Tuesday, July 15, 2014
Handing Out Twins First Half Awards
Even though the team's record might not show it, there have been some positive things happening for the Twins this year. Kurt Suzuki and Phil Hughes are looking like fantastic free agent signings. Brian Dozier is in the midst of a breakout season at the plate. Even Kyle Gibson has started to look like he will be a long-term option as a starting pitcher.
At the beginning of the season I made a preseason pick about who will be the best players on the Twins in four different award categories (MVP, Best Starter, Best Reliever, Best Rookie). Each of the awards below has been named after someone that optimizes that award for the Twins organization. There are some legends from the past and even one current MLB player but all have had a significant place in Twins lore.
Harmon Killebrew First-Half MVP: Brian Dozier, 2B
Preseason Pick: Joe Mauer, 1B
Joe Mauer is always the safe pick at the beginning of the season and it seems that he has continued to disappoint in recent years. This makes it easy to look at the team and give the first half MVP to Brian Dozier. He has 10 more home runs than any other player on the roster. His 69 runs scored are the most in the American League. He also leads the team in RBI and stolen bases. All of these offensive numbers are great but he also makes some tremendous plays on the defensive side of the ball. His batting average is always going to be low but he seems to have all of the other tools to be part of the Twins long-term rebuilding process.
Johan Santana Pitcher of the First Half: Phil Hughes, RHP
Preseason Pick: Ricky Nolasco, RHP
In the preseason I had the right idea to pick one of the free agent starters the Twins had signed. However I elected to go with the wrong man. Rick Nolasco has struggled during his first 18 starts with the Twins while Phil Hughes has looked like a brand new pitcher. Hughes leads the Twins in wins, innings pitched, and WAR. He's also only walked 11 batters the entire season for a eye popping 0.81 BB/9 rate. To put that in perspective, no other Twins starter has allowed fewer than 2 BB/9. There have been some rough starts for Hughes leading into the break so it will be interesting to see what kind of pitcher he looks like at the start of the second half.
Rick Aguilera Relief Pitcher of the First Half: Casey Fien, RHP
Preseason Pick: Glen Perkins, LHP
This was one of the toughest picks to make but looking deeper at the numbers it made my decision a little easier. Casey Fien and Glen Perkins could both be considered for this award but I give the slight edge to Fien. Perkins will always strikeout more batters than Fien but Fien has been asked to fill a very important late inning role. He does a great job of limiting damage when he comes into games because almost 83% of the time he is able to leave runners on base. Perkins left on base percentage is under 65%. Fien's ERA and WHIP are both lower than Perkins and Fien has pitched the second most innings out of the bullpen behind long-man Anthony Swarzak. This will be a race to watch in the second half as both players are having good seasons up to this point.
Rod Carew Rookie of the First Half: Danny Santana, SS/OF
Preseason Pick: Josmil Pinto, C
Both Josmil Pinto and Danny Santana did some good things in the first half but my vote goes to Santana. He has seemed to be a spark plug for the line-up when he is in the game. While his natural position is in the infield, the team has been forced to move him to the outfield because of injury issues. He was able to continue to produce in the outfield as well. In 37 games, he has been a threat on the bases with six steals to his name. He also has accumulated the same amount of runs scored and RBI as Pinto in fewer plate appearances. Pinto provides the power but Santana's overall game has been a big asset to the Twins in the first half.
Now it's your turn. Who would you pick for each of the above awards? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.