The All-Star break is a time to exhale, not to mention a moment to look back on the first three months of the season and what could happen in the last three.
It’s also midseason awards time and they could change dramatically between now and Oct. 1.
The Kansas City Royals are a middling team, still in the playoff chase but not considered in the eyes of the experts to be a contender. They have endured a wild raft of streaks, both good and bad, which is one reason they’re treading around the .500 mark.
Here are my Royals winners for the first half:
MVP: Eric Hosmer. Ned Yost writes in Hosmer’s name every day and knows if he doesn’t contribute with the bat, he certainly will with the glove. I’d like to see him try to pull those inside pitches a little more. A guy with that violent of swing should be good for 30 homers.
MVP Runner-up: Salvador Perez. Perez is batting .283 with 14 homers and 41 RBIs, robust numbers for a player who has little regard for the strike zone. Sometimes he gets too pull-happy and forgets to hit the ball the other way. He’s the second-best defensive catcher in the game next to St. Louis’ Yadier Molina.
• Biggest Surprise — Given how many players have been pressed into service because of all the injuries, there’s plenty of candidates. But Cheslor Cuthbert has far exceeded anyone’s expectations of taking over for Mike Moustakas, who was lost for the year after playing in just 27 games. Cuthbert has provided much more pop than expected and may actually be an upgrade over Moustakas at third as he has a better arm and maybe more range.
• Biggest Surprise Runner-up — “Two-hit Whit” Merrifield has done a nice job since taking over for the departed Omar Infante. He’s hitting .290 and has a number of two-hit games, though as the All-Star break approached it appeared the league was starting to find some holes in his swing. He can play all over. I worry that he’ll wear down unless Yost starts to give him time off.
• Best Pitcher — Wade Davis. I don’t think there’s really any argument and Davis has done it despite being carefully used by Yost. Hopefully Davis’ forearm strain isn’t too serious because he’s the one Royal who can’t be replaced.
• Best Pitcher Runner-up — You’d think it would be Davis’ complement, Kelvin Herrera, but I’m going with Danny Duffy. Banished to the bullpen before the season, he was reinserted into the starting rotation out of necessity and has been nothing short of brilliant, not to mention the Royals’ most dependable starter. Who would have thunk that before the season?
• Worst Pitcher — The candidates are many as the breakdown of the pitching staff has been the underlying problem, even more than the erratic offense. Chris Young gets the nod as he has fallen apart after being given a two-year deal based on his 2015 season, which was spectacular. I don’t know if Young has just lost it or is tipping his pitches because he can’t keep the ball in the yard.
• Worst Pitcher Runner-up — Yordano Ventura. I thought all his silliness and machismo was past him after his tremendous second half of the 2015 season. But he’s reverted to his wildly inconsistent ways and childish behavior. I have two words for Ventura — grow up.
• Most Disappointing Player — Hands down Alex Gordon. Royals fans praised management after it rewarded him for his loyalty and defense with a $72 million, four-year deal. But he started slow, suffered a hand injury, and since he has come back has barely hit .200. Gordon got real old, real fast and that deal is starting to look like an albatross.
• Most Disappointing Player Runner-up — Omar Infante didn’t even make to midseason and the Royals are paying him id="mce_marker"1 million to sit at home. Another guy whose skills eroded quickly.
• Player Most Likely to Break Out — Gordon. Despite his poor first half, there’s no way he can be this bad for an entire year.