Well baseball fans, the midway point of the season came and went this weekend. Unfortunately for us in St. Louis, the Cardinals continue to underachieve and the angst within the fan base grows game by game. League wide there has been plenty of excitement though, and it’s that time of year to discuss who the mid-season award winners are.
Fortunately for you all, I won’t just subject you to my opinions on that matter. I’ve gotten the thoughts of some fellow members of the UCB (United Cardinal Bloggers). On the panel today we have me (@GSC_AJ), Dan Buffa (@Buffa82), Cole Claybourn (@HighSocks_Sunday), and some quick thoughts from head man of the UCB Daniel Shoptaw (@C70).
Blankenship: Troy Tulowitzki
I begged and pleaded in the offseason for the Cardinals to do anything and everything to get Troy Tulowitzki. Well he is still in Colorado, having his best season to date. There is a reason all four of us agree on this, because it’s really not debatable. Sure the Rockies aren’t very good, but neither are the Marlins and Giancarlo Stanton is obviously Tulo’s closest competition. Dan and Clay covered the stats for you, and while playing at an elite level defensively at short, no one is really touching Tulo right now in the MVP race.
If Tulowitzki can avoid injury he may be in line for an MVP award.
Buffa: Troy Tulowitzki
While Giancarlo Stanton is leading the league in HR and RBI and only two spots behind Troy in batting average, the dynamic play of Tulo is too hard to ignore in the 2014 season. He is vital to the success of the Rockies and without him; they surely would be in last place in the West. Tulo has 18 HR and 46 RBI to go with a ridiculous .348 batting average. However, all one has to do is look at his off the charts Albert Pujols in 2005 like OPS of 1.060. Tulo has a .442 on base percentage and a .618 slugging percentage. While injury always creeps around the corner with this player, Tulo is staying healthy and delivering another Gold Glove season at a premium defensive position with his play at shortstop. His walks (45) are barely behind his strikeout total (46) and he already has 93 hits and 61 runs scored. When it comes to value, Troy signifies it at the halfway mark with his 4.9 WAR.
Claybourn: Troy Tulowitzki
Troy Tulowitzki. He’s first in batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, OPS, runs scored and runs created. He’s second in WAR, offensive WAR, home runs and adjusted batting. He’s not Mike Trout, but he’s the NL’s best answer to him.
Shoptaw: Troy Tulowitzki
Even with the Rockies not doing much in the standings, it’s hard to ignore a .350 average and almost 20 home runs. Sure, the home field helps, but he’s doing it at a premium position as well.
Blankenship: Mike Trout
Well this whole “agreeing” thing is already getting old. Again though, is there much of a question? Trout arguably could’ve been the MVP the past two seasons, and in my opinion is unarguably the greatest baseball player on planet earth. Again, Dan and Cole covered the stats about as well as you can. The Angels are finally starting to convert talent into wins, and Trout is at the forefront of that process. A true five tool guy, his OPS is nearly 28 points higher than Victor Martinez, his closest competition. Not to mention that he is a potential gold Glover with elite speed on the bases as well. The scary part is that this is considered a down year for the Angels center fielder. Fortunately for him, his arch nemesis Miguel Cabrera is even more down.
Buffa: Mike Trout
Trout has spent enough time staring up at Miguel Cabrera in this category. In 2014, Trout is putting it together in a complete way. Carrying a .312 batting average, 18 HR, 59 RBI and an on base percentage of .403, Trout helps the Angels in a variety of ways. He plays a very good centerfield and also makes for a deadly leadoff hitter in LA. There are two stats to settle this case. Trout’s 5.0 WAR and his 1.013 OPS are off the charts.
After finishing 2nd the last 2 years, this may be Mike Trout’s time to win MVP.
Claybourn: Mike Trout
Mike Trout. If your vote is for Josh Donaldson, I won’t blame you. But in Trout you’re getting a player who is first in WAR, Offensive WAR and OPS, and a number of other specialized saber metric ratings, including runs created. He’s hit 18 home runs and driven in almost 60 runs while maintaining a .312 batting average. You won’t find a more complete player.
Shoptaw: Mike Trout
He’s got to win sometime, right? Besides, he’s the only player with a 1.000+ OPS and that’s after a slow start.
NL CY Young:
Blankenship: Johnny Cueto
Ugh, I need a shower after this, it feels so wrong. My initial thought was Wainwright, especially after seeing my three fellow bloggers vote for the hometown ace. However, after further review, Cueto has been much better than I thought. I knew his ERA was the lowest in baseball, but the head kicking maniac also leads Wainwright in strikeouts, WHIP, and innings. The Reds just caught the Cardinals in the standings, so there is no argument there either. I love Wainwright, but Cueto’s superiority just can’t go unaccounted for.
Adam Wainwright has anchored an injury plagued staff to keep the Cardinals in contention.
Buffa: Adam Wainwright
Pardon me if I sound a bit like a homer here but it’s hard to deny what Wainwright is doing on a Cardinals team without a consistent offense. He is doing what aces do. Waino carried an earned run average of 2.01 in 116.1 innings so far in 2014 and has a 10-4 record. Due to a lack of run support, Waino has been deprived of at least 2-4 wins this season. He is pitching as well as he has in the past 3-4 years on an individual hitter versus pitcher level. He is holding opponents to a .199 batting average and average 8.12 strikeouts per 9 innings. He has 3 complete games, 2 shutouts and has only surrendered 4 home runs. His WAR of 3.7 ranks among the league leaders in starting pitchers. With the Cardinals suffering injuries to 3 starting pitchers already this season, Waino has proved more valuable than ever.
Claybourn: Adam Wainwright
The National League has a two-horse race between Wainwright and Johnny Cueto of the Reds. But to me it’s Adam Wainwright. He’s been arguably the most consistent pitcher in the Major Leagues this season, with only a couple blemishes. He’s tied for the league lead in wins with 10 and has been the rock for a team that’s struggled to find consistently good starting pitching all season. Like the AL, though, you could make a solid argument for either two.
Shoptaw: Adam Wainwright
Call me a homer, but Waino’s been one of the huge reasons the Cards haven’t packed up for the winter already. Even when he loses, he pitches great. Besides, what am I going to do, pick Johnny Cueto?
AL CY Young:
King Felix is finally getting the run support he deserves in Seattle.
Blankenship: Felix Hernandez
This is why I don’t understand WAR. Hernandez is leading Tanaka in WHIP, innings, strikeouts, and they are tied in ERA, but Tanaka has a WAR of 4.5, significantly higher than King Felix at 3.1. If anybody has an explanation, please by all means leave me a comment of contact me on twitter. Alright, enough with my WAR tangent. Sure none of these stats are elaborate saber metrics, but it says all we need to know about the Mariners’ ace. The King has been as dominant as ever, and while Tanaka is very close to winning it as a rookie, Hernandez has my vote.
Buffa: Masahiro Tanaka
The Japanese sensation transferred over to the Yankees with a big contract and big expectations inside a big city and hasn’t disappointed. His 11-3 record and 2.11 ERA(in the hitter friendly AL and Yankees Stadium nonetheless) are shiny and nice but look at his K/BB of 127-18 and the .217 average he is holding hitters to. Felix Hernandez is right there in case Tanaka slips up but right now it’s the new guy’s title to lose. With respect to Jose Abreu and his monstrous rookie season, it’s easy to slap the ROY label on Tanaka as well. No rookie is coming close to this new Big Apple sensation.
Claybourn: Felix Hernandez
Right now this is an extremely tight race between Masahiro Tanaka of the Yankees and Felix Hernandez of the Mariners, and you could make a strong case for either. But I’m giving Hernandez the edge here only because Tanaka will also likely win Rookie of the Year. The numbers are nearly identical, and while Tanaka boasts a slightly better earned run average (2.10) over Fernandez’s 2.24, he’s fallen victim to the long ball. He’s given up 13 home runs, just four behind David Price‘s league-leading 17. Hernandez, meanwhile, has given up just four.
Shoptaw: Felix Hernandez
Not only is King Felix as great as ever, with an ERA around 2 and more than a strikeout per inning, but he’s also getting enough support to tally some wins as well.
NL Rookie of the Year:
Fine, I guess if I have to vote, it’s Billy Hamilton. Damn, I voted for two Reds, but there simply is no better candidate in a horrendous NL rookie class. Hamilton has an atrocious .313 OBP for a leadoff hitter, and no amount of speed can make up for that. The speed has been as good as advertised, swiping 34 bags and making a number of electrifying plays. You truly can’t wrap your head around how fast this kid is until you see him play.
Buffa: Billy Hamilton (or no one)
I will be honest. It has been a weak year so far for rookies in the National League. The right choice right now would be nobody. Hamilton has increased his batting average to .277 and has stolen 34 bases, but he has been caught 11 times and has an on base percentage barely on .300. That’s just bad for a leadoff hitter. He only has 40 runs scored, which speaks to the depth of the Reds lineup. Hamilton is a difference maker but doesn’t have the average or true ability to get on base and become that consistent lethal threat. He isn’t the guy who struck out 4 times in the home opener against Wainwright but he isn’t a legit rookie of the year candidate. Chris Owings, the shortstop for the Arizona Diamondbacks is having an okay season. His 2.2 WAR and .438 slugging is admirable but Owings has slowed down after a fast start and has 50 strikeouts to go with ordinary overall stats. Right now, the Rookie of the year in the NL is missing a prime candidate.
Claybourn: Billy Hamilton
The group of rookies in the National League isn’t as deep as the AL. Purely by stats alone, I have to go with Billy Hamilton right now. He leads the National League in batting average among rookies with at least 100 at-bats with a .282 average and his 27 RBIs & 77 hits are tops among rookies. On top of that, he’s stolen 34 bases, which is good for second in the NL.
In a weak rookie class, Billy Hamilton’s speed separates him from the pack.
Shoptaw: Billy Hamilton
We all knew about the speed (which has been as advertised) but his bat and his defense have been much stronger than we thought. There’s a reason Cincinnati is making a run up the Central.
AL Rookie of the Year:
Blankenship: Jose Abreu
As bad as the NL rookie class is, the AL is just as strong. Names like Jose Abreu, George Springer, and Masahiro Tanaka. Masahiro Tanaka, right? Wrong. All the credit in the world goes to Tanaka; he is having a CY Young caliber season as a rookie, and is the latest name on the list of Japanese pitchers who have successfully made the transition to the bigs. The problem is, he only plays every five days. A player that plays every five days simply can’t make as big of an impact as one that plays every day (hence why I think pitchers should never win MVP). Abreu did have a short stint on the DL which makes the fact that he has hit 25 jacks even more impressive. The White Sox’ slugger leads the AL in HR, 3rd in RBI, and 5th in OPS.
Masahiro Tanaka may be the best Japanese star yet.
Buffa: Masahiro Tanaka
See: AL CY Young
Claybourn: Masahiro Tanaka
Technically, Masahiro Tanaka is a rookie, and that makes him the leading candidate for the AL Rookie of the Year based on all of the stats listed above. The guy is absolutely dominating American League hitting in his first year and is near the top in virtually every pitching category. Jose Abreu is probably the only other AL rookie that poses a threat to Tanaka in this race, but Tanaka’s overall dominance is too much to ignore. His 4.5 wins above replacement rating is tops among all AL pitchers.
Shoptaw: George Springer
My preseason pick has been as advertised since coming up to the Astros.
There was surprisingly a lot of agreement here, but that’s a testament to the great seasons that some of these players are having. A lot can change over the next half a season; let’s hope that starts with the Cardinals fortunes. Please give myself, and my three fellow bloggers a follow on twitter (handles can be found above) as well as following the UCB (@utdcardbloggers).
Thanks for reading!
It’s not crazy, it’s sports.