At the beginning of every month, we look at the best and worst players of the preceding month. But while performing well or poorly in one month is great, it doesn’t necessarily tell you much about how the rest of the player’s season has gone – remember Charlie Blackmon and Chris Colabello going off in April? Needless to say, we thought it would be a good idea to see which players were statistically the best and statistically the worst in the first half of the season. Tomorrow, we’ll unveil our midseason award winners, which could differ a bit from the players you’re about to see.
AL Best Hitter of the Half: Mike Trout. This isn’t even a question. After hitting 30 homers in 2012 and 27 last season, Trout’s already up to 22 long balls this year. His batting average is lower than each of those two seasons, while his OBP is 32 points lower than 2013 and just a point higher than 2012. But Trout has more than made up for those lower numbers with an absurd .606 slugging percentage, the third-best mark in all of baseball. Unlike the last two years, when you could at least make a case for Miguel Cabrera, you can’t this year. Trout’s .448 wOBA is a good 12 points higher than Victor Martinez’s mark to lead the American League. When you combine his performance with the fact that the Angels are the second-best team in baseball, there’s no excuse anymore. Trout’s the best hitter in the American League, and that’s an indisputable fact.
Honorable mentions: Jose Abreu, Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, Victor Martinez
April winner: Jose Bautista
May winner: Edwin Encarnacion
June winner: Mike Trout
AL Worst Hitter of the Half: Jose Molina. I know Jose Molina isn’t paid to hit. The Rays signed him to a contract extension because of his glove. But you know, the guy has to at least hit *a little bit*, and Molina isn’t doing that. In 161 plate appearances this year, he’s hitting .195. He’s walked just eight times. He has *one* extra base hit – a double. He has has many stolen bases (two) as runs scored. Tampa Bay’s offense has been a disappointment, and Molina’s lack of offense hasn’t helped them at all. Compared to Molina, Ryan Hanigan and his .212/.309/.327 line looks like Buster Posey.
Dishonorable mentions: Michael Choice, Raul Ibanez, Ryan Raburn, Eric Sogard
April “winner”: Billy Butler
May “winner”: Alejandro de Aza
June “winner”: Shin-Soo Choo
NL Best Hitter of the Half: Troy Tulowitzki. Tulowitzki isn’t my pick for NL MVP, but he did have the best first half from a purely offensive perspective, even if Coors Field was prominently involved in his success. He leads the National League in all three slash stats (and has a significant edge among qualified hitters in all three), is tied for the league lead in homers, leads the league in runs, is playing elite defense at shortstop…he’s been an incredible player across the board. When you strip everything else out of the equation, he’s the best hitter in the National League.
Honorable mentions: Paul Goldschmidt, Andrew McCutchen, Yasiel Puig, Giancarlo Stanton
April winner: Troy Tulowitzki
May winner: Yasiel Puig
June: Andrew McCutchen
NL Worst Hitter of the Half: Jedd Gyorko. With all due respect to some of the other players that have had awful first halves, Gyorko just signed a team-friendly contract extension this winter. He was expected to be a long-term, stabilizing force in San Diego’s lineup. Instead, he posted a .483 OPS in the first half that would have been better suited as his slugging percentage. Gyorko’s also spent the last month-plus on the DL thanks to a case of plantar fasciitis. Only five years and $35 million left, Padres!
Dishonorable mentions: Domonic Brown, Everth Cabrera, Nate Schierholtz, Jean Segura
April “winner”: Danny Espinosa
May “winner”: Yonder Alonso
June “winner”: Everth Cabrera
AL Best Pitcher of the Half: Felix Hernandez. There’s no question about this one. Hernandez is actually getting wins this year too, which should help ease the mindset of “well, he can’t be that good, his team stinks!” Hernandez leads the American League in ERA, trails only David Price in strikeouts and innings pitched, and has set career-bests in ERA, strikeout rate, walk rate, and home run rate. What Hernandez is doing is incredible, and his transformation from a fireballer into an incredible all-around pitcher has been a joy to watch.
Honorable mentions: Yu Darvish, Corey Kluber, Jon Lester, David Price
April winner: Felix Hernandez
May winner: Corey Kluber
July winner: Felix Hernandez
AL Worst Pitcher of the Half: Ricky Nolasco. For as good as Phil Hughes has been for the Twins, that’s how unbearably bad Nolasco has been. He’s continuing his career trend of having a FIP lower than his ERA, but he’s doing it with much worse peripherals this time around – Nolasco has never posted a walk rate this high over a full year, and has only had a strikeout rate this low just once. He’s also allowing balls to leave the yard at a career-worst rate. Even manager Ron Gardenhire threw him under the bus last week. He’s now on the DL with a strained elbow, and at 31, there are doubts as to whether or not he’ll be able to turn it around and become the guy the Twins thought they were getting when they decided to pay him $49 million over four years this past offseason.
Dishonorable mentions: Scott Baker, Felix Doubront, Ubaldo Jimenez, Erasmo Ramirez
April “winner”: Ubaldo Jimenez
May “winner”: Brandon Maurer
June “winner”: Joe Saunders
NL Best Pitcher of the Half: Clayton Kershaw. It’s really just splitting hairs to choose between Kershaw and Adam Wainwright. Wainwright has the edge in innings thanks to Kershaw’s DL stint, but despite that edge, Kershaw *still* has more strikeouts to go along with his superior ERA and walk rate. Wainwright is having a great year, but Kershaw is having a potentially historic year, and may be on line for his third Cy Young in four seasons.
Honorable mentions: Johnny Cueto, Zack Greinke, Adam Wainwright, Jordan Zimmermann
April winner: Jose Fernandez
May winner: Jeff Samardzija
June winner: Clayton Kershaw
NL Worst Pitcher of the Half: Marco Estrada. When looking at Estrada’s stat line, you might be confused for a minute. This is a guy with solid strikeout and walk rates and a low BABIP allowed…how is his ERA a shade under 5.00? Then, you roll up to the “home runs” column, and everything makes sense. Estrada has allowed 27 homers so far in the first half, a tremendously high number. He’s only not allowed a homer in three of his 19 appearances this year – and one of those was his lone relief appearance of the year. Maybe Estrada will be better off in the bullpen for Milwaukee in the second half, and he won’t keep flirting with history. I don’t think he’ll be on this list much in the second half, but all it takes is one injury for the Brewers to get desperate again.
Dishonorable mentions: Matt Cain, Roberto Hernandez, Francisco Liriano, Eric Stults
April “winner”: Bronson Arroyo
May “winner”: Franklin Morales
June “winner”: Juan Nicasio
AL Best Rookie of the Half: Jose Abreu. If it weren’t for that Trout guy, Abreu would be an MVP candidate in the American League. He leads baseball with 29 homers. He’s absolutely smashing the ball overall, hitting .292/.342/.630. Hell, he’s even got 20 doubles. Seeing what we’re seeing out of Abreu this year is making a lot of teams wish that they bid more for his services this fall, because this guy is the real deal and has proven himself to be a worthy successor to Paul Konerko on the South Side.
Honorable mentions: Brock Holt, George Springer, Masahiro Tanaka, Yordano Ventura
April winner: Jose Abreu
May winner: George Springer
June winner: Jose Abreu
NL Best Rookie of the Half: Billy Hamilton. The NL Rookie of the Year award will be decided in the second half. Hamilton is the winner by default since he’s been playing every day since Opening Day, and he’d be a deserving pick with his .285/.319/.423 line along with 38 stolen bases. But while Hamilton’s been good, he hasn’t been on another level like Abreu, and the door is still wide open for someone to jump in and take the crown from Cincinnati’s rookie center fielder.
Honorable mentions: Jacob deGrom, Tommy La Stella, Gregory Polanco, Kolten Wong
April winner: Chris Owings
May winner: Kolten Wong
June winner: Billy Hamilton