Bleacher Report's Updated 2014 MLB Awards Entering the All-Star Break
Believe it or not, the first half of the 2014 Major League Baseball season is already over. At least, that's one way to look at it.
That also means it's time again to check in with an update of the 10 prominent individual awards as the All-Star break looms. Back in mid-May, when the season was only a quarter of the way through, we took a look at the races for the very same awards.
Another quarter of the year has gone a long way toward clarifying where things stand in each league in the chases for Manager of the Year, Comeback Player of the Year, Rookie of the Year, Cy Young Award winner and MVP. Also included? A batch of honorable mentions for all five categories.
A lot can change between now and the end of the season. After all, another way to see this is: The 2014 season is only halfway over.
AL Manager of the Year: Bob Melvin, Oakland Athletics
It's always possible that something surprising will happen over the course of the second half of the season, but as of now, Bob Melvin has his third Manager of the Year award—and second with the Oakland Athletics (2012)—well in hand.
Often, the formula for winning this award goes something like: underrated players plus overachieving club equals MOY.
In Melvin's case, that's true, as the A's have baseball's best record despite nary a household-name star. But don't insult this tactician by thinking that's the only reason he's here: Nobody does a better job of putting his players—all 25 of 'em—in position to succeed.
First-Quarter Choice: Melvin
Honorable Mentions: Buck Showalter, Baltimore Orioles; Lloyd McClendon, Seattle Mariners; Brad Ausmus, Detroit Tigers; Mike Scioscia, Los Angeles Angels; John Gibbons, Toronto Blue Jays
NL Manager of the Year: Bryan Price, Cincinnati Reds
Apologies to Ron Roenicke, who has as good a case as anyone for this honor through half of the season, but we're picking Bryan Price.
Why? Well, not only is he a first-time manager—at any level—but Price also has steered a club that's endured both horrific injury luck to big names (Joey Votto, Jay Bruce, Mat Latos, Aroldis Chapman) and significant struggles from key players (Brandon Phillips, Tony Cingrani, Votto and Bruce).
And yet through all that, Price has stayed steady and patient (see: his handling of rookie Billy Hamilton early on) and has the Cincinnati Reds right in the thick of the playoff race as they seek a first in franchise history—three straight postseason appearances. Even the Big Red Machine didn't pull that feat.
First-Quarter Choice: Bruce Bochy, San Francisco Giants
Honorable Mentions: Ron Roenicke, Milwaukee Brewers; Bochy; Clint Hurdle, Pittsburgh Pirates; Don Mattingly, Los Angeles Dodgers; Mike Redmond, Miami Marlins
AL Comeback Player of the Year: Melky Cabrera, OF, Toronto Blue Jays
Derek Jeter might have won the All-Star voting at shortstop in the AL, but there's no such sentimental favoritism here. And while Albert Pujols could be the choice, he instead comes in a close second, mainly because he actually hasn't been that much better in 2014 (.799 OPS) than he was in 2013 (.767).
Melky Cabrera was both really bad (.279/.322/.360) and really injured (88 games played) last season, and he's been the exact opposite—really good (.301/.345/.460) and really healthy (91 games)—this year. His performance near the top of the Toronto Blue Jays lineup is a big reason why the club is among the best offenses in the majors and fighting for its first playoff berth since 1993, when they won the World Series.
First-Quarter Choice: Pujols, 1B, Los Angeles Angels
Honorable Mentions: Pujols; Mark Teixeira, 1B, New York Yankees; Phil Hughes, RHP, Minnesota Twins; Drew Hutchison, RHP, Toronto Blue Jays; Derek Jeter, SS, New York Yankees; Chris Young, RHP, Seattle Mariners
NL Comeback Player of the Year: Johnny Cueto, RHP, Cincinnati Reds
Admittedly, Casey McGehee has a better Comeback Player of the Year story, because that whole played-a-year-in-Japan thing is darn neat. But while McGehee was busy in Nippon Professional Baseball, Johnny Cueto was participating in only 11 more MLB games than did McGehee last season due to a bothersome lat injury.
As impressive as McGehee's been—he leads the NL in hits!—the right-hander's performance in 2014 simply has been better. Consider: Cueto's ERA has never been higher than 2.14, his WHIP never north of 1.00—and both of those came after his third start all the way back on April 11.
First-Quarter Choice: Tim Hudson, RHP, San Francisco Giants
Honorable Mentions: McGehee, 3B, Miami Marlins; Josh Beckett, RHP, Los Angeles Dodgers; Starlin Castro, SS, Chicago Cubs; Hudson; Ian Kennedy, RHP, San Diego Padres; Miguel Montero, C, Arizona Diamondbacks; Ryan Vogelsong, RHP, San Francisco Giants; Jason Hammel, RHP, Chicago Cubs (now Oakland Athletics)
AL Rookie of the Year: Jose Abreu, 1B, Chicago White Sox
What had been shaping up as the best all-time one-on-one international battle for a Rookie of the Year award suddenly could turn into a runaway for Jose Abreu, the former Cuban star who continues to tear apart the majors in his first season.
That's because news came down Wednesday, per Bryan Hoch of MLB.com, that Japanese sensation Masahiro Tanaka has been placed on the disabled list with what's being called elbow inflammation at the moment.
Even if Tanaka rests over the break and rebounds right away in the second half, it may be too tough to pick against Abreu, who is second in baseball in homers (27), fourth in RBI (69) and seventh in OPS (.951). And he's doing this in a pitching-dominated era.
Note: Even if you're against the idea that Abreu and Tanaka should be considered rookies because they've played professionally elsewhere, the AL still has a fun race to watch: The power-against-power showdown between slugger George Springer and fireballer Yordano Ventura.
First-Quarter Choice: Abreu
Honorable Mentions: Tanaka, RHP, New York Yankees; Springer, OF, Houston Astros; Ventura, RHP, Kansas City Royals; Dellin Betances, RHP, New York Yankees; Jake Odorizzi, RHP, Tampa Bay Rays
NL Rookie of the Year: Billy Hamilton, OF, Cincinnati Reds
Billy Hamilton is starting to run away with the NL Rookie of the Year award (get it?). Between the injury to Chris Owings, who was the chief competition for the honor through the first three months, and the mid-June call-up of Gregory Polanco, who should be the top challenger over the final three, Hamilton is in good shape going forward.
After some early concerns, the speedster has really taken to handling both leadoff and center field duties—two pretty heavy responsibilities to put on a rook. In fact, since June 1, Hamilton is hitting .315 with a didn't-see-that-coming .510 slugging percentage (yes, really), and his 37 steals rank third in baseball. If he keeps up anything close to that, Hamilton will be hard to catch up to. As if that weren't the case already.
Yahoo Sports' Jeff Passan had this to say about Hamilton's electric rookie campaign: "Hamilton is the runaway winner thanks to his better-than-advertised glove in center field, his much-better-than-advertised power and his as-advertised speed. He's an absolute force."
First-Quarter Choice: Hamilton
Honorable Mentions: Polanco, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates; Owings, SS, Arizona Diamondbacks; Jacob deGrom, RHP, New York Mets; Carlos Martinez, RHP, St. Louis Cardinals; Tommy La Stella, 2B, Atlanta Braves
AL Cy Young: Felix Hernandez, RHP, Seattle Mariners
Even without Masahiro Tanaka's trip to the DL, this award had shifted from the Yankees right-hander to Felix Hernandez during the King's absolutely brilliant June. To wit, here are Hernandez's digits over his six starts that month: 44.1 IP, 1.22 ERA, 0.72 WHIP and a 54/6 K/BB.
Among AL ranks for the season on the whole, Hernandez is second in ERA (2.11), WHIP (0.89) and innings (136.1), as well as third in strikeouts (145) and batting average against (.201). Here's a scary thought: As great as Hernandez has been to this point in his 10-year career, 2014 is shaping up to be his best season yet.
First-Quarter Choice: Tanaka, RHP, New York Yankees
Honorable Mentions: Tanaka; Jon Lester, LHP, Boston Red Sox; Yu Darvish, RHP, Texas Rangers; Corey Kluber, RHP, Cleveland Indians; David Price, LHP, Tampa Bay Rays; Max Scherzer, RHP, Detroit Tigers; Chris Sale, LHP, Chicago White Sox; Garrett Richards, RHP, Los Angeles Angels
NL Cy Young: Adam Wainwright, RHP, St. Louis Cardinals
While Johnny Cueto went bonkers over the first month or so and Clayton Kershaw did the same over the last one, Adam Wainwright has been steadier than either of those two, and thus, better than them—or any other pitcher in the NL.
You want to give this category to Cueto? Can't really argue. But among Senior Circuit starters, Wainwright checks in second in each of innings pitched (131.0), batting average against (.201) and WHIP (0.92), and his 1.79 ERA is not only the best in the NL but in all of the majors—and nobody else's begins with a "1."
Clayton Kershaw has it in him to surpass Waino if he continues to flat-out dominate hitters like he did in June (44.0 IP, 0.82 ERA, 0.68 WHIP, 12.5 K/9). But since these half-season awards are more about to this point than they are about going forward, it's hard for the lefty to make up for missing six weeks—not to mention, the 40-plus innings Wainwright has on him.
First-Quarter Choice: Cueto, RHP, Cincinnati Reds
Honorable Mentions: Cueto; Stephen Strasburg, RHP, Washington Nationals; Clayton Kershaw, LHP, Los Angeles Dodgers; Jordan Zimmermann, RHP, Washington Nationals; Zack Greinke, RHP, Los Angeles Dodgers
AL MVP: Mike Trout, OF, Los Angeles Angels
Rather than argue whether this honor is overdue by two years in a row, let's choose to focus on the fact that Mike Trout is an utter wonder on the diamond—and the clear pick for AL MVP as the first half comes to a close.
He has been so good that his teammate, pitcher C.J. Wilson, is already starting to lobby for votes on his behalf in early July.
No matter if you're going by the FanGraphs version or the Baseball-Reference.com one when it comes to wins above replacement, Trout is at the top of the heap in the AL. And if you prefer more standard statistics, well, he's in the top 10 (if not the top five) in the Junior Circuit in—deep breath—runs, doubles, triples, home runs, RBI, on-base percentage and slugging.
Best of all, the Los Angeles Angels finally are playing up to expectations and are in a playoff position to date—which means there's absolutely no excuse not to take Trout this time.
First-Quarter Choice: Jose Bautista, OF, Toronto Blue Jays
Honorable Mentions: Miguel Cabrera, 1B, Detroit Tigers; Victor Martinez, 1B/DH, Detroit Tigers; Bautista; Ian Kinsler, 2B, Detroit Tigers; Adam Jones, OF, Baltimore Orioles; Edwin Encarnacion, 1B, Toronto Blue Jays; Josh Donaldson, 3B, Oakland Athletics; Nelson Cruz, OF/DH, Baltimore Orioles; Felix Hernandez, RHP, Seattle Mariners; Robinson Cano, 2B, Seattle Mariners; Brandon Moss, 1B/OF, Oakland Athletics; Jose Abreu, 1B, Chicago White Sox; Michael Brantley, OF, Cleveland Indians
NL MVP: Andrew McCutchen, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates
That's right: If the 2014 season ended today (which it totally doesn't), then Andrew McCutchen would repeat as NL MVP.
The outfielder's defense of his 2013 hardware appeared to be on shaky ground early on, as he was being pitched around often while the Pittsburgh Pirates were struggling just to hang around .500. But with both Cutch and his club picking up steam from late May on—he's hit .330/.407/.614 to lead the Pirates on a 29-17 run since May 21—there's no better choice.
Studs like Troy Tulowitzki and Giancarlo Stanton deserve mention for what they've done, too, but ultimately, a competitive team still boosts an MVP candidate's cause.
First-Quarter Choice: Tulowitzki
Honorable Mentions: Carlos Gomez, OF, Milwaukee Brewers; Adam Wainwright, RHP, St. Louis Cardinals; Todd Frazier, 3B, Cincinnati Reds; Freddie Freeman, 1B, Atlanta Braves; Anthony Rendon, 2B/3B, Washington Nationals; Hunter Pence, OF, San Francisco Giants; Jonathan Lucroy, C, Milwaukee Brewers; Yasiel Puig, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers; Tulowitzki, SS, Colorado Rockies; Stanton, OF, Miami Marlins; Paul Goldschmidt, 1B, Arizona Diamondbacks
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