With the All-Star break nearly upon us, it's time to acknowledge those who have been the top performers in the first half of the season for the Texas Rangers.
Currently, the Rangers sit in first place in the American League West with a 48-34 record, which is good for the second-best record in the American League. The Rangers have been able to overcome a rash of injuries this season and have received important contributions from players like Nick Tepesch and Justin Grimm in order to keep the rotation afloat.
With that in mind; here are the players that earned the first-half awards for the Texas Rangers.
Team Cy Young: Yu Darvish
2013 Stats: 17 GS, 113.1 IP, 8-3 W-L, 151 K, 37 BB, 2.78 ERA and 1.01 WHIP
By far the easiest award to give out for the Rangers this season, Yu Darvish has been the best pitcher for the Rangers from the get-go.
Darvish set the tone early by coming one out away from a perfect game in his season debut against Houston back in April and has been nothing short of brilliant this entire season. He leads all of baseball with 151 strikeouts so far and could become the first pitcher since Randy Johnson in 2002 to strike out more than 300 in a single season.
Strikeouts have not been the only calling card for him this season either. Currently, Darvish also ranks in the top 15 in WHIP, ERA, WAR and innings pitched. In fact, ESPN has him ranked fifth in its most recent AL Cy Young predictor as well.
When factoring in the above-mentioned injuries to the Rangers' starting rotation as well, it is easy to choose Darvish as the Cy Young for the Rangers so far this season.
Offensive MVP: Nelson Cruz
2013 Stats: 79 GP, .271/.332/.525, 15 2B, 20 HR and 61 RBI
Nelson Cruz has been everything and then some for the Rangers this season. With the departures of Michael Young, Mike Napoli and Josh Hamilton in the offseason, it was going to be up to Adrian Beltre and Cruz to help carry the offense in 2013.
He has certainly been up to the task so far, as he leads the Rangers' every-day players in home runs, RBI, slugging percentage and OPS. Much of this can be contributed to Cruz's ability to stay healthy so far this season.
The biggest knock on him coming into his contract season was his ability to stay on the field, especially with the injuries that plagued him from 2009 to 2011. Over that time period, he missed a total of 126 games with a variety of injuries, which kept him from putting up truly monstrous seasons.
Though he only missed three games in 2012, Cruz suffered through a down year statistically, and faced a lot of pressure coming into the 2013 season. With that in mind, he has been up to the task of carrying the Rangers offense and has truly earned himself this award.
Most Improved Pitcher: Tanner Scheppers
2013 Stats: 39 GP, 40.2 IP, 5-1 W-L, 27 K, 16 BB, 16 Holds, 1.55 ERA and 1.01 WHIP
Tanner Scheppers wasn't bad for the Rangers last season by any means, but his 2013 performance has elevated him into one of the best setup men in the league.
Some may look at his strikeout-to-walk ratio and disagree, but despite his 16 walks in 40.2 innings, Scheppers still maintains a 1.01 WHIP, which trails only Joe Nathan and Neal Cotts on the team. When you take into consideration that he has pitched almost twice as many innings as Cotts, it is easy to say that he has been the second-best pitcher in the Rangers' bullpen this season.
With his performance this season, Scheppers very well could find his way onto the American League All-Star roster; thus earning him the most improved pitcher award.
Most Improved Hitter: Mitch Moreland
2013 Stats: 67 GP, .268/.323/.506, 17 2B, 1 3B, 12 HR and 32 RBI
This is another award that can also be filed in the obvious category.
Mitch Moreland has been enjoying a career season for the Rangers in 2013. Once seen as the weak spot in the lineup, Moreland has provided much-needed pop in the lineup and is currently on pace to shatter his previous season highs in almost every category.
Now he has struggled a bit since the beginning of June, but some of that can be contributed to a two-week stint on the designated list with a strained hamstring. Before getting hurt, Moreland was batting .288 with 12 home runs and 29 RBI on the season. Those numbers are even more impressive when you take into consideration that he had never hit more than 16 home runs over the course of an entire year.
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