With 81 games out of the way, the Phillies Nation crew got together to vote on First Half Award Winners. We discussed Most Valuable Players, Least Valuable Players and Cy Youngs. Pat Gallen and I look to be in good shape with our preseason AL MVP selection, while the NL MVP has been a player nobody expected to leap so high from his previous level of production.
Let’s take a look.
1) Matt Kemp
Mike Baumann: Kemp and Jose Reyes have been the most valuable players in the NL, and it’s not even close, so no matter how overrated I think both of them have been over the years, the numbers don’t lie. I haven’t, and still don’t, buy into the Matt Kemp hype. Everyone talks about how great an athlete he is, how he was a basketball player until he came to baseball late, seems to realize that his sheer athleticism, which is impressive, has very little to do with whether he is or is not a great ballplayer. However, Rihanna’s former beau has, through 82 games, been among the best in the game, boosting his walk rate five percent and isolated power nearly 100 points, resulting in a .331/.415/.628 AVG/OBP/SLG line and a 40/40 pace.
Jonathan Nisula: Saying Kemp has been on fire this year in an understatement. He’s 2nd in the league in batting average, 1st in HR, 2nd in RBI, 4th in SB, and 1st in OPS. If he keeps this pace, he’ll have a 40/40 season (43 HR, 43 SB) with 124 RBI. He’s your NL MVP.
2) Jose Reyes
Corey Seidman: .350 batting average, on pace to set the single-season triples record, earned himself a $100MM+ contract. Leading an injury ravaged team to a respectable record no matter how much Phillies fans hate him.
Amanda Orr: You can debate that the MVP award should go to somebody on a winning team, but that doesnt apply here. When Reyes gets on base he is scary, and he’s been getting on base (.398 OBP) and wreaking havoc while there.
Pat Gallen: It is tough to vote for Reyes, who gets under the skin of Phillies fans like no one else. But give credit where credit is due. Without him, the Mets would be sinking like a brick. I’m actually looking forward to seeing him break the triples record, so long as it doesn’t come against the Phillies. He’s a special talent. Is he really THIS good? No telling.
1) Adrian Gonzalez
This was a consensus opinion, save for Mike and Jon. Since making the change from pitcher-friendly PETCO to hitter-friendly Fenway, A-Gon has raked as expected, hitting .352 with a .999 OPS through the season’s first half. He leads the AL in batting average and RBI, is in the top-3 in OBP and slugging percentage, and what’s more, he’s helped rejuvenate David Ortiz’ career by rubbing his “go the other way” magic off on the aging DH.
2) Jose Bautista
Mike Baumann: I picked Adrian Gonzalez to win this in the preseason, and while the Red Sox first baseman (and sometime right fielder, apparently) is having a stellar year by anyone’s standards, Bautista has improbably picked up where he left off last year with a combination of power and plate discipline that recalls Ted Williams or Barry Bonds. Bautista leads the AL in slugging, fWAR, wOBA, walk rate, and isolated power. Perhaps most important, he leads the league with a .473 OBP, getting on base nearly half the time and single-handedly carrying a Toronto team that isn’t doing nearly as much with the outs he’s saving as some would like.
Jon Nisula: Here’s why: If there was an MLB MVP, Bautista would be the winner. It seems like all this guy does is hit home runs. His 24 home runs puts him on pace for 47 for the year. Don’t be fooled though, he is having an even better season than last year, despite not as many home runs. His walks are up and his strikeouts are down, which means he is being more productive. A productive hitter leading the league in home runs is a scary, scary thought.
Also a consensus pick by the Phillies Nation team. He just beats out Cole Hamels, with Cliff Lee in the conversation now as well after a scary good June. But Halladay has been the most consistent of the bunch, and PN recognizes that. Halladay has more or less matched his teammates Hamels and Cliff Lee for quality, posting comparable rate stats, but he’s done it pitching slightly more innings: five more than Lee and 11 more than Hamels. So really, the difference between the three isn’t that great, so if you want to pick Hamels, go nuts. Though at this point, Cliff Lee looks like he might not give up another run before the fall of civilization, so if he keeps this up, we reserve the right to change our pick.
AL Cy Young
1) Justin Verlander
This one was also pretty much a slam dunk, except for Amanda who goes a different direction, which isn’t necessarily a wrong one either. He has the lowest WHIP in baseball at 0.84 and the rest of his peripherals are off the charts. He ranks 1st in wins (tied with CC Sabathia), innings, and K/BB ratio and is near the top in just about every other pertinent category. I think he’s destined for multiple Cy Young’s.
2) Jered Weaver
Amanda Orr: I don’t think his numbers will be as impressive in the second half of the season, but to this point you have to give the Cy to Weaver. As of Wednesday, he has an ERA under 2, WHIP under 1, and opponents batting average under .200. Not too shabby.
NL LVP (Least Valuable Player)
1) Raul Ibanez
Jon Nisula: Raooooops. There isn’t much to say about Raul on this one. His WAR is last in the league by a good amount, and he looks like a zombie out there at times. I think the Phanatic would do better in LF for the Phillies.
Michael Baumann: Despite his recent renaissance, Ibanez is still dead last in the NL in fWAR, still among the worst defensive outfielders in the game, still posting an OPS under .700 in a hitter’s park in a corner outfield spot. He’s striking out a lot, not walking, not really hitting for a whole lot of power. Sure, the numbers could be worse, but they’re exacerbated by the expectation of what a corner outfielder hitting in the middle of a World Series contender’s lineup ought to be. Simply put: it’s not good. The other shoe has dropped on Ibanez, and it’s been a real doozy.
2) Jayson Werth
Amanda Orr: Big contract. Little Production. His numbers aren’t even close to what he put up in Philadelphia.
Pat Gallen: Right on the money, Amanda. But not you, Jayson. Werth is hitting .223 with 10 home runs and 27 runs batted in. And making $18 million per season. While Raul Ibanez has been scuffling, he’s not making nearly as much coin and isn’t as much a focal point of the offense like Werth is in Washington. The Nats have actually been playing some spirited ball lately, but not Werth. A close second, even below Raul, has to be Dan Uggla. The Braves gave him a new contract and all he’s done is give them a .587 OPS .
3) Dan Uggla
Corey Seidman: This isn’t a case of someone struggling in April then hitting .260 in May and June. Uggla has been below .190 in each month and is a notoriously bad defender at a key position. He isn’t walking or hitting, and this isn’t BABIP-driven misfortune, his hard hit balls are way down.
AL LVP (Least Valuable Player)
1) Chone Figgins
Mike Baumann: I follow a few Mariners fans on Twitter, and they gripe about Figgins so much I figured it was all talk–after all, he’s only two years removed from a season where he posted an OBP near .400, stole 42 bases, and played great defense; it was an MVP-quality year. So how bad could Figgins possibly be in 2011? Figgins is doing nothing. Remember NL LVP Raul Ibanez? Take away all of Ibanez’s walks, and he’d still get on base more than Figgins. Turn all of Ibanez’s doubles and homers into singles, and he’d still be slugging only 10 points lower than Figgins. Chone Figgins, 2011 Edition, has been so bad as to have been removed from a lineup that often hits Adam Kennedy third. Remember all those nasty things I said last year about Wilson Valdez as an offensive player? Well Figgins, in 2011, is making Exxon look like Mike Schmidt.
Pat Gallen & Jon Nisula: We’re with Mike here. Adam Dunn certainly deserves recognition for how bad he has been, but it pales in comparison to the death contract the Mariners gave Figgins. He is robbing the organization blind, doing very little as Mike alludes to above. I used to be a huge fan of the scrappy little guy from the Angels. Thankfully the Phillies picked Placido Polanco over Figgins, or we’d be inconsolable.
2) Carl Crawford
Amanda Orr: Yes, he is hurt now. But when he was healthy, I think everybody expected him to do a little more than what he has done so far. A .243 average and .659 OPS isn’t worth anywhere near $142 million – which is what the Red Sox gave him to be another catalyst in their lineup. He and Werth are proving to be expensive busts after half a season.
3) Adam Dunn
Corey Seidman: Everything about Uggla can be repeated here. Dunn just can’t get it going this year and is striking out a crazy rate even for him. Like Uggla, Dunn signed a $50MM+ deal with a new team this offseason and has plagued it with his ineffectiveness. Both players have track records, which makes it hard to bench them. At the same time though, is it worth it to start a guy everyday if his best case is to hit .213 this year?