Originally written on The Sports Headquarters  |  Last updated 10/29/14

Before the season, Bryan Doherty and I dished out awards and final standings based on player and team projections we felt were logical assumptions. Now that we both see how terribly wrong we both were, like most preseason projections in the history of preseason projections world wide, I can now step back and re-assess the MLB at the All Star Break. Like every season of every sports we have seen our fair share of surprises, both pleasant and horrific. We also have some frontrunners for some of the leagues most prestigious awards such as the CY Young and the MVP. Now that I can use actual statistics and solid numbers to back up my erroneous claims, it is time to hand out midseason awards and tell you who is heading to the playoffs (and also, who is not).

American League

Current Playoff Picture

AL East – New York Yankees

AL Central – Chicago White Sox

AL West – Texas Rangers

Wild Card – Los Angeles Angels & Baltimore Orioles

Biggest Surprise Team

Before the season, just about everyone had the Detroit Tigers penciled in as the winners of the Central division after Justin Verlander’s MVP season as well as the addition of slugger Prince Fielder. Now, the Tigers don’t even hold a Wild Card spot as they are in third place in their own division. The Chicago White Sox have easily been the most pleasant surprise as a team in the American League and have taken hold of the Central with balance in their pitching and offensive production. To start, Adam Dunn has gone from contemplating retirement to the home run hitter of years past. Yes, he is still striking out at his typical historic rate, but his 25 home runs and 61 RBI more than makeup for that. Between Dunn, Paul Konerko, and first time every day starter out fielders Dyan Viceido and Alejadro De Aza, this offense over performed people’s expectations heading in to the season. Add in recently acquired third baseman Kevin Youkilis and underperforming Alexi Ramirez and Gordon Beckham and you have a lineup which has the potential to be more potent as the season finishes up.

Now, the pitching has been just as pivotal for this team. While the resurgance of Dunn has been huge for their lineup, the player who has really turned around his career for the Whtie Sox this season has been Jake Peavy. While his 7-5 record seems middle of the road it has been his 2.85 ERA and .99 WHIP which have impressed league wide. Not to mention his 108:26 strikeout to walk ratio. The best part about the Sox staff is that as nice of a story Peavy’s comeback has been, he is not even their most heralded pitcher this season. Chris Sale has been utterly dominant this season. While some records can be misleading, his 10-2 is a perfect reflection for how impressive he has performed in the first half. The 23-year old had been used as a reliever for the Sox since he was drafted in 2010 and finally made the jump to starter after one relief appearance this season. The White Sox clearly made the correct decision as Sale has been a top five pitcher in all of baseball this season. His 2.19 ERA and 0.95 WHIP are second to only Jered Weaver in the AL. His .198 BAA is good enough for fourth best in all of baseball. With Sale and Peavy atop the Sox rotation, there is no reason to believe that this team cannot stay on top and claim the Central this season.

The Homer Simpson Springfield Gorge Award

This award is designated for a team who fell ferociously off of a cliff and is on life support for the remainder of the season. I’m not sure any team quite embodies this in the American League as the Boston Red Sox. Yes, the Sox have placed more players (20) on the disabled list than any team in baseball this season. Yes, they are still a .500 club with players coming back into the fold after the All Star Break which should help them the rest of the season. None of that matters. The fact that Adrian Gonzalez has completely lost his power since participating in the Home Run Derby last season is a bit of a red flag. The fact that Daniel Bard looks worse than Rick Ankiel on the mound right now is a little but more than alarming. The fact that Jon Lester has gone from potential CY Young candidate to a JUGGS machine is down right head scratching. The Red Sox best player this season has far and away been David Ortiz and even he cannot stop ******** and moaning to the media about his contract situation. As a blind member of Red Sox Nation, can I twist and turn this situation into something of a positive? Of course I can, but why sugar coat it? The Titanic didn’t have as slow and torturous of a sinking that this club has been experiencing since the end of last August and they are emulate exactly what their record dictates: they are a .500 ball club. Now, they are scoring runs: their +43 run differential is seventh best in all of baseball. But their starting pitching has been nothing short of attrocious. This team needs an ace and they need one bad. Otherwise, they are going to be no better than a third place team in the AL East this season and that’s if everything else goes well.

Rookie of the Year

I may just copy and paste this as my MVP section for the American League as well because I’m not sure there has been a better player in the AL than Mike Trout has been for the Angels in 2012. Trout’s .341 batting average leads the American League and is good enough for sixth in all of baseball. His 12 home runs aren’t earth shattering but power is not Trout’s most dominant tool. Along with leading the AL in average he also leads the way with 26 stolen bases, which is four off of Dee Gordon’s league leading pace of 30 (when you consider Gordon is going to miss the next two months, it should only be a matter of time before Trout is alone in first in this category as well). Trout is 10th in runs scored with 57 and he has also driven in 40 RBI. Most importantly, Trout was brought up by the Angels when they were at their lowest point this season and he has done nothing but improve them dramatically. While it was only 20 games into the season, the Angels were the lowest on the AL West totem pole with a 6-14 record. Since that time the Angels have climbed out of the basement and into second place where they are currently 48-38. That’s 42-24 since Trout has been implanted into the Halo’s lineup. Rookie of the Year is an absolute given for Trout. MVP? He’s certainly in the discussion.

CY Young

Hell, why not stick with the Angels for this one as well? Jered Weavcr, while he only has pitched 15 games thus far this season, has not lost a game since May 13. While he did miss a little more than two weeks of the season due to injury, he has already bounced back and continued his CY Young campaign. His 10-1 record gives him one of the best winning percentages in the league. His 1.96 ERA is tops in all of baseball. His .90 WHIP is also tops in the Bigs. His 1.88 BAA, surprise surprise, is best in the MLB. While his 73 strikeouts don’t even qualify for best on his own team let alone the entire league, he has only issued 22 walks on the season. Not to mention that little no hitter he threw against the Twins in early May. Weaver is not starting the All Star Game but his numbers surely give him the inside track for the CY Young this season. If he can keep up the pace he is on, there is no reason to believe he will not win it, especially if the Angels make the postseason (which they should).

Most Valuable Player

In my eyes, this is a two horse race in both the American League and the National League. We’ll get to the NL side a little bit later. For now, the debate is between Mike Trout and Josh Hamilton. Hamilton’s Rangers hold a four game over Trout’s Angels in the AL West. Hamilton’s Rangers have also scored the most runs in baseball (443) while Trout’s Angels have yet to crack 400 on the season (378). Hamilton holds the edge over Trout in home runs (27-to-12), RBI (75–to-40), SLG (.635-to-.562), and OPS (1.016-to-.959). Trout, however, holds advantages in runs scored (57-to-54), triples (3-to-1), stolen bases (26-to-6), and OBP (.397-to-.380). Both Trout and Hamilton have colelcted 15 doubles on the season thus far.

With the race between the two seemingly so even it’s hard to give the edge one way or another. You can make the case that both players have plenty of help around them in their respective lineups and that both have been the best player amongst said lineups. As I stated previously, the Angels are 42-24 since Trout was called up from the minors. That’s good enough for a .636 winning percentage which is significantly higher than the .605 winning percentage that the Rangers currently possess atop the AL West. With everything else considered, I’m giving the edge to Trout due to the impact he has had on his team since his callup. Will he win the award by season’s end? He has an outside shot. As of July 9, 2012, I’m not sure you can say there has been a better player this season to date which is why I am giving the nod to Trout.

Final Playoff Picture

AL East – New York Yankees

AL Central – Chicago White Sox

AL West – Texas Rangers

Wild Card - Los Angeles Angels & Tampa Bay Rays

Why the Rays over the Baltimore Orioles who currently hold that last spot? It’s pretty simple, really. The Orioles only hold a half game lead over the Rays as it stands right now. Hell, the Orioles only hold a 1.5 game lead over the Detroit Tigers who may well end up with this spot as well. But, the Rays have the pitching necessary to make a push reminiscent of last September and they will eventually get back Evan Longotria which will be a massive boost for their offense. Why don’t I believe in the Orioles, though? For one, their -36 run differential is bound to catch up with them eventually. Jason Hammel has pitched over his head since being acquired from the Rockies in the offseason and this team has too many holes to continue to fall in to lucky wins. Does that mean I do not believe in the Orioles in the future? Absolutely not. Two of their promising future prospects (Dylan Bundy and Manny Machado) will certainly help them in becoming a serious contender. But not now. They just aren’t built for it in 2012 and the Rays will claim the last Wild Card spot in the American League.

National League

Current Playoff Picture

NL East – Washington Nationals

NL Central – Pittsburgh Pirates

NL West – Los Angeles Dodgers

Wild Card – Atlanta Braves & Cincinnati Reds

Biggest Surprise Team

This is an absolute no-brainer. Sure, last season the Pittsburgh Pirates were a fun story as they stayed relevant through mid-July until they quitely faded into the night. Then in the offseason, the Pirates were ridiculed by some for acquiring A.J. Burnett. But hey, a small market team like the Pirates need to do anything they can to try and compete. They’re not going to attraact any big time free agents to sign in Pittsburgh any time soon. So buying a lottery ticket like Burnett for cheap is nothing short of good business. So far, Burnett has turned into a jackpot pickup for the Pirates as they sit atop the NL Central.

Burnett has been an absolute monster for the Pirates as he has claimed ten wins and has only lost two decisions. Between he and James McDonald, the Pirates duo have a combined record of 19-5.  They have allowed 70 runs (67 earned) in 203 innings pitched. In fact since April 27 of 2011, McDonald has yielded more than three earned runs only six times with only one of those occurances happening in 2012. With these two veterans in the rotation, and prospects Gerrit Cole and James Tailon looking to come up possibly next season, there is no reason to believe that this is a fluke season for the Pirates. Especially with Prince Fielder and Albert Pujols out of the division for good.

While I’m sure you did not come here to read all about the Pittsburgh Pirates, i would be remiss if I did not mention Andrew McCutchen in a Pirates-centric piece. He carried this team in the early stages of this season and has continued to be a dominant force on the field and in the batter’s box. I’m sure you’ll see more about McCutchen in a few paragraphs from now.

The Homer Simpson Springfield Gorge Award

Ten games out of the Wild Card. 14 games out of the NL East. The Philadelphia Phillies are currently 37-50 and couldn’t be playing worse if they were trying. Sure, Carlos Ruiz has been one of the best slugging catchers in the MLB this season. Sure, Roy Halladay has been hurt and Cliff Lee didn’t claim his first win until last week. Sure, Cole Hamels owns more than a quarter of the Phillies’ wins this season. Not to mention they have been without Ryan Howard all season and without Chase Utley for the majority of the season. But what is the Phillies’ excuse for how attrocious they have been all season long? I can’t put my finger on it. Hunter Pence and Shane Victorino continue to be above average outfielders, despite Victorino’s .245 batting average. Maybe it is the infield comprised of Ty Wigginton, Placido Polanco, Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins. Could that be it? I understand the pitching hasn’t been as stellar as it has been in past seasons, but there’s a reason this team has a -28 run differential. The Phillies offense is stagnant with Ryan Howard in the middle of it. Nevermind what happens when he isn’t playing at all. With Cole Hamels approaching free agency, maybe it would be wise for the Phillies to trade him before the deadline for a young, proven bat. Who is  that bat? I haven’t the slightest clue. I can’t imagine the Angels would want to trade Mark Trumbo just for another starting pitcher. I can’t imagine the Phillies wanting Jacoby Ellsbury back from the Red Sox. So what are the Phillies to do? I’m not sure, but they better figure it out before Hamels walks and they are left with nothing.

Rookie of the Year

If you if you’ve ever read anything written by me in the past, then it should come to no surprise how high I am on Bryce Harper. Between him, Mike Trout, and Giancarlo Stanton, you would think I was somehow related to the three of them. If only… Anyways, Harper is certainly in the discussion but I’m not sold on him being the frontrunner at the All Star Break. While I certainly believe he is deserving to be in the conversation, he simply has not dominated like Trout has in the American League. Harper certainly has an outstanding shot at claiming NL ROY honors at the pace he is at, but right now I am giving the award to a pitcher in the Central: Lance Lynn.

Lynn just qualifies as a rookie as he only pitched 34.2 innings for the Cardinals last season. While the defending champs got Adam Wainwright back after missing all of 2011, they have been without Chris Carpenter all season long and it does not appear he will be returning any time soon. In Carpenter’s absence, Lynn has been terrific going 6-0 in his first six starts of the season for the Cardinals. Since then, he has only gone 5-4  with two no decisions but that does not take away from the tremendous season the rookie starter is having. With St. Louis only 2.5 games out of the Central and 1.5 games out of the Wild Card, Lynn is going to need to repeat his first half over the remaining two and a half months of the season if the Cardinals want a chance to defend their title. Either way, Lynn is the front runner for NL ROY as it stands now. A solid second half will ensure him the award.

CY Young

The NL CY Young is borderline impossible to call right now. Gio Gonzalez and Stephen Strasberg have been lights out for the Washington Nationals. R.A. Dickey has been phenomenal to outright dominant all season long. Even Matt Cain, Lance Lynn, James McDonald, and Johnny Cueto belong in the discussion. With such a tight race, I’m giving the nod to the Mets knuckle-baller. The 18th overall selection in the 1996 draft (yes, you read that correctly) by the Texas Rangers is having a banner year at age 37. After going 19-22 in his first two seasons with the Mets, Dickey’s 12-1 record has certainly been an anomoly in 2012. His 123 strikeouts are only 11 off of his career high. His 2.40 ERA is the lowest it has ever been as a starter or as a reliever. Ditto that for his .93 WHIP and his .203 BAA. The most important thing to remember with these awards is that they are not lifetime achievement awards. They should be taken season to season with no consideration of past seasons at all. If R.A. Dickey doubles up his first half and goes 24-2 with a 2.60 ERA and 200 strikeouts, is he not an obvious choice for this award? Of course he is. While I’m not projecting Dickey to win 24 games, his 12-1 record today make him the leader in a very crowded race.

Most Valuable Player

As I alluded to in the AL side of this piece, the National League’s MVP race comes down to two players from the same division as well: Joey Votto and Andrew McCutchen. McCutchen’s Pirates currently hold a one game advantage over Votto’s Reds in the NL Central. Before the season, I pegged the Reds to win this division and I still believe that to be the case. But, McCutchen has led the Pirates this far and there is no reason why the Pirates should not be major players down the stretch in the NL playoff picture. As it stands in the MVP race, however, I’m giving the advantage to McCutchen for a few reasons.

First, McCutchen has Votto beat in every offensive category except for doubles (35-to-17), OBP (.471-to-.414) and OPS (1.087-to-1.039). McCutchen has the edge in homers (18-to-14), triples (5-to-0), average (ML leading .362-to-.348), stolen bases (14-to-five), RBI (60-to-48), runs (58-to-50), total hits (112-to-100), and SLG (.625-to-.617). Secondly, as good as Votto is, and there is no denying his talent, the Reds have a much stronger offense built around Votto than the Pirates have around McCutchen. The fact that McCutchen has his squad ahead of Votto’s Reds speaks volumes about the type of season he is having. McCutchen is the run away leader for the NL MVP as it stands now and his Pirates are going to have to go through a horrific collapse in order for him to get out of contention for the honor.

Final Playoff Picture

NL East – Washington Nationals

NL Central – Cincinnati Reds

NL West – San Francisco Giants

Wild Card – Atlanta Braves & Pittsburgh Pirates

For the NL, there are few teams who have eliminated themselves from playoff contention. It would not surprise me at all to see the Dodgers, Cardinals, , Diamondbacks, or Marlins sneak in and take a Wild Card spot considering they are all within five games of that final spot right now. The Nationals need to watch Strasberg’s innings so they can use him in the postseason but the rest of their team is strong enough to carry them for the few weeks he misses during the rest of the season. I still believe the Reds are a more complete team than the Pirates but that does not mean I do not believe in Pittsburgh’s postseason chances. If Pittsburgh is a buyer at the deadline, and they do have plenty of trading chips, then they could turn into a legitimate threat in the NL. I think the Giants health will be enough to propel them to the top of the West even though they are a -8 in run differential. I mean honestly, can Tim Lincecum continue to be this bad? Even if he continues to pitch this putrid, can Aaron Harang and Chris Capuano continue to be this good? One shoe has to drop out West. I’m banking on the Giants.

There you have it ladies and gents. Your midseason wrap up of the MLB. Naturally, I will get another crack at this once the playoffs are set and I can give my opinion on who will take the World Series. As it stands now, it’s looking like the Rangers may make their third consecutive trip to the Fall Classic. If the Nationals can keep up this momentum, it would not surprise me if they made it to the World Series as well. That would be a hell of a series.

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