Major League Baseball midseason report
Most valuable player
National League: Veteran Colorado Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki (.345, 21 home runs, 52 runs batted in) is a contender not only for MVP but also for the triple crown. He leads the league in batting average, is tied for the lead in home runs and is 11 back in runs batted in. But what if the Rockies finish last or near the last in the NL West? That would surely hurt Tulowitzki’s MVP chances.
Also in the hunt, Giancarlo Stanton of the Miami Marlins, who leads the league in RBIs with 63 and shares the lead in home runs with Tulowitzki, and Andrew McCutchen of the Pittsburgh Pirates (.324, 17 home runs, 61 RBIs). And don’t forget about the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Yasiel Puig (.309, 12 home runs, 52 RBIs).
American League: The Los Angeles Angels’ Mike Trout (.310, 22 home runs, 73 RBIs) is, for the third time in his three full seasons, again a front-runner. But the outfielder has plenty of competition. Toronto Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista (.292, 17 home runs, 54 RBIs) also combines average with power and was the top vote getter for the All-Star game with 5.9 million votes.
Another candidate is Nelson Cruz of the Baltimore Orioles, who is second in the AL with 28 home runs and 74 RBIs.
NL: Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw (11-2, league-leading 1.78 earned-run average) has a no-hitter to go with his two previous Cy Young awards, and has reeled off eight consecutive victories. He’s probably the front-runner.
The St. Louis Cardinals’ Adam Wainwright is second to Kershaw in ERA (1.83) and is tied for most victories (12) with Cincinnati’s Alfredo Simon. Simon’s teammate Johnny Cueto also is in the mix with a 10-6 record, 2.13 ERA and 141 strikeouts, which is second in the league.
AL: The New York Yankees’ Masahiro Tanaka (12-4, 2.51 ERA) was a favorite not only for a Cy Young Award but also for rookie of the year. He was an All-Star game selection, but the right-hander sat out the game after going on the disabled list because of a partially torn ligament in his right elbow.
The Detroit Tigers’ Max Scherzer is threatening to win consecutive Cy Young awards. He’s tied for second in victories (11) in the league and is third in strikeouts (146).
Toronto’s Mark Buehrle is in the AL’s top five in ERA (2.64) and victories (10).
Rookie of the year
NL: If the award was based on stolen bases, it likely would go to Cincinnati’s Billy Hamilton, whose 38 stolen bases are second in the league to the 43 by the Dodgers’ Dee Gordon. Hamilton is batting .285 with 19 doubles and 38 RBIs.
Another contender is shortstop Chris Owings of the Arizona Diamondbacks (.277, six home runs, 21 RBIs).
AL: Tanaka was a favorite but the pitcher’s sore right elbow might derail what otherwise could have been a sensational rookie season.
Other contenders are Houston Astros outfielder George Springer (.233, 19 home runs, 50 RBIs) and Chicago White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu, who leads the AL in home runs with 29 and is tied for third in RBIs with 73.
RACE FOR THE FLAG
There is little doubt which are the toughest divisions in each league. Who will win those divisions is the question:
The NL Central is the only division with four teams playing above .500 — Milwaukee, St. Louis, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh. The Brewers lead the way, but they have lost eight of their last 10 games and all four clubs are separated by only 3½ games.
The AL West features the teams with the two best records, Oakland and the Angels, who trail the A’s by 1½ games. Third-place Seattle is playing at a very respectable .537 clip but is eight games out of first place.
The most surprising division race is in the AL East, where Baltimore and Toronto lead the pack. The Orioles last year finished 12 games out of first place and Toronto finished last, 23 games out.
The Blue Jays this year are getting solid results from Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion, who is among the AL leaders with 26 home runs and 70 RBIs. But Encarnacion is on the disabled list because of a quadriceps injury and Toronto lost eight of 10 games before the All-Star break.