We’re through three months of the season and nearly half the 162-game schedule has been played. The largest lead in any division is currently held by the New York Yankees who are five games ahead of the Baltimore Orioles in a division where every team is .500 or better. And the Yankees just lost their two best pitchers to the disabled list.
There is still much to be decided throughout the rest of this season. As mentioned, every division race is tight and almost certainly will be decided down the stretch as there really isn’t one team that stands out right now.
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Now that the races are starting to play out, let’s take a look at who has had the most impressive first half of this 2012 season.
NL MVP: Joey Votto
This was a close race for me between Votto and Carlos Gonzalez. The fact the Cincinnati Reds are competing for a division, and the Colorado Rockies aren’t, means Votto gets the nod. Plus, he’s first in OBP at .473, walks with 60 and doubles with 32. He’s also ninth in runs (49), eighth in hits (90), eighth in home runs (14), 10th in RBIs (47) and fourth in average (.349). He got off to a slow start only batting .289 in April, but he’s hitting .374 since, and his team has taken over the top spot in the NL Central during that span.
NL Cy Young: Matt Cain
This decision was actually a little easier. Maybe it’s because I’ve watched a couple of games this year when he’s been brilliant, but really it’s hard to make a case against Cain. He’s thrown 107 innings, which is the most amongst starters with 15 starts. He’s only allowed 74 hits and given up 22 walks in those innings for a WHIP of 0.90, which is best in the league. His ERA of 2.27 is sixth best in the National League and his 107 strikeouts is good enough for third in the league behind Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez. Like Votto, Cain’s success has helped propel his team to the top of the NL West division. R.A. Dickey has had a great year and may be Cain’s best competition, but I’ll take Cain all day.
AL MVP: Mike Trout
Sticking with the theme of choosing players who have been the most valuable to their respective team, Trout has been the spark the Angels needed to put them back in the playoff hunt. After a horrendous start to the season, the Angels decided to bring up the highly touted prospect, and he’s been better than advertised. He now has enough at-bats to qualify for the batting title, and he currently leads that category in the AL by 13 points at .345. He’s also fourth in OBP at .402. But most impressive, he leads the AL in stolen bases with 21 and is 11th in the league in runs with 48. He has 77 hits, 14 doubles, three triples, eight home runs and 32 RBIs. Not to mention the amazing defensive plays you’ve probably seen over and over on ESPN. This kid is talented and the main reason the Angels have picked up four and half games on the Texas Rangers since he was called up. The only competition for Trout in this race would be Josh Hamilton.
AL Cy Young: Chris Sale
This might come as a bit of a shock, and quite frankly I didn’t realize how great of a season he was having until I looked at the stats. You could easily take Justin Verlander here, but other than that, pitching in the American League has not been too impressive this year. Sale, on the other hand, has been more than spectacular since taking over a starting pitcher role. In 14 starts, he’s struck out 94 batters and walked only 24 in 95.1 innings. He leads the league in ERA at 2.27 and is tied for second with Verlander in WHIP at 0.97. He’s 9-2, helping the surprising White Sox take a two and half game lead in the AL Central. The 23-year-old, first-round draft pick seems to have put everything together and is dominating right now. We’ll see if he keeps it up down the stretch or if the reins are pulled back a little to protect his arm.
Just like the division races, these awards are turning out to be even more difficult to figure out. And while it’s just been one half, all of these guys have been great and could possibly help lead their teams to the playoffs, which is what truly makes a player valuable.