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  • Handing Out Twins First Half Awards

    Welcome to the unofficial midpoint of the 2014 Twins season. After teasing fans for different portions of the first half, the Twins find themselves in a familiar position at the break, last place in the AL Central. The Twins enter the break six games under .500 and 10.5 games behind the Detroit Tigers for the top spot in the division.

    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 preseason picks 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 who is the epitome of the award winner 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.

    Photo by Jesse Johnson

    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 disappointed 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 the other tools to be part of the Twins long-term rebuilding process.

    Johan Santana Pitcher of the First Half: Phil Hughes
    Preseason Pick: Ricky Nolasco

    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
    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 were both 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 to this point.

    Rod Carew Rookie of the First Half: Danny Santana
    Preseason Pick: Josmil Pinto

    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 number 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.
    Comments 4 Comments
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      We talked about this on tonight's Twins Hangouts... My picks were...

      MVP - Kurt Suzuki (just ahead of Dozier)

      Pitcher of the Year - I went with Hughes. Jeremy went with Glen Perkins. I commented that Fien has been better than Perkins this year... and that's not a knock on Perkins... Fien has been excellent!
    1. Kirby_Waved_At_Me's Avatar
      Kirby_Waved_At_Me -
      I'd like to create an award for Eduardo Escobar. Something like the "Nick Punto award" for providing more value than anyone expected at the beginning of the year?

      I hope the Twins can also have a player that gets the "Shannon Stewart award" for best midseason addition - say if Morales steps up. Or if the Twins get someone back for Correia/Willingham/Suzuki/etc. that has a great 2015. Fuld, I suppose, is a candidate right now if he can continue to hold off the regression gnome for another month or two.
    1. TheLeviathan's Avatar
      TheLeviathan -
      Great picks. As good as Suzuki has been, the impact Dozier has on the offense is crazy. When he goes cold, the whole team can't score runs. When he gets hot, they put them up in bunches.
    1. highlander's Avatar
      highlander -
      Love the idea of naming them after former Twins greats. I would choose Kaat over Santana though.
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