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MLB Roundtable: First half award winners

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Is Brian Snitker again the favorite for Manager of the Year in the National League?

MLB: All Star Game-National League at American League Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Before the regular season jumps back into high gear, lets take one more look at the first half of the 2019 MLB Season. Offense is booming league wide but there has still been some notable pitching performances mixed in. Below is our midseason picks for National League and American League award winners.

Who is your midseason pick for MVP in the National League?

Ivan: Cody Bellinger is the result of cheat codes this season. Don’t believe me? Look at this:

In a two-person race, Bellinger’s defense puts him above the comparatively-poor fielding Christian Yelich.

Scott: Cody Bellinger. It’s about time the Dodgers have a good team. Their fans have been waiting too long.

MLB: San Diego Padres at Los Angeles Dodgers Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Eric: The midseason MVP is Cody Bellinger as he has been unbelievably and maybe unsustainably good in the first half. I actually think he will cool off and Yelich will catch him in the second half fwiw.

Anthony: As much as I’d love to give a hot take and pick someone like Ketel Marte, it’s been Cody Bellinger. He’s been elite offensively and defensively on the best team in the league. That said, Christian Yelich and Freddie Freeman could make the race interesting in the second half

Dillon: Cody Bellinger. Just glance at the Statcast graphic above, then check out the numbers Bellinger has compiled thus far, and you will see an MVP. He can play four positions at an extremely high level, and is probably the closest competitor to Mike Trout with regards to the best player in baseball.

Absincewayback: Not that Cody Bellinger isn’t amazing, but the NL Midseason MVP is the juiced superball. National League weighted runs created are up 8% from last year. The home runs are up 22%. It’s like having the production of the designated hitter in the National League, but you don’t lose your pitcher at-bat bathroom break.

Demetrius: Cody Bellinger has been playing on a completely different level when compared to everybody else. He’s basically having a normal Mike Trout season, which is to say that he’s been out-of-this-world. I’ll be shocked if any of the other candidates turns up the heat on him, it’s his to lose at this point.

Aaron: No doubt that it’s been Cody Bellinger.

Shawn: It has to be Cody Bellinger. When you combine the Dodgers record along with the fact that he has helped with both the bat and the glove, it is hard to say otherwise. He has been almost as equally dominant against lefties and righties. He has been elite in every possible way. To me, if Mike Trout is Lebron, Cody Bellinger’s 2019 season is similar to when Russell Westbrook first averaged a triple double. You cannot give it to anyone else but him.

Kris: I will go with Cody Bellinger as well as it seems he has put it all together and is truly having a breakout season. Yelich is putting up some big time home run numbers so it will be interesting to see if Bellinger can maintain his pace and if Yelich can close the gap thanks to what will likely be a tight race in the Central Division.

Who is your midseason pick for MVP in the American League?

Ivan: Copy-paste Mike Trout for pretty much every scenario pertaining to AL MVPs, I guess. MLB’s best xwOBA and by far the best he’s managed here. One more amazing thing about Trout: he’s somehow managing the best quality of contact without the best exit velocities, because his combination of plate discipline and ability to hit the ball hard enough at a good enough angle for it to do serious damage is unmatched.

Scott: Micheal Nelson Trout.

Eric: The answer is Mike Trout. It isn’t close. When he retires, I would probably be in favor of MLB renaming the award after him as compensation for the MVPs he should have won previously.

Anthony: Go ahead and give it to Trout. It’s difficult to even imagine anyone else getting it. Trout leads the AL with 186 wRC+ and 6.2 fWAR. The second-best players have 149 wRC+ and 4.0 fWAR, even with pitchers included. Trout will coast to his third MVP this year.

Dillon: Trout. Nobody is even close.

Demetrius: Cody Bellinger is having a Mike Trout-esque season, which should tell you the type of season that Mike Trout is having.

MLB: All Star Game-National League at American League Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Aaron: Is the AL even trying anymore because it’s Mike Trout again.

Shawn: Trout. There is no Mookie Betts surging ahead of him like last year. Trout has done nothing but get better as the season has progressed. This one is easy to decide.

Kris: Same answer as always, Mike Trout.

Who is your midseason pick for Cy Young in the National League?

Ivan: Leave it to Max Scherzer to figure out how to make a mockery of aging curves at the advanced baseballing age of 34. Career-best strikeout rate, second-best career walk rate, and a homer allowance rate that makes a mockery of the re-juiced ball. Here’s a fun fact: in all of baseball, with a minimum of just 10 innings, only five pitchers, all relievers, even have a lower FIP- than Scherzer this year. No NL starter has a lower xFIP-. At this point, he’s built such a huge lead for himself stats-wise, I’d be surprised if anything that happens in the second half can even wrest this hardware away from him.

MLB: Washington Nationals at Detroit Tigers Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Scott: Max Scherzer broke his nose and threw seven scoreless innings two days later. He gave up five runs in the month of June. He’s on another planet and a big reason why the Nationals have come back in the East.

Eric: Scherzer and it isn’t close. His 5.5 fWAR is 2.4 higher than second place. Put another way, you could add Stephen Strasburg and Patrick Corbin’s WAR together and they together would still not be as productive as Max. He’s insane (possibly in multiple ways...dude is a madman on the mound).

Anthony: Oh I know the answer to this one! Max Scherzer.

Dillon: Another easy one. Max Scherzer is the runaway Cy Young thus far.

Demetrius: My favorite stat to look at to keep track of a pitcher having a great season is ERA- and FIP-. This is basically my “You’re good, but are you Pedro Martinez-in-1999-and-2000-good?” test. Scherzer is currently sitting on an ERA- of 51 and a FIP- of 46. Pedro finished ‘99 with 42 and 31, respectively. While Scherzer isn’t on that level, he’s on early 2000s Pedro level, which is still amazing.

Aaron: With deGrom taking a small step back this season, there is one clear answer and that’s Scherzer.

Shawn: For a while, Ryu from the Dodgers was in this discussion, but not anymore. Max Scherzer has absolutely been on a tear since June 1st, and the Nationals record supports that. He again is the most dominant pitcher in baseball.

Kris: One of the scary things for the Braves is that it appears that the Nationals have figured things out and could be Atlanta’s competition for the NL East down the stretch. Max Scherzer was dominant even when they were struggling. Scherzer is a bulldog who checks all of the boxes and is probably the best starting pitcher in the game currently.

Who is your midseason pick for Cy Young in the American League?

Ivan: Lance Lynn. No, I don’t really get it either. Gerrit Cole and Charlie Morton would also be good choices. A lot of times, the fuzzy awards criteria don’t matter, because one guy is head-and-shoulders above the rest in terms of qualifications for the “spirit” of the award. In this case -- it’s a little odd. Is it about best pitching results? Or best pitching, results pushed to the side? The answer to that probably varies by person because the award’s own language isn’t clear, and I think that’s where you get Lynn/not-Lynn gray area.

Scott: I’ll go with Gerrit Cole, who is going to get paid this winter. As Ivan said, there’s no clear-cut choice here. Cole has been the best pitcher on (arguably) the AL’s best team.

MLB: Los Angeles Angels at Houston Astros Erik Williams-USA TODAY Sports

Eric: I’ll go with Gerrit Cole simply because the peripherals make more sense to me than what Lynn has been able to do for Texas although he has been really good along with Morton and Giolito. Given what we expect the Astros to do, one has to think that he is the favorite to win the award by season’s end as well.

Anthony: Maybe I’m picking a little with my heart, but I’ll say Charlie Morton. He leads the AL in ERA and FIP and is second amongst pitchers in fWAR in a tough division. The Rays have been a nice surprise to this point in the season, and Morton has been a big reason why. This race will be wide open in the second half with several pitchers capable of snagging the award, but it would be tremendous to see Charlie win it.

Dillon: Mike Minor has a significant lead in bWAR for pitchers, but his FIP is close to four, which makes it tough to give him the nod. I will go with Gerrit Cole for now, with Charlie Morton a very close second. Cole has been dominant both in preventing runs and in missing bats, which in this era is generally the safest path to success.

Demetrius: Of all pitchers to have a career year while the ball is currently in its juiced state, I don’t think anybody would have predicted that Lance Lynn would be a pitcher to completely prosper during this moment in baseball time. I don’t think he’s going to win the actual award, since Gerrit Cole and Charlie Morton seem more likely to catch the voters’ eyes with their stats. I just wanted to point that out and also agree with Ivan a tiny bit since Lynn is clearly the most fascinating Cy Young candidate and should be the guy to choose from here at the midseason point.

Aaron: This is a fun race, but I’m going Charlie Morton. It’s crazy how he’s gotten better and better with age.

Shawn: Gerrit Cole is the pick for me. He leads the league in both K/9 and xFIP. If you take out his one start with eight earned runs against Texas in April, he has been consistent as anyone. That consistency combined with his dominance makes him the pick for me.

Kris: The AL Cy Young Award race was probably the best and most contested awards race last season and it appears that it will be that way again with no clear cut perfect answer. Lance Lynn has been a great story as has former Brave Mike Minor. I will go with Gerrit Cole for now but this still feels like an award that is up for grabs.

Who is your midseason pick for National League Rookie of the Year?

Ivan: Peter Alonso is insane and has made this mostly a no-contest exercise so far. He’s got a top-15 batting line among anyone, rookies or not, NL or not. If you take out anyone with under 100 PAs, it becomes easily a top-10 batting line. Best-in-class offense this year is in a Bellinger-Trout-Yelich-Gallo-Alonso nexus, and there’s no way being one of the names there shouldn’t get you the nod.

Scott: It’s a real shame the Mets have Pete Alonso because he’s going to be a thorn in the Braves’ foot for the next decade or so.

Eric: Soroka being awesome and Tatis Jr. made this close for a while, but Pete Alonso is legitimately terrifying with what he has been able to do this season. His run this season feels very Aaron Judge-esque and by the end of the season, it isn’t out of the question that Alonso’s rookie campaign could eclipse Judge’s.

Anthony: Pete Alonso all day. He’s currently on pace to hit 54 homeruns, which would break the all-time rookie record of 52 set by Aaron Judge in 2017. He’s been one of the best hitters in the NL so far. Period.

Dillon: Pete Alonso has been incredible for a Mets team that has found little to smile about otherwise, and may be able to surpass the rookie home run record set by Aaron Judge two years ago. He hits everything hard, and if his moonshots continue to carry into the seats at the rate they have thus far, he will be a unanimous selection for this award.

MLB: All Star Game-Home Run Derby Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Demetrius: Pete Alonso and Jeff McNeil are the only two reasons to take the Mets seriously right now. Alonso has been amazing coming out of the gate, to the point where I think he could end up finishing high up on the NL MVP leaderboards if he continues at this rate. That means that he’s a shoo-in for Rookie of the Year at this point.

Aaron: Yet another beastly class of rookies. I think it’s a race between Mike Soroka and Peter Alonso. I want to put Tatis Jr and Austin Riley in this category too, but Tatis missed some time and Austin has cooled off due to too much swing and miss. With the juiced ball, I’m actually more impressed with Soroka’s ability to supress home runs, but I just don’t think he’ll get the votes since Alonso is going to pop over 45 himself. Which is a shame.

Shawn: It is Pete Alonso. He has been on a potentially historic power pace from the start for a rookie, and also has seen his overall production increase each month. He continues to become a better hitter as the season goes along. He is the clear choice if he can continue to produce.

Kris: I really think Mike Soroka is going to be a factor in the NL Rookie of the Year race but at the halfway mark the edge has to go to Pete Alonso. He has just simply been too good and a shining light on what has been another disappointing season for the Mets.

Who is your midseason pick for American League Rookie of the Year?

Ivan: Hard to have strong feelings about this one. Brandon Lowe has the most fWAR, but has a huge xwOBA-wOBA gap and I have no idea where he ends up at the end of the year. Daniel Vogelbach, John Means, and Spencer Turnbull are all choices, too, but each of them have their own issues. So I guess just leave it at Lowe’s unsustainable batting line for now and see what happens in the second half.

Scott: This is a tough one. Brandon Lowe has been good for my fantasy team, so let’s go with him.

MLB: Baltimore Orioles at Tampa Bay Rays Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Eric: I guess Brandon Lowe? There is a lot of peripherals and iffyness in the AL group that it wouldn’t shock me if Vladdy Jr. went on a crazy run in the second half and won the award at season’s end.

Anthony: The AL’s rookie class isn’t near as strong as the NL’s. I would put Alonso, Soroka, Tatis, Jr., and Verdugo over any rookie in the AL. But if I must choose, I’ll agree with the others and choose Brandon Lowe. He’s a dynamic young player capable of playing a lot of positions. What I might like the most about him is how well he fits his team. Like Ben Zobrist before him, Lowe is the quintessential Rays player.

Dillon: Brandon Lowe. Like everyone else has noted, the AL rookie class is pretty bad despite Valdimir Guerrero, Jr. joining it in late-April. Lowe has been a consistent producer for a very good Rays team, and will be a mainstay in this race because of the lack of depth around him in the AL.

Demetrius: Like Anthony said, the race for Rookie of the Year in the AL doesn’t really hold a candle to what’s going on in the NL. Everybody else has made a solid case for Brandon Lowe and I can’t really argue for anybody else. He’s the man right now.

Aaron: Might be Brandon Lowe’s to lose right now. I’ve been a fan of Lowe’s for a couple of years and included him as a player in trades before he completely blew up. It’s great to see him doing so well. Tampa Bay will have more than one ROY over the next few seasons.

Shawn: I would give it to Brandon Lowe. Is he the most talented AL rookie, no. However, he has been there all year, and has been consistent. He also has played a signficiant role in contributing to a winner. It is hard to make a case for anyone else.

Kris: Tampa’s Brandon Lowe is the choice right now but I feel like we are one big month from Vladimir Guerrero Jr. from this being a runaway at the end of the season.

Who is your midseason pick for National League Manager of the Year?

Ivan: Pending something wacky in the second half, may as well pencil Brian Snitker in for this award now. The tactics have been very inconsistent (good moves showing decent tactical understanding in some games, preceded and followed by terrible tactics over the course of entire games or series) but no one’s judging this particular award by actual managerial contributions, anyway. The Braves have by far the biggest playoff odds change since the season began (60 percent, next closest in the NL is 13 percent) and have increased their projected end-of-season wins by as many tallies as the Dodgers so far. In an NL field that’s been way less interesting and competitive than prognosticated, Snitker is going to be the de facto choice for leading a team that’s outperformed expectations rather than the multiple teams that have underwhelmed, tactics be damned.

MLB: All Star Game-Home Run Derby Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Scott: Brian Snitker is my choice. I do not love his tactical approach, but there is something to be said for getting 25 millionaires to buy in and play hard for 6+ months. After winning the award last year against some strong competition, Snit should win it pretty easily this year. Dave Roberts will get a few votes, but the Dodgers roster is so insanely stacked I’m not sure there’s much managing that needs to be done.

Eric: Its Brian Snitker. From a strategic perspective, he sometimes leaves something to be desired...but I also think there are times when there is information we don’t have that factors into some of those questionable decisions. Plus, this team plays their ass off for him and while that isn’t something that is easy to quantify, it isn’t hard to see that he makes this team better. Snit may also be the only manager in the NL East who will still have the same job in 2020.

Anthony: It’s pretty clearly Brian Snitker for me. There just aren’t any other NL teams that are exceeding expectations. Snitker has created a tremendous clubhouse environment that allows players to be themselves but give their all towards a common goal. All of the players and coaches seem to feed off of each other and have a never-say-die attitude. Getting that kind of buy-in from everyone has undoubtedly won some games over the course of the season. (The Braves’ five-run ninth inning to come back against the Indians on April 20 on a cold night against a dominant starter is the perfect example. It would have been really easy for a team to say, “We’ll get ‘em tomorrow.”) Also, the Braves have had their fair share of injuries and underperformance from key players. Having the second-best record in the NL is a testament to Snitker and his consistent positive influence on the team. Sure, I don’t always agree with tactical moves he’s made, but on the whole, Snitker has done a remarkable job.

Dillon: Brian Snitker is the pick. It is really tough to win back-to-back MOY Awards due to evolving expectations and voter fatigue, but Snitker may be the perfect candidate to hold the mantle for another season. His in-game decisions are often questionable, his lineup decisions are always questionable, and his love of Nick Markakis is creepy, but the players respond to everything he says. Meshing such a diverse collection of personalities, nationalities, and egos is a testament to Snitker as a leader, and the on-field results have followed. The Braves were a popular pick to finish third or fourth in the division this offseason, and yet they sit in first-place at the All-Star break with a six-game lead. This team feels like a winner every time they take the field, even when they trail late in games. Snitker is a big reason for that optimism and resilience, and is deserving of this award yet again.

Demetrius: Brian Snitker really might win this award for back-to-back seasons. Right now, if you look at the rest of the NL and who’s successful, you won’t see any surprises in Chicago or Los Angeles. This has been yet another season where the Braves are defying the odds. While this season may be less of a surprise, it’s still a big shock to see the Braves with a fairly comfortable lead at the top of the division and one of only two NL teams at the break with 50 wins so far. The end-of-season award normally goes to managers of teams who are overperforming with respect to what was predicted in the offseason. The Braves are flying high right now, and Snitker is going to receive recognition for that if this continues and right now he’s the main choice for being Manager of the Year at this point.

Aaron: We might not like everything Brian Snitker does, but he gets his team to perform at a consistent winning level. Which is crazy when you think that the Braves top 2 starters have been complete non-factors so far and a shaky bullpen. Also, the same can’t be said for many other managers, including a certain three just within the division. There are always challenges, and none of that seems to both Snitker, who just seems unflappable.

Shawn: Brian Snitker. He may not be the most tactical or strategic manager, but he has pushed mostly all the right buttons this year. The recovery of the bullpen and the emergence of the offense have been works of art in spite of a starting staff that has gotten worse over time. The Braves are currently the clear second best team in the National League, something very few thought was possible three months ago.

Kris: Brian Snitker. You can question tactical decisions for just about every manager in the league. We might not always agree with the route that Snitker takes but there is no questioning the value of his leadership and his ability to control and motivate the Braves’ clubhouse.

Who is your midseason pick for American League Manager of the Year?

Ivan: For essentially the same reason as above, Rocco Baldelli of the Twins is the man here. The Twins aren’t just a feel-good 2019 story, they are perhaps the 2019 story, adapting their gameplan to take advantage of the era and run environment and grind opposition into a fine chalky dust again and again and again. The AL has largely played out as expected so far, so between Baldelli and Kevin Cash there really isn’t even anyone else to consider here, and Baldelli’s club has been more productive and hasn’t yet stumbled -- the Rays had a sub-.500 June.

Scott: I love Kevin Cash in Tampa Bay, and the way he thinks outside of the box on the nightly basis has changed the game. Rocco Baldelli is another strong choice, and even Aaron Boone deserves credit for steering the ship with so many Yankees injuries.

Eric: Rocco Baldelli is my choice here. I have a soft spot for the Twins since my first real baseball memory is the Braves-Twins World Series, but the bigger consideration is that the Twins are annihilating teams right now and have come out of nowhere to do it. Some thought they could be competitive this season, but no one saw them establishing themselves as prohibitive favorites in the AL Central by the All-Star break.

Anthony: I’m torn between Kevin Cash and Rocco Baldelli. Both are worthy in my opinion, but I give the edge to Cash because of the division. While the Twins have been a surprise and tons of fun to watch, the Rays have the lowest payroll in baseball and have the two highest payrolls to compete against in their division. Perhaps the most impressive things about the Rays being in the playoff hunt is that they’re in it while their reigning Cy Young winner, Blake Snell, has posted a 4.70 ERA.

Dillon: Aaron Boone. Yes he manages the Yankees, who have a payroll that exceeds the Twins and Rays combined, but injuries have completely reset expectations for New York this season. Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge have combined for 149 at-bats, while Aaron Hicks, Miguel Andujar, and Didi Gregorius have combined for 288. That is over half the starting lineup coming into the season, not to mention the loss of ace Luis Severino for the entire first-half. Their success is a testament to the depth of the Yankees, but Boone has done an incredible job plugging in the right players, and has the club 6½ games up in the AL East at the break.

Demetrius: I have to agree with Dillon. Aaron Boone has received an absolutely disgusting hand when it comes to injuries. Yet, the Yankees are still leading the AL East and haven’t really missed a beat while they have been nowhere near full-strength. Rocco Baldelli and the Twins may have come out of nowhere to fly as high as they are in the AL Central, but there is absolutely no reason for the Yankees to be where they are right now when you consider all of the injury woes that they have had to deal with. They’re also doing this in the AL East, which has been a super-competitive division when it comes to the top three teams. I’m very impressed with the Yankees and Aaron Boone deserves plenty of credit for keeping that ship sailing when there have been some serious storms.

MLB: Minnesota Twins at Kansas City Royals Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Aaron: As much as I loathe the Yankees, they just keep winning despite all the injuries. Aaron Boone more than deserves Manager of the Year.

Shawn: I want to say the clear choice is Rocco Baldelli, but he is not. It is Aaron Boone. He role in developing younger players to produce as his stars were injured has been incredible. The Yankees are not the cop out answer this time. Boone arguably has done one of the better managing jobs over the past decade this year.

Kris: Rocco Baldelli would be the easy choice but at the halfway mark I am going with Tampa’s Kevin Cash. The Rays are a team that seems to get value out of every single player on their roster and the credit for that Cash. Not to mention they seem to find a way into contention every season in a powerhouse division.