Just an obligatory annual post while I’m obligatorily watching the All-Star Game:
American League MVP: Mike Trout
It’s worth noting that this is all a product of approximately the last three weeks: he’s been very good (at least) since day one, but starting with his 4-for-4 game on June 19, Trout hit .389/.432/.634 to close out the first half. He leads the American League in WARP and fWAR, and is a close second in rWAR, thanks to DRS’ apparent inability to deal with Brett Lawrie and the Blue Jays’ shift. This despite toiling away in AAA for the Angels’ first 20 games; if you take it out to a full season’s worth of 660 PA (which Trout won’t get this season), he’d be on pace for a historically great 10.5 rWAR.
I don’t see a serious argument for anybody else, though a lot of less sabermetricky types will vote with Josh Hamilton, and it’s hard to have a huge problem with that. But can we at least stop referring to Trout and Bryce Harper in the same sentences, until they’re back to performing on something approaching the same plane?
American League Cy Young: Justin Verlander
He’s struck out 8.7 per 9, walked 2.0 per 9, and given up 0.7 home runs per 9. In 2011 at the break, he’d struck out 8.8 per 9, walked 1.8 per 9 and given up 0.7 home runs per 9. He’d started two more games and pitched 20 more innings, and he’d been credited with three more “wins” and one fewer “loss” than he has so far this season, but he’s exactly the same dude (which is to say, not at all the most valuable player, then or now, but certainly the most valuable pitcher). Chris Sale is really, really close to Verlander in every way, and probably wins it (thanks to the 10-2 record and pretty 2.19 ERA) if the actual vote were to be held today.
American League Rookie of the Year: Trout
I mean, obviously. There’ll be some interesting (and then, probably, some tiresome) Trout/Ichiro/Lynn conversations in September.
National League MVP: Andrew McCutchen
This is the most interesting race right now, I think. Going by any of the WAR systems, McCutchen, David Wright and Joey Votto are all essentially even. McCutchen gets dinged by each for playing below-average defense…but then, by Total Zone (which rWAR used until this season, as I understand it), McCutchen has saved eight runs above average, and he was excellent across the board in 2011. If you assume that McCutchen is at least an average center fielder — which is certainly his reputation — I think he comes out pretty clearly ahead. He’s doing it with a BABIP roughly 80 points above his norms, and I think smart money for the end-of-season MVP would be on Votto, but for now I’m going with Cutch.
National League Cy Young: R.A. Dickey
But knuckleballers confound defense-independent pitching statistics (or at least they used to, and I’m not aware of any changes to that), consistently outperforming the hits-allowed rates we’d expect of other pitchers. And what Dickey’s doing is just too cool — a knuckleballer striking out more than one an inning, without really walking anybody? It’s astounding, and I think he’s been the best NL pitcher of the first half.
National League Rookie of the Year: Bryce Harper
I very nearly picked Reds 3B Todd Frazier (assuming he’s eligible; everyone seems to agree he is, but I’ve learned not to trust everyone on this issue), but I can’t quite justify it. It’s closer than you’d think, though, right now: Frazier has a 134 OPS+ and 137 wRC+ to Harper’s 123/127 and 1.6 fWAR to Harper’s 1.7, and they have equal 1.5 rWARs, despite Frazier gathering 77 fewer plate appearances. Plus, he hit a no-handed home run. If Dusty accepts that Scott Rolen’s career is over and gives Frazier enough of a chance, he could end up deserving the ROY. (Harper will still win it, barring a disastrous second half.)
For now, though, the boring answer is probably the right one. And he’s seven years younger than Frazier; only one of those two is likely to be a superstar, and it’s not Frazier. But right at this moment, it’s far from a runaway, and Harper is the Todd Hollandsworth to Trout’s Derek Jeter.