Mike Trout

Mike Trout

HBT First-Half Awards: American League MVP


With no baseball on Wednesday or Thursday, we’re taking stock of the best performances of the first half of the season by handing out midseason awards. Maybe someday we’ll have the budget for an actual Midseason Award Trophy, but for now they merely get our kind and admiring words. Next up: American League MVP.

Aaron Gleeman‘s ballot:

1. Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels
2. Manny Machado, Baltimore Orioles
3. Josh Donaldson, Toronto Blue Jays

Angels center fielder Mike Trout is the reigning MVP and, in my opinion, also should have won the award in 2012 and 2013. He’s having perhaps his best season yet, leading the league in homers, slugging percentage, and runs scored–and OPS, among players not on the disabled list–while playing an up-the-middle position defensively and playing it well. It just doesn’t get any better in terms of all-around value. We’re seeing something truly special in Trout, who may end this season as the most valuable player in the history of baseball through age 23.

Manny Machado of the Orioles and Josh Donaldson of the Blue Jays are much different players stylistically, but they’re both providing very good offense and elite defense at third base. They narrowly beat out Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis and injured Tigers slugger Miguel Cabrera to round out my top three, with a little nod to the handful of starting pitchers who also warranted strong consideration for their great first halves.

Craig Calcaterra‘s ballot:

1. Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels
2. Jason Kipnis, Cleveland Indians
3. Manny Machado, Baltimore Orioles

It’s Mike Trout’s world and we’re all just living in it. He’s probably going to win the MVP award again and, like Aaron said, it should probably be his fourth. And contrary to the bizarre anti-Trout narrative so many people feel obligated to perpetuate, saying Trout is the best player in the game does not require one to know the first thing about advanced metrics. He’s leading the league in homers and runs. He’s slugging better than anyone. He has scored more runs and has more total bases than anyone. He plays eye-popping center field. His skills and numbers are such that they would be every bit as understood by an awards voter in 1935 as they are in 2015, and to suggest otherwise makes you sound silly.

Beyond him things get fun. Miguel Cabrera is an all-offense candidate, but a really good one. His calf injury will take him out of the actual MVP conversation — and he doesn’t make my top three here — but one must nonetheless tip their cap to how dang good he was in the first half.

But when it comes to actually casting a ballot, I am an all-around-player partisan, and Jason Kipnis’ all-around game has been second best to only Trout’s this year in the AL in my view. After a sort of slow start he has been astounding at the plate this year while playing a nifty second base while rapping doubles off the wall, walking a heck of a lot for guy with only six homers and playing every dang day. As I wrote yesterday, the Indians aren’t dead yet and have a chance to make some noise in the second half. The fact that they’re not totally dead yet with everything else that has gone wrong has an awful lot to do with Kipnis.

Manny Machado and Josh Donaldson are also having fantastic seasons, of course. But we decided to only go top three, so there we are.

Here’s an idea for a new and fun tweak to the All-Star Game

Mike Matheny

source: Getty Images

Everyone has an “improve the All-Star Game” idea. I have a bunch. Most of them, however, tend to deal with roster construction or player use patterns. Here’s an idea from one of my readers — Ian Neilly — that may not have any immediate change on the game itself but which (a) adds an element of drama and P.R. opportunities in the runup to the game; and (b) in the long run may bring about some sort of change in how the game is approached.

The idea: instead of making the previous year’s pennant-winners the managers, put the manager of the teams with the best first half record in charge. Here’s Ian’s rationale:

1. With the game determining home field advantage in the World Series, there would be more incentive for the manager of a team with the best record in the AL or NL to approach the game as more of a real game, or a playoff game, and less of an exhibition game (e.g., in 2014, Boston was out of the pennant race at the break, so there was less personal incentive for the AL manager, Farrell, than there would’ve been for Showalter, or the manager with the best record in the AL);

2. For people who like the added juice of the game determining home field advantage, it will continue to do so, and for people who believe the team with the best record should have home field advantage in the WS, it would represent a bit of a compromise as the managers of teams with the best record each league will play a significant role in the game that determines home field advantage; and

3. There would be some day-to-day “drama” in the first weeks of July as managers come closer to “clinching” management of the AS game, and more drama in the game itself (e.g., in 2015, with St. Louis having the best record in baseball, there would have been slightly more drama with Matheny managing for home field advantage than Bochy).

Now, to be fair, if asked Bruce Bochy would never say that he has no designs on the World Series this year and it’d be silly to count the Giants out now given what they’ve done in the past several years. And, to be sure, it still would’ve been Ned Yost for the AL this year.

But it’s worth noting that Yost used his best player, Mike Trout, more than any All-Star player has been used in a game in seven or eight years. And in some seasons, such as last year with Ferrell, there really is a manager who, at least privately, likely realizes that, for him, home field advantage in the World Series is a lot more theoretical than anything else. Maybe this changes little immediately but maybe, over time, we’d see more best-player-usage if we had managers with slightly more vested interests.

In any event, the run-up idea — “who will clinch the manager job?” — could lead to some excitement too. Maybe you put a cutoff on it for logistical reasons, like a week before the All-Star Game, but it could be a fun late-June, early-July topic of conversation.

Anyway, I rather like this idea. What say you, commenters?

Mike Trout shines as the American League beats the National League 6-3 in the All-Star Game

Mike Trout

CINCINNATI — Mike Trout is the best baseball player in the game today. You can doubt this if you wish, but you’d be wrong to do so.

No matter what you think about that, Trout led the charge for the American League on Tuesday night, reaching base three times, scoring twice, launching a home run and showing off some serious speed as the American League beat the National League 6-3. It was the American League’s 16th win in the past 19 All-Star Games and ensures that the AL representative will have home field advantage in the World Series.

After the game Trout was named the All-Star Game MVP for the second straight year. It’s the first time any player has won the MVP Award in back-to-back years and the fifth time a player has won the MVP Award more than once. As part of a sponsor tie-in, he got to choose between a brand new Chevy Silverado truck or a Camaro for winning it. He picked the truck this year, after taking a Corvette last time around. He doesn’t turn 24 for a couple of weeks. He’s gonna have a lot of trucks by the time his career is over.

Trout, batting leadoff, came to the plate four times on Tuesday night, making him the first player to have four plate appearances in an All-Star Game since Jose Reyes did in 2007 and the first AL player to do so since Ichiro did in 2004. But of course, when you’re the best player in baseball you should get to play more than anyone else. And he had a good night, homering in the first inning, beating out what should’ve been a sure double play in the fifth and eventually coming around to score. In the seventh he drew a walk and his pinch runner, Brock Holt, came around to score. He finished the night 1-for-3 with a walk, a homer and two runs scored.

The American League had other heroes of course. Brian Dozier homered. Manny Machado doubled in Holt. Prince Fielder singled in a run. Lorenzo Cain doubled one in. But on the offensive side of things, it was the Mike Trout show.

The National League wasn’t totally silent on this night, but their biggest highlights were more sound and fury than anything else. Jacob deGrom struck out the AL side in the sixth on ten pitches. Aroldis Chapman did the same in the top of the ninth on fourteen pitches, hitting triple digits over and over and over again. The AL hitters had no idea what to make of him. If an AL team picks him up at the trade deadline, it’s gonna be trouble for that team’s opponents in the late innings.

On the offensive side the Senior Circuit scored on a Jhonny Peralta single in the second, an Andrew McCutchen homer in the sixth and a Ryan Braun triple plus a sac fly in the ninth. But that was all they’d get.

The winning pitcher: David Price, not that a pitcher’s win matters much in a game in which no pitcher threw more than two innings and most only pitched a single frame. The loser: Clayton Kershaw, who gave up two runs in the fifth. This game didn’t matter too much and the NL’s loss had many helpers, but I’m sure someone will still try to hang the “can’t win the big one” label on Kershaw as a result. It’s a shame, but that seems to be his lot in life lately, at least in the minds of people who like contrived narratives more than actually analyzing baseball.

Whatever the case, that’s it from the Mid-Summer Classic, folks. See you in the American League pennant winner’s home park for Game One of the 2015 World Series. And in San Diego for the 2016 All-Star Game when we’ll do this silly thing once again.