The MLB All Star break is upon us. For those of us who eat, sleep, and breathe baseball it’s a four day period that feels as long as the off season. It also means no daily fantasy sports action unless you’re into golf, NASCAR, or the WNBA. I’ve dabbled, but don’t know any sport enough to really commit. To pass the time, the staff at DFSR – Daily Fantasy Sports Rankings decided to pass the time by debating our midseason awards picks. We each chose a player in three categories (MVP, Cy Young, and Biggest bust)and made the case for them. Below I present the submissions for my nominees. If you’d like to read the full articles, the links are posted below.
Most Valuable Player
Joey Votto – CIN
.315 / .427 / .631 – 3.8 WAR
26 HR / 68 RBI / 65 Runs Scored
Sure, some of these other guys listed here are far better candidates as runners-up to Judge, but the other guys got to them first, so that gives me a chance to throw some love to an underdog in the race. As we roll into the All-Star break, Joey Votto not only leads all qualified first basemen with a .433 wOBA that also places him second overall behind only Judge. As Doug noted above, Votto joins Betts, Rizzo, and Pedroia in having at least ten more walks than strikeouts, but Votto leads the pack with a whopping +19 differential. That type of patience is hard to come by, particularly with a power hitter, and if power is what whets your MVP whistle, don’t overlook the longball. Now in his tenth full season, Votto has gone yard 26 times in 87 games. This is not only enough to have him ranked third overall at the break but also has him well on pace to crush his previous high of 37 set back in 2010.
Probably the biggest thing going against Joey is the fact that he plays for the Reds, who currently dwell in the basement of the NL Central, and probably won’t finish much better. That’s more so a reflection of the team and certainly shouldn’t be held against a player who is on pace for putting up some career high numbers ten seasons in. We still have a lot of baseball left to play, but if he can continue riding the pace he is currently on, once the season wraps, Joey Votto should definitely warrant conversation in the race for MVP.
Corey Kluber – CLE
7-3, 11.86 K/9
2.80 ERA / 2.65 xFIP
A couple of weeks back while writing the picks article for the next day, I used the term “Kershawesque” to describe Corey Kluber. While Sale and Scherzer are arguably having solid seasons, and rightfully so lead the pack in their respective leagues in the race for the Cy Young award, there is a strong case to be made for Corey Kluber, and I’m not quite so sure the AL race can begin and end in Boston.
Kluber possesses the lowest xFIP among qualified starters at 2.65 and is right there with Sale and Scherzer trailing just behind them with a 33.5 K% and walking only 6.1% of the batters he faces. He hits the break with 7 wins under his belt through 13 starts and 88.1 innings pitched. He may take a knock for missing time on the DL earlier in the season, sitting out most of May with a back issue, but he only trails the other guys by 5 starts which over the course of a full season shouldn’t factor a big difference in overall performance. While the Indians claimed his back was the cause of his missed time, one could argue he also had a bionic arm implanted as well, since returning on June 1st, Kluber has a 1.24 ERA, a .69 WHIP, 74 K’s, and only 8 BB in 51 innings pitched. Should this type of performance hold up through the second half of the season, the AL pitcher of the month of June may very well earn the title of AL pitcher of the season, AKA 2017 Cy Young winner.
Rick Porcello – BOS
4-11, 8.22 K/9
4.75 ERA / 4.35 xFIP
I’m a Phillies fan. I know a thing or two about busts. However, in this sense we’re more so looking to someone that came into the season with big expectations, and instead, to date has delivered a dud of a season. No one expected anything from the Phillies this season from the jump. So when the 2016 Cy Young award winner has only four wins through 19 starts at the 2017 All-Star break, now we’re talking bust with a capital B-U-S-T.
Now of course wins and losses are not all we factor in when looking at the mark of a starting pitcher. Personally, I’m not a fan of the whole win/loss statistic anyway, but there is so much more we can look at here when making the case for Porcello as having a bust of a first half. First, let’s dive into the K factor. Porcello hits the break with 8.22K/9. This is about .5 higher than where he finished last season, and nearly two whole batters higher than his career number. That’s impressive, right? Well, if we switch over to K%, his current 20.8% is down from last season’s 21.2% which tells us that he is seeing more batters, but striking out fewer. So, if he’s not striking out all those additional batters, what is becoming of them? Well, His walk percentage is currently up from 3.6% at the end of last season to 4.6% now, and his BABIP is up from an impressive .269 last season to .346 at the break enough to rank fourth worst among qualified pitchers, and while some of that can be attributed to the defense around him as the team’s BABIP is up 20 points as a whole, only Rick himself can take the blame for the long balls. Porcello finished 2015 with a career-high 1.31 HR/9 before settling back down to 0.93 last year, and currently is sitting at a potential new career mark of 1.43. If you can’t keep it in the yard, your season is assuredly going to suffer.
There’s still plenty of time for Porcello to turn things around. His ERA, though 1.60 higher than last season’s career low, is only 0.51 above his career average, so while he’s certainly dealing with some struggles, he isn’t performing horribly, but as the reigning Cy Young winner, I certainly expected better, and hope to see better as we roll into the second half and head towards the pennant race.
There you have my thoughts on the top overall player, the top pitcher, and the biggest letdown at the halfway point of the MLB season. If you agree or disagree with any of my choices feel free to let me know, and if you would like to see who the other guys chose for their awards here are the links to the full postings: