If you’re tired of hearing about Aaron Judge, we have two responses: One, you got jaded pretty quickly; and two, that’s unfortunate, because he’s not going away any time soon.
The New York Yankees slugger has taken Major League Baseball by storm this season, transforming from a folk tale to a very real offensive force capable of hitting baseballs a very, very long way.
There’s still plenty of season left, but Judge appears poised to garner some serious hardware when the 2017 campaign is complete. He’s not alone, though. With the league at the unofficial midseason point after Tuesday’s All-Star Game, let’s take a look back at the first half of the season and hand out our midseason awards for the American and National Leagues.
MANAGER OF THE YEAR
American League: A.J. Hinch, Houston Astros. Sure, you could give Paul Molitor some love for pulling the Minnesota Twins out of the basement. But the Astros have been so much better than every other AL squad that Hinch deserves this award. He has gotten creative with super reliever Chris Devenski, helping Houson roll right along through injuries to Dallas Keuchel and Lance McCullers Jr., and has pushed the right lineup buttons on the best offense in baseball.
National League: Torey Lovullo, Arizona Diamondbacks. Lovullo’s first season in Arizona has gone better than anyone could have expected to date. The D’backs have ridden a balanced lineup and an excellent rotation to the third-best record in baseball at the break, a remarkable achievement for a team that won just 69 games last season.
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
AL: Aaron Judge, OF, Yankees. Were you expecting someone else? Judge arguably is the best hitter in baseball right now, and his video game stats — 30 home runs in 84 games! — become more absurd when you consider he’s a 25-year-old rookie. Sorry, Andrew Benintendi: This award is Judge’s to lose.
NL: Cody Bellinger, 1B, Los Angeles Dodgers. If you want awards drama, don’t look to the Rookie of the Year races. Bellinger is a similar lock for the NL honor thanks to the 25 dingers he has mashed in just 257 at-bats. (That’s essentially one homer for every 10 at-bats, which is nuts.) Bellinger also has 58 RBIs, and the next-closest NL rookie, Josh Bell, has 44. So, yeah.
AL: Chris Sale, LHP, Boston Red Sox. Jason Vargas technically has more wins and a lower ERA. But Sale has undoubtedly been the AL’s most dominant pitcher. The lanky left-hander leads the majors with a ridiculous 178 strikeouts, exactly 100 more than Vargas, and his blistering 0.90 WHIP is tops in the AL. Oh, and he’s also pitching in one of the toughest divisions in baseball.
NL: Max Scherzer, RHP, Washington Nationals. Another no-brainer here. Scherzer leads NL pitchers in virtually every notable category, entering the break with a 2.10 ERA, 173 strikeouts and a silly 0.78 WHIP. It takes a lot to put up better numbers than Clayton Kershaw, but right now, Scherzer is doing just that.
MOST VALUABLE PLAYER
AL: Aaron Judge, Yankees. Let’s face it: New York wouldn’t be close to this good without Judge. The 6-foot-7 behemoth is a legitimate Triple Crown candidate, ranking first in the AL in home runs (30) and OPS (1.139), second in RBIs (66) and third in batting average (.329). And if you’re talking intangibles, he’s generated a serious buzz around a Yankees club that was supposed to be a couple years away from contending.
NL: Paul Goldschmidt, 1B, Diamondbacks. Let’s check in on Arizona’s batting leaders, shall we?
That’s a whole lotta Goldschmidt. The perpetually underrated All-Star is right there with the NL’s best in all of the major hitting categories, and more importantly, he has been the offensive catalyst for the D’backs’ 2017 turnaround. It’s about time “Goldy” got some love.
Thumbnail photo via Jasen Vinlove/USA TODAY Sports Images