Aside from All-Star game festivities in San Diego California, there are no real baseball games until Friday July 15th.
This is as good a time as any to look back at the first half of the 2016 Major League Baseball season.
American League MVP: Jose Altuve, Houston Astros
There’s no clear cut winner here. No one is really running away with anything. Mike Trout may very well still be the best all-around player in the league, but that doesn’t change the reality that his Angels are 37-52, and in last place in the AL West.
David Ortiz, Josh Donaldson, Mookie Betts, Manny Machado, Mark Trumbo, and Ian Desmond all have strong cases.
Jose Altuve, the pint-sized second baseman for the Houston Astros gets the nod here.
When his team got off to an awful start, his bat kept them afloat. They’ve made a big push over the last six weeks, and now find themselves 5.5 games back from the first place Rangers, and only two games behind the Blue Jays for the AL’s second wild card spot.
Altuve is slashing .341/.413/.542. He’s hit 14 home runs, just one less than his career-high of 15. Altuve leads the league in hits with 119, he’s second in stolen bases with 23, fifth in runs scored with 67 and tied for sixth in doubles with 24.
National League MVP: Kris Bryant, Chicago Cubs
If you’ve got the highest WAR, a top five ops and you’re the best all around offensive player on a first place team, you’re probably the league MVP.
That’s why Kris Bryant, starting third baseman for the Chicago Cubs, gets the vote here.
The Cubs lead the NL Central with a 53-35 record. Bryant has hit a national league best 25 home runs. His WAR is a league-best 4.5, and he leads the league in runs scored with 73.
Bryant is third in RBI’s with 65, and fifth in ops at .962.
Others to consider are Anthony Rizzo, Nolan Arenado, Jake Lamb, Brandon Belt, Paul Goldschmidt, Corey Seager, and Bryce Harper.
American League Cy Young: Danny Salazar, Cleveland Indians
The Indians are in first place in the American League Central, and they’ve achieved that standing because they’ve got the best starting pitching in the league.
The best starting pitcher, on the best pitching staff in the American League, is named Danny Salazar.
Salazar is 10-3. His earned run average of 2.75 is second among qualified starters. He’s got the best WAR of any AL pitcher at 3.8
Salazar is by no means a run-away Cy Young winner. Steven Wright, Chris Sale, Chris Tillman, Corey Kluber, Michael Fulmer and Jose Quintana have all had exceptional first halves.
National League Cy Young: Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers
There are so many good pitchers in the National League, and none of them are as good as Clayton Kershaw.
Kershaw is currently on the disabled list, but he’s expected back not long after the All-Star break. Then he’s likely to get back to totally dominating his opponents once every five games.
Kershaw leads the majors in WAR among pitchers with 4.7. He’s 11-2 with 145 strikeouts and (are you sitting?) just 9 walks in 121 innings pitched. That adds up to a major league best whip ratio of 0.73.
There are plenty of other great arms in the NL.
Max Scherzer, Noah Syndergaard, Madison Bumgarner, Jose Fernandez, Jake Arrieta, Johnny Cueto and Stephen Strasburg are all having fantastic years, but they’re not Clayton Kershaw.
American League Rookie of the Year: Michael Fulmer, Detroit Tigers
This is a two-man race between Fulmer, who the Tigers acquired from the New York Mets in exchange for Yoenis Cespedes last July, and 21-year-old outfielder Nomar Mazara of the Texas Rangers.
Mazara made his major league debut on April 10th, Fulmer made his debut on April 29th.
Mazara took advantage of injuries to Rangers veterans Josh Hamilton and Shin-Soo Choo to earn playing time, and once he got in the lineup, he has been more than good enough to remain there.
The dynamic young outfielder is slashing .282/.330/.420, he’s hit 11 home runs with 36 RBI’s and 36 runs scored.
Fulmer has done what so many young starters find very difficult. He’s managed to hit the ground running, and as of now there’s little sign of a slowdown.
In a season in which quality starting pitching has been tough to find in the AL, Fulmer has been big surprise.
He’s 9-2 with an ERA of 2.11. He’s got a low whip ratio of 1.096 and he’s struck out 72 batters in 76 innings pitched.
Starting pitching is hard to come by, and that gives Fulmer the nod over Mazara.
National League Rookie of the Year: Corey Seager, Los Angeles Dodgers
There are a number of very good rookies in the National League, but none of them are as good as Los Angeles Dodgers 22-year-old shortstop Corey Seager.
Seager isn’t just the leading rookie of the year candidate, he’s a legit MVP candidate too.
He is slashing .297/.357/.521. Seager has hit 17 home runs with 22 doubles, 60 runs scored and 42 driven-in.
Other rookies to watch include Rockies shortstop Trevor Story, starting pitchers Steven Matz of the New York Mets and Kenta Meada of the Los Angeles Dodgers, and Cardinals shortstop Aledmys Diaz.
American League Manager of the Year: Terry Francona, Cleveland Indians
Francona has steered a long-suffering franchise to first place in the American League’s most competitive division. The Central not only features the reigning World Series champion Kansas City Royals, but four of the division’s five teams are over .500.
Francona has taken a young pitching staff and molded them into one of the league’s very best. He’s taken an offense with a mix of veterans like Mike Napoli and budding superstars such as Francisco Lindor and he’s gotten more out of them than most would have thought.
The Indians are 52-36 and have the second best record in the AL.
The best record in the AL belongs to the Texas Rangers. The Rangers are 54-36, and they’ve got a 5.5 game cushion over second place Houston. Rangers manager Jeff Banister won the 2015 AL Manager of the Year award.
This season his Rangers have benefited from a weak AL West which features two of the AL’s four worst teams. Banister should get votes as should Orioles manager Buck Showalter.
At this point Francona gets the vote over Banister, but only by the slimmest of margins.
National League Manager of the Year: Bruce Bochy, San Francisco Giants
Bochy isn’t a gutsy pick, but he’s the right pick.
Joe Maddon took a Cubs team that was universally predicted to be great, and has fulfilled expectations. The Cubs sit atop the NL Central, their 53-35 record is the second best in the majors.
Dusty Baker has taken a loaded Nationals roster that somehow missed the 2015 playoffs, and piloted them to the top of the NL East. In spite of a slightly down season for Bryce Harper, the Nationals are 54-36, and lead the second place Mets by six games.
Bochy has taken a Giants team that was expected to compete, but not necessarily win the NL West, and he’s managed them to not just first place, but the best record (57-33) in all of baseball.
Baker and Maddon are both deserving of votes, but Bochy’s first half of 2016 has him on pace to win what would be his second manager of the year award, and first as manager of the San Francisco Giants.