Oh what a half a season (sorta a little more) it has been. All the dust has settled in Cincinnati, and all the festivities are over, now the fun begins. Now it’s time to separate the contenders from the rest of the pack. But first we should look back, take a gander at what was such an entertaining first half of baseball.
Biggest Surprise of the first half- Houston Astros
I put these guys as my most surprising team back in the beginning of June and they’ve done nothing since to prove otherwise. I don’t know how they do it, but the Astros just keep winning. At 49-42, the ‘stros are .5 games behind the Angels in the West and currently hold the 2nd wild card spot. Dallas Keuchel is an unbelievable pitcher, and he deserved to start the All-Star game, but this is right now an Astros team that is 10th in team ERA with a 3.58. Assuming they go after the Reds’ Johnny Cueto, this is a Houston team that is going to to be a force to be reckoned with the rest of the way.
Biggest dud- San Diego Padres
After an offseason in which the Padres looked like they were finally ready to be contenders, spending an inordinate amount of money in order to revamp the team, San Diego became a very sexy pick to contend for an NL West title. However it hasn’t worked out that way, and now the Padres are looking like sellers at the trade deadline, rather than the buyers everybody would’ve expected. It just goes to show, big money doesn’t guarantee wins.
First half AL Rookie of the Year- Steven Souza Jr.
It’s been a pretty weak year for rookie’s in the AL so far, so Souza has been the best of a mediocre class. Souza’s shown he’s a legitimate big league power threat. He’s got 15 home runs’s in 79 games and a .417 SLG percentage. He’s had a tough time driving in runs, he only has 33 RBI, and that’s due to his .210 average that has to come up.
First half NL Rookie of the Year- Joc Pederson
This guy has an unreal amount of power. 20 home runs, made it to the finals of the home run derby, 40 RBI, a .364 OBP and a .487 SLG percentage. Pederson could benefit from bringing up his .230 average to become a truly elite hitter in baseball, but for now, he should be in the lead for Rookie of the Year voting and an All-Star appearance as a rookie can only help his case.
First-half AL MVP- Mike Trout
It’s eventually going to get boring that Trout is going to win this award every year, but with the first half he had, you just can’t not give it to him. He’s tied for the AL lead in home runs with teammate Albert Pujols with 26, he’s 6th in the AL in batting average at .312 and is 2nd in OBP, 1st in SLG, and 2nd in OPS. Trout’s the best all around player the Major League Baseball by a pretty wide margin. It kinda sucks that he’s gonna Michael Jordan this award for the next 10 years, but at least he deserves it.
First-half NL MVP- Bryce Harper
Part of me wants to give this award to Greinke because of the unheard-of stats he put up in the first half, but there aren’t enough wins there to support MVP yet. Harper on the other hand has single-handedly put the Nationals offense on his back this season after injuries and underwhelming bats have haunted Washington the first half of the year. Harper is batting .339/.464/.704, he is 2nd in the NL in batting average, 2nd in home runs with 26, 4th in RBI with 61, 1st in OBP and has an unprecedented 1.168 OPS percentage. This Harper guy is pretty damn good.
First half AL Cy Young- Sonny Grey
This is all just a matter of preference between Keuchel and Grey. They’ve both been excelent pitchers and have had fantastic first halfs. I’m not a huge believer in the idea that to win Cy Young your team has to make the playoffs, because at most a starter pitches roughly 20% of his teams games.
This is about as close as it gets and I wouldn’t blame anybody for picking Keuchel over Grey, but I think when it’s all said and done, Grey will walk out the victor.
First half NL Cy Young- Zach Greinke
Another close race here between Greinke and MAx Scherzer. Scherzer has been having a ridiculous year and Washington screwed him over by making him pitch Sunday, but Greinke has put up numbers that resemble some of the all-time greats of the last 25 years. If he keeps these numbers up, he’s a lock for Cy Young, but it’s going to be an interesting few months.
Here’s how Greinke’s first half stacks up against some of the all time great seasons of the last 20 years
Predictions for the trade deadline
- The Mets trade for Aramis Ramirez or Jean Segura: David Wright isn’t coming back folks. Sure, maybe he’ll “come back” and be able to play a little bit here and there, platoon at third base, pinch hit, be a good locker room guy. But Wright will never be back, back. 2006 David Wright isn’t walking through the door and the Mets need another bat in the lineup. Ramirez is retiring after the season and could play third until Wright returns/platoon with him when he does. Segura would be an upgrade over Tejada at shortstop and would allow Flores to stay at 2nd when Murphy plays third.
- The Astros trade for Johnny Cueto: Not as bold as the Mets prediction, but this would still be a big time move. This would make Houston instant championship contenders and they have the prospects to make a deal happen. Houston needs another pitcher, and Cueto could be that guy
- The Yankees trade for Cole Hamels: The Yankees need one more pitcher. I know Tanaka’s been good since he’s been back and at times Pineda has shown he can be a top of the rotation guy, but there’s been far too much inconsistency between the top two pitchers. If I’m the Yankees I want a veteran who I know has been there and is a big game pitcher. This isn’t a knock against Tanaka and Pineda, but they need a number three guy, a veteran playoff guy, and right now they don’t have that in their rotation
- Ben Zobrist goes to the Nationals: Ben Zobrist is the hot name this year and If you’re the Nationals right now what do you see? The Mets are 2 games behind you and haven’t gone away all year. This “powerhouse team” has yet to live up to it’s potential and the window seems to be slowly closing in Washington after this year. The Nats are going to do something at the deadline, they need to, like the Mets they can’t rely on guys coming back from injuries and producing. I think the Nats will land Zobrist, making for a very interesting chase for the NL East title
So that’s it, the first half is in the books, and now it’s about the playoffs. Teams jockeying for position, falling in and out. Collapses, hot streaks, blockbuster deals. This is going to be one hell of a second half of baseball, and I for one can’t wait.