The first half of the 2018 MLB season has come to a close. It’s hard to believe three months from now, only 10 teams will continue their seasons in a quest for a World Series title. The season has been an exciting one up to this point and playoff races look more exciting as the season winds down.
With the first half of the season over, it’s time to hand out the awards and accolades to players and teams. The competition is fierce as many players have put up brilliant numbers in the first half and many teams have impressed and disappointed fans and the league. With that said, let’s hand out our first half awards for the 2018 season.
1 AL MVP: Mookie Betts
2018 stats: 23 HR, 51 RBI, .362 AVG
Boston Red Sox outfielder Mookie Betts has had an incredible bounce-back season after struggling offensively for a good portion of last year. Even with a two-week DL stint in June, Betts leads MLB in hitting at .362, and by a good margin. The next best hitter in the league is Houston Astros second baseman Jose Altuve at .335. Betts’ MVP-caliber first half has been the difference maker for the Red Sox in the AL East race, with the club sitting four-and-a-half games ahead of the New York Yankees for first place.
Not only is Betts hitting nearly 100 points better than last year, but his 23 home runs are one shy of his total from all of last season. He’s also recorded two three-home run games this season, both of which came in April and gave him four for his career. At 25 years old, Betts is already putting up Hall of Fame type numbers and achievements and 2018 has looked an awful lot like his near-MVP 2016 campaign. With the Red Sox in first place and looking to win their third consecutive AL East title, Betts is more than worthy of a first-half MVP award.
2 NL MVP: Scooter Gennett
2018 stats: 16 HR, 62 RBI, .328 AVG
There are plenty of arguments that can be made for about every NL player that made the All-Star team be awarded the first half MVP. What can’t be argued, though, is how brilliant Cincinnati Reds second baseman Scooter Gennett has been since arriving last season at the end of Spring Training. Gennett has made himself a household name in The Queen City and his dominant first half has helped a Reds team who fired manager Bryan Price in April turn things around completely.
Gennett leads the NL in hitting at .328 and is sixth in RBI with 62 at the end of the first half. Gennett’s hot start has been overlooked by the Reds' place in the standings but since intern manager Jim Riggleman took over for Price, the Reds are 38-37. The Reds have a scary power-hitting lineup already and Gennett’s brilliance at the plate has made the Reds a late force to reckon with going into the second half. A newly rediscovered Gennett not only his first taste of the All-Star Game this week but he’ll also take away the first half MVP Award.
3 AL Cy Young: Blake Snell
2018 stats: 12-5, 2.27 ERA, 1.07 WHIP
Like the MVP awards, there are many cases that could be made for various pitchers in both leagues but nobody has been as dominant as Tampa Bay Rays phenom Blake Snell. With 12 wins, Snell is tied with Cleveland Indians ace Corey Kluber for the second most wins in the AL and his 1.07 WHIP is eighth in the AL. It’s also worth mentioning that Snell’s dominance has been a key reason the rebuilding Rays are above .500 going into the All-Star Break.
Snell nearly got snubbed and didn't get to go to the All-Star Game this week but thanks to an injury to Kluber, he got a well-deserved All-Star nod for the first time in his young career. If Snell can continue his first-half dominance in the second half, it will be hard for the Rays to rebuild in the traditional sense of selling off pieces for prospects. At this rate, the Rays will once again sit around .500 and be in third place in the AL East like last year. Snell may not be a finalist at the end of the year for a Cy Young, but he’s sorely underrated and overlooked and the first half Cy Young Award couldn’t go to a better pitcher.
4 NL Cy Young: Aaron Nola
2018 stats: 12-3, 2.30 ERA, 0.98 WHIP
Max Scherzer would have been the easy choice here, but the Washington Nationals sit a game under .500 going into the All-Star Break and in third place in the NL East. Young Philadelphia Phillies ace Aaron Nola has had a better year all around and his team sits in first place for the first time since 2011. His 0.98 WHIP is third best in the NL behind Scherzer and New York Mets ace Jacob deGrom, but his 12-3 record is the best record among NL starters right now.
Nola’s early season success has been the force for the Phillies, as they’re a year early with winning. Because of Nola, the Phillies are in the hunt for a big bat, or arm, at the trade deadline at the end of July. Nola is among the league leaders in every major department for the Cy Young Award. His opponent batting average of .199 is also third-best in the league and his 131 strikeouts rank fourth. If he continues this trend in the second half, there’d be little to go against his cause for the real award at the end of the year.
5 AL Rookie of the First Half: Gleyber Torres
2018 stats: 15 HR, 42 RBI, .294 AVG
Yankees second baseman Gleyber Torres is on the shelf with a hip injury, causing him to miss the All-Star Game, but he’s been the best rookie in the American League by far. Teammate Miguel Andujar has been good himself, but Torres stole the spotlight in the Bronx before landing on the DL earlier this month. His 15 home runs and 42 RBI are best among AL rookies and his 64 hits are second behind Andujar.
Torres has left a mark on the Yankees since coming up in late April and his injury hasn’t helped the club either. The Yankees are 6-5 since July 4, when Torres last played, and that includes a pair of four-game series splits with the last place Baltimore Orioles and the inconsistent AL Central-leading Cleveland Indians. The Yankees are longing for Torres to return, but he’s been the best rookie in the AL up to this point in the season.
6 NL Rookie of the First Half: Juan Soto
2018 Stats: 9 HR, 28 RBI, .301 AVG
Juan Soto appears to have a bright future with the Washington Nationals. With Bryce Harper’s struggles at the plate, Soto has torn the cover off the ball since his debut on May 15. Even if Harper leaves the team this offseason, Soto will be the guy the front office can build a competitive team around for years to come. Even if Harper returns Soto will still be in the picture for the future.
At 19 years old, Soto is doing the same things Harper did as a rookie but the Nationals as a team sit at .500 entering the second half. He’s hitting for average, showing off raw power, and driving in runs consistently. In 205 plate appearances, Soto has a .415 OBP and a .526 slugging percentage to go with his .301 batting average. Though his strikeout rate sits at 19.5% his walk rate of 15% shows the youngster has plate discipline that most rookies don’t have, especially rookies that aren’t in their twenties yet.
7 AL Manager of the First Half: Bob Melvin
2018 record: 54-42
The Oakland A’s last three years were forgettable ones, and many questioned why the club was keeping veteran skipper Bob Melvin at the helm during those years. Now, in 2018, Melvin seems to be the right man for the job for leading a newly rebuilt A’s team. Oakland hasn’t reached the postseason since 2014 when they lost the AL Wild Card Game to the Kansas City Royals. Over the last three seasons, they’ve posted records of 68-94, 69-93, and 75-87.
Now sitting at 54-42 and slowly gaining ground on the Seattle Mariners in the AL West, the A’s have a chance to stun all of baseball like they did in 2012 and surge into the postseason with a club that was solely built through the farm system. Led by veterans Jed Lowrie and Khris Davis, the A’s have done it all on the field. They hit home runs, play good defense, and pitch well consistently. The A’s are also 20-6 since June 16. Melvin has two Manager of the Year awards under his belt, the last one coming with the A’s in 2012, and if Oakland keeps this upward trend going, he could win the actual award at the end of the year.
8 NL Manager of the First Half: Gabe Kapler
2018 record: 53-42
For the first time since 2011, the Philadelphia Phillies will go into the All-Star Break leading their division. What started off as a bumpy road for manager Gabe Kapler has quickly turned into an all-around good start for a first-year skipper. With the Phillies leading the Atlanta Braves by half a game in the division, they’re in a position to make a splash at the upcoming trade deadline. They were in the running for Orioles shortstop Manny Machado before he was recently dealt to the Los Angeles Dodgers, and have also been linked to Texas Rangers starting pitcher Cole Hamels who broke into the majors with the Phillies in 2006.
The Phillies are a year early with winning and thanks to Kapler’s leadership and analytical approach to managing, the club could reach the postseason for the first time since 2011. Many of the first year managers have enjoyed successful starts to their careers but Kapler is the only one in the NL that has gotten his team through a rough stretch and stayed in the postseason race. Baseball hasn’t been this fun in the City of Brotherly Love for nearly a decade, and now the Phillies look to have a bright future with their skipper in the horizon.
9 Most Surprising Team: Tampa Bay Rays
2018 Record: 49-46
Even though the Rays are in rebuild mode, the club has still stayed above .500. The Rays have been an impressive team to watch, from experimenting with starting games with relievers to giving their top prospects a chance to shine on the big stage. Most rebuilding clubs wouldn’t be in the conversation for a postseason spot, but the third-place Rays have kept themselves in the mix up to this point. It’s not likely Tampa Bay will make the postseason, as they’ve put star catcher Wilson Ramos on the trade block, but they’ve surprised everyone, including their front office, up to this point in the year.
It’s disappointing that the Rays will not be buyers at the deadline but there’s nothing to be ashamed of with this team. Manager Kevin Cash is more than likely going to have the same job going into next season and many of their rookies this year will go into next season with this year on their belts.
10 Most Disappointing Team: St. Louis Cardinals
2018 Record: 48-46
Historically, the Cardinals are one of the most successful sports franchises in all the four major sports leagues in the United States. In fact, they’re so successful the last time they went three straight seasons without making the playoffs was 1997 through 1999. The Cardinals have failed to make the postseason in each of the last two seasons and after a mediocre start to the year, they’re in danger yet again to miss the playoffs for the third consecutive season.
At 48-46, the front office felt the need to change leadership right before the All-Star Break. Manager Mike Matheny was fired on Saturday after the team’s 8-2 loss to the Reds, ending a six-and-a-half year tenure. It was the first time the Cardinals fired a manager in the middle of the season since Joe Torre in 1995. The Cardinals have sorely underachieved this season. With the Milwaukee Brewers and Chicago Cubs boasting better teams going into Spring Training, the Cardinals made the appropriate moves this offseason to compete in the division. They acquired outfielder Marcell Ozuna from the Miami Marlins via trade and signed closer Greg Holland during Spring Training, but neither player has lived up to expectations.
The Cardinals are in danger of missing the postseason once again this year, and if things don’t go well in 2018, the club could find themselves in a rebuild mode next season. For being a team that has 11 World Series titles, it's rare to see St. Louis struggle over the course of a season, which is why they’ve been the most disappointing ball club through half the 2018 season.
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