR, 40 RBI, 26 SB first half, it wouldn't have been a major surprise if Trout fell off in the second half. After all, he is still only 21 years old.
He's kept the pace though. While Albert Pujols has had a big second half, the astounding season Trout has put together gets the nod here.
He'll obviously run away with the AL Rookie of the Year, but it will be interesting to see if he can make a serious run at Miguel Cabrera for AL MVP, too.
Los Angeles Dodgers: SP Clayton Kershaw
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13 GS, 6-4, 2.37 ERA, 92 Ks, 91 IP
The Dodgers considerable acquisitions during the trade season have not panned out to this point, as the offense as a whole has slumped in the second half.
The starting rotation has also been inconsistent, but 2011 NL Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw has proven to be a consistent performer atop the team's rotation and the unquestioned ace of the staff. A hip injury is cause for concern in the season's final days, but he's been a big part of keeping them in the playoff hunt nonetheless.
Miami Marlins: SS Jose Reyes
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.311/.360/.502, 8 HR, 34 RBI, 41 R, 16 SB
The marquee name of the Marlins offseason spending spree, Reyes stuck around when the team decided to sell big at the deadline. He's moved to a run-production spot in the middle of the Marlins order as a result.
After a slow start to the season and a so-so first half, the Marlins can at least be encouraged by his recent performance as his six-year, $106 million contract means he'll be a big part of the team's future plans.
Milwaukee Brewers: LF Ryan Braun
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.332/.394/.602, 16 HR, 47 RBI, 45 R, 14 SB
Really you could pick anyone from the trio of Braun, Aramis Ramirez (.331 BA, 15 HR, 46 RBI) and Corey Hart (.311 BA, 12 HR, 40 RBI), as they have been the main reason why the team has been able to stay in contention.
Braun's numbers are slightly superior so he gets the nod, but they have really all been equally valuable in backing a young pitching staff following the trade of Zack Greinke.
Minnesota Twins: RF Josh Willingham
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.259/.352/.509, 16 HR, 50 RBI, 38 R
Signed to a three-year, $21 million contract in the offseason to replace Michael Cuddyer, Willingham has been perhaps the best free-agent signing of the year.
He's kept up his torrid first-half pace, and currently has a season line of .260 BA, 35 HR, 110 RBI. While the bounce-back season of Joe Mauer has certainly been good to see for Twins fans, Willingham is the choice here.
New York Mets: 1B Ike Davis
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.257/.343/.541, 18 HR, 39 RBI, 31 R
Davis appeared to be on the verge of a breakout season in 2011 when he hit .302 BA, seven HR and 25 RBI through his first 36 games before an ankle injury ended his season.
He was horrendous in the first half of 2012, hitting just .201, as the team mulled over the idea of demoting him to Triple-A on more than on occasion. Luckily, they stuck with him, and he has once again looked like a future force in the middle of the lineup in the second half.
New York Yankees: SS Derek Jeter
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.339/.385/.473, 8 HR, 32 RBI, 48 R
The Captain has proven that he's still got it at the age of 38, as he got off to as hot a start as anyone in the first half and has maintained his strong play throughout the season.
His .858 OPS in the second half tops the Yankees, and he currently leads the AL with 206 hits, reaching the 200-hit mark for the eighth time in his illustrious career.
Oakland Athletics: CF Yoenis Cespedes
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.311/.372/.516, 12 HR, 41 RBI, 43 R
After hitting three home runs in his first four games, Cespedes cooled off as injuries and struggles adjusting to the league led to a somewhat disappointing .263 BA, nine HR and 36 RBI first half.
The second half has been a different story though, as he's carried the A's offense and would likely be the AL Rookie of the Year if not for one Mike Trout. Still, Oakland's four-year, $36 million investment is looking better and better each day.
Philadelphia Phillies: 2B Chase Utley
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.265/.388/.457, 9 HR, 38 RBI, 39 R
After missing nearly the entire first half with nagging back problems, it looked as though Utley's career may be coming to a close at the age of 33.
However, he's shown he still has plenty left in the tank in the second half, posting a ridiculous 39-22 ratio of walks to strikeouts in the second half for a .388 on-base percentage. If he can stay healthy, he may still have a few top-tier production seasons left in him.
Pittsburgh Pirates: CF Andrew McCutchen
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.304/.398/.494, 12 HR, 33 RBI, 46 R
It was going to be tough for McCutchen to top his .362 BA, 18 HR, 60 RBI first half, and while his second half numbers have not been quite as good, he remains the clear cut choice for Pirates MVP.
He has not had to carry the offense quite as much in the second half with Garrett Jones and Pedro Alvarez making solid contributions, but he's without a doubt the superstar of the team and his .336 BA, 30 HR, 93 RBI, 19 SB this season may still earn him an NL MVP award, though Buster Posey now appears to be the front-runner.
San Diego Padres: 3B Chase Headley
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.300/.372/.576, 21 HR, 66 RBI, 47 R
The Padres were wise to hold onto Headley at the deadline, as he has emerged as the top offensive third baseman in the National League and should play a big part in the team's ongoing rebuilding efforts.
His .281 BA, 29 HR, 108 RBI season is impressive by any measure, but the fact that he has been able to post those numbers playing half of his games in Petco Park makes it all the more impressive. He leads all of baseball in RBI and is second in HR in the second half.
San Francisco Giants: C Buster Posey
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.383/.455/.639, 13 HR, 55 RBI, 39 R
Much like he did when he was first called up in 2010, Posey has put the Giants offense on his back in the second half this season and is a big reason the team was able to run away with the NL West title.
He's emerged as the NL MVP front-runner and rightfully so. His .383 average leads all of baseball in the second half and his .332 BA, 23 HR, 98 RBI line on the season is terrific for a catcher or otherwise.
Seattle Mariners: SP Felix Hernandez
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13 GS, 7-3, 2.51 ERA, 79 Ks, 97 IP
Hernandez continues to be the best thing the Mariners have going for them, by far, and a strong second half has put him in the conversation for AL Cy Young once again despite a 13-8 record.
He has a 2.85 ERA and 207 strikeouts in 220.2 innings of work on the season.
He'll likely be joined next season by top prospects James Paxton and Danny Hultzen. Taijuan Walker has an outside shot at joining them later in the year, as the Mariners will have the most exciting young rotation in baseball.
St. Louis Cardinals: C Yadier Molina
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.343/.409/.525, 8 HR, 26 RBI, 26 R
Other players on the Cardinals may have gaudier numbers, but there is little doubt as to who the most important player on their roster is, as Molina is the heart and soul of that team.
It doesn't hurt that he's hitting .343 in the second half either, and his .321 BA, 21 HR, 71 RBI line this season could make him a serious contender for NL MVP. He likely won't win, but don't be surprised if he sneaks out a top five finish in the voting. He certainly deserves it.
Tampa Bay Rays: 3B Evan Longoria
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.266/.324/.475, 9 HR, 30 RBI, 17 R
The numbers aren't overwhelming, but there is no question the Rays turned their season around the day Longoria returned from a hamstring injury.
David Price has been phenomenal atop the rotation, and B.J. Upton has had a nice second half with 19 HR and 45 RBI, but as far as who has the most value to the team? The choice has to be Longoria.
Texas Rangers: 3B Adrian Beltre
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.303/.348/.610, 20 HR, 44 RBI, 41 R
With Josh Hamilton slumping to start the second half, the choice here becomes Beltre, who went through one of the most impressive hot streaks of anyone in baseball this season.
Over a 15-game span from August 22 to September 6, Beltre hit .443/.469/1.148 with 11 HR and 21 RBI. He was completely unstoppable. With Hamilton in and out of the lineup of late, he will be the Rangers primary run producer down the stretch.
Toronto Blue Jays: DH Edwin Encarnacion
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.263/.390/.559, 18 HR, 47 RBI, 35 R
The breakout offensive player of 2012, Encarnacion has produced at a steady rate all season, despite a constantly changing lineup around him due to a seemingly never-ending wave of injuries to the Blue Jays.
Colby Rasmus is second on the team in the second half with five home runs and 20 RBI, as Encarnacion has been a man among boys on his own team. His .282 BA, 41 HR, 105 RBI line on the season has made Encarnacion a steal at the three-year, $27 million extension the Blue Jays were able to retain him for.
Washington Nationals: 3B Ryan Zimmerman
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.332/.398/.585, 16 HR, 53 RBI, 48 R
After an injury-plagued first half that saw him hit just .243 BA with eight HR and 40 RBI, Zimmerman has shown why he was worth the six-year, $100 million extension he signed back in February.
The Nationals are going to go as far as their pitching takes them. As far as one player bringing a significant amount of value to the team in the second half, Zimmerman gets the nod over Cy Young candidate Gio Gonzalez (8-5, 2.75 ERA).