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The Outside Corner’s midseason awards spectacular

The All-Star game is now behind us, and we have the second half of baseball to look forward to over the rest of the summer and into the fall. While midseason awards really don’t have much meaning, they’re a fun little gimmick that we like to roll out during the All-Star Break every year.

Anyway, the TOC staff voted (5-4-3-2-1 for MVP, 5-3-1 for Cy Young and Rookie of the Year), and here are the midseason voting results for baseball’s major awards with some explanation for each player’s case.

AL MVP
1) Mike Trout (seven first place votes, 35 points)
2) Jose Bautista (16 points)
3) Josh Donaldson (11 points)
4) Michael Brantley (7 points)
5t) Ian Kinsler (7 points)
5t) Victor Martinez (7 points)
7) Edwin Encarnacion (6 points)
8t) Jose Abreu (4 points)
8t) Alex Gordon (4 points)
10) Felix Hernandez (3 points)
11) Adam Jones (2 points)
12t) Robinson Cano (1 point)
12t) Nelson Cruz (1 point)

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Was there really any doubt here? Mike Trout is the best player in baseball, and should be able to coast to his first AL MVP award this season. It’s not even really worth analyzing the merits of Trout’s placement at the top of the ballot – he deserves it.

The rest of the ballot is a fascinating look at the depth of the American League, and just how far everyone else is behind Trout. Four different players received second place votes on our seven member panel, and six different players got third place votes. Bautista finished second in four ballots, and was completely absent from three. Abreu got one second place vote, and no other votes. Encarnacion got a second, a fourth, and nothing else. Aside from Trout and Bautista, only Donaldson, Brantley, and Martinez were named on four ballots.

The bottom of the ballot is even more interesting. Even with just a five player ballot, as opposed to the ten player ballot that the BBWAA actually turns in at the end of the year, 13 different players received votes, including five players who only received one vote each. The race for the top spot isn’t a race at all, but the competition over the rest of the ballot is fierce, and will be decided in the second half.

Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

NL MVP
1) Troy Tulowitzki (six first place votes, 34 points)
2) Andrew McCutchen (one first place vote, 21 points)
3) Giancarlo Stanton (20 points)
4) Jonathan Lucroy (15 points)
5) Carlos Gomez (8 points)
6) Paul Goldschmidt (4 points)
7) Yasiel Puig (2 points)
8) Todd Frazier (1 point)

This award race is a lot more interesting. Tulowitzki nearly won the midseason NL MVP unanimously, but there were plenty of players in the hunt behind him. If Andrew McCutchen has a second half like he did last year and the Pirates storm their way to a playoff berth, I don’t think there’s anyone that can take the award away from him. If Giancarlo Stanton mashes another 20 homers in the second half, he could stand out in this power-free era. If Milwaukee plays like they did in the first half (minus the last two weeks) over the rest of the season, a Brewer like Jonathan Lucroy or Carlos Gomez could take the award.

Tulowitzki is the man right now, and he deserves it. But unlike Trout in the American League, this race is far from over.

Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

AL Cy Young
1) Felix Hernandez (seven first place votes, 35 points)
2) Chris Sale (9 points)
3) Yu Darvish (7 points)
4t) Jon Lester (4 points)
4t) Masahiro Tanaka (4 points)
6) Garrett Richards (3 points)
7t) Corey Kluber (1 point)
7t) David Price (1 point)

Oh look, another unanimous winner. Felix Hernandez is having his best year as a pro, and barring injury or a massive decline in the second half, he’ll earn his second AL Cy Young Award.

But what if Hernandez *does* get injured, like so many pitchers have this year? Well…things get a little murky then. Of the next four pitchers behind Hernandez in the voting, one is currently on the DL (Tanaka) and three play for bad teams (Sale, Darvish, Lester). Garrett Richards is a guy who could really break through in the second half, even if he wasn’t an All-Star – the guy is having an elite season on one of the American League’s best teams. Keep your eye on David Price too, who has had a very good first half for the Rays and could follow the path of guys like Rick Sutcliffe and C.C. Sabathia, turning himself into a Cy Young candidate with his new club.

Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports

NL Cy Young
1) Clayton Kershaw (seven first place votes, 35 points)
2) Adam Wainwright (14 points)
3) Johnny Cueto (12 points)
4) Madison Bumgarner (2 points)

Barring injury, this will be a two horse race between Kershaw and Wainwright in the second half. If Kershaw doesn’t miss any more time and continues to dominate the league as he has, he’ll probably win the award hands down. That’s not a knock on Wainwright, who has been excellent this season while making five more starts than Kershaw. But in the minds of our staffers, that five start difference isn’t enough to make up for Kershaw’s overall better performance. Wainwright can easily take the award, but Kershaw is the favorite in the second half.

As for the rest of the ballot, there’s not much else to say here. Johnny Cueto is enjoying the best year of his career after making just 11 starts last season, but he’s clearly a step behind the pair at the top of the voting. And then there’s Madison Bumgarner, who has continued to turn himself into the best pitcher on a very good Giants staff but has almost fallen into anonymity. That 3.47 ERA is going to need to come down a bit for him to break into the actual voting at the end of the year, however.

Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

AL Rookie of the Year
1) Jose Abreu (six first round votes, 33 points)
2) Masahiro Tanaka (one first round vote, 23 points)
3) George Springer (5 points)
4) C.J. Cron (1 point)
5) Kevin Kiermaier (1 point)

Masahiro Tanaka’s chances at winning the Rookie of the Year have likely been shot to hell by his elbow injury, but I don’t think there was much of a chance of him overtaking Jose Abreu even if he were healthy. Abreu might end the season with 50 homers at his current pace, and it would be very hard to deny him the Rookie of the Year no matter what anyone else did.

Everyone else is just fighting for second place. George Springer has rebounded from a slow start, and seems destined to finish with at least 30, maybe even 35, homers. Cron’s been good for the Angels, but is a DH and something like the fourth or fifth best hitter on his team. Kiermaier is having a great first half for the Rays, but most of the attention down there is being focused on the never-ending David Price trade drama. It’s a shame too, because he could finish with 20 homers and also plays elite outfield defense.

David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

NL Rookie of the Year
1) Billy Hamilton (seven first place votes, 35 points)
2) Chris Owings (13 points)
3) Tommy La Stella (8 points)
4) Gregory Polanco (4 points)
5) Jacob deGrom (3 points)

We close with the NL Rookie of the Year race, which reminds me a lot of the AL Rookie of the Year race from a year ago. Remember when Wil Myers seemed destined to win the award once he was called up? Well, that’s almost how the NL award felt this year with Gregory Polanco or Oscar Taveras. Well, Polanco has been in the majors for a month and hasn’t made as much of an impact as we expected, and Taveras has been up and down, unable to get consistent playing time.

Enter Billy Hamilton. The Reds rookie has earned his Rookie of the Year praise early on, stealing 38 bases in the first half while holding his own offensively and playing great center field defense for Cincinnati. Hamilton has been the only NL rookie to truly step up in the first half, and as a result, he’s far and away the best option right now.

I don’t think his win at the end of the year will be a lock, especially if Polanco starts hitting for power and Taveras becomes a more consistent fixture in the Cardinals lineup.  However, it will be tough to deny Hamilton if he finishes the year with 60 or 70 stolen bases and a league-average stat line. This isn’t a Willy Taveras season from a decade ago, when the Rockies rookie was the runner-up to Ryan Howard in Rookie of the Year voting thanks to 34 stolen bases and a below average performance with the stick. Hamilton is adding value in all facets of the game, not just on the bases. And because of that, he’s the favorite to win the Rookie of the Year this season.

Joe Lucia

About Joe Lucia

Joe is the managing editor of The Outside Corner and an associate editor at Awful Announcing. He lives in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and is smack dab in the middle of some of the best (and worst) sports fans in the country.

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