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Handing Out Twins First Half Awards

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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 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.

Comments

  1. VandyTwinsFan's Avatar
    My MVP would be Suzuki. Dozier may be more exciting with the HR and steals and the flashy diving plays, but Suzuki has been the glue that has made this team work. He plays hurt, dinged up, leg falling off. If Pinto weren't up to start the season, he'd play every game. Defensively, he keeps the ball in front of the plate. It seems like the pitchers trust him and like working with him. Offensively, 25 K's in 311 plate attempts. Crazy low for this team. Highest OBP and average. 3rd in RBI after hitting up and down the lineup and in only 79 games while splitting with Pinto. Clutch hits, doubles, walks. The guy is having a career year and has made this team what it is so far.
  2. h2oface's Avatar
    MVP - Suzuki
    Pitcher - Hughes
    Relief - Perkins
    Rookie - Santana
    In this rebuild......... is there even a rookie on the active 25 right now? (except maybe Kris Johnson? Would he even count?) Doesn't seem like much of a rebuild when you look at it that way.
  3. Danchat's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by h2oface
    MVP - Suzuki
    Pitcher - Hughes
    Relief - Perkins
    Rookie - Santana
    In this rebuild......... is there even a rookie on the active 25 right now? (except maybe Kris Johnson? Would he even count?) Doesn't seem like much of a rebuild when you look at it that way.
    Yeah.... the Twins don't get the concept of a rebuild. It's not about playing aging veterans and holding back young prospects...

    Here are the Twins players on pace for having their rookie season: Josmil Pinto, Danny Santana, maybe Eric Fryer (not sure if he's already had his rookie season or if he'll play enough games), Yohan Pino (if he gets 25 more innings), possibly Michael Tonkin, and Kris Johnson if he can get more starts. (Gardy said that he's going to be in the second half rotation for now.)
  4. h2oface's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Danchat
    .......and Kris Johnson if he can get more starts. (Gardy said that he's going to be in the second half rotation for now.)
    The thing about Johnson replacing Nolasco so far......... he is doing a great impersonation of Nolasco, getting spanked and behind by 5 after a couple of innings...
  5. dakotanative's Avatar
    I find it quite interesting that the All Stars from both leagues had high praise for how nice the Minnesota fans were and they are. Over the years I have lived in 13 states and three foreign countries and my time living in the Twins Cities ranks up there as the finest living experience for both myself and my family. However, how does one reconcile Minnesota Nice with Minnesota or Upper Midwest pessimism? On the many team sites representing Minnesota sports teams one sees a continual refrain of: Twins suck; Gophers suck; T-wolves suck; Wild sucks; Vikings suck. Its like watching the movie "The Music Man" and the contrariness of Iowa. Look, I am from Minot North Dakota and I know how the environment can impact one's outlook, but I am not of the opinion that these teams suck all the time. Now the T-wolves under Kahn did suck or at least their leadership did (had to root for the poor players), but Saunders is a pro and not a newspaper reporter. The Vikings under their former committee leadership team with Childress driving the boat were hard to live with and I will always be grateful to Farve for basically telling Childress to stick where the sun don't shine. So how do I feel about the Twins? While they won 3 out of 4 years under Smith, he gutted the foundation of the team. The fans, as a whole, loved the winning and ignored the rot setting in. Today Ryan has replaced the rot, restored the foundation and is now putting up the building's structure. He is doing a fantastic job. Now that statement will get numerous cat-calls, but when one looks at his track record what he is doing should not surprise us. Calls to gut the team and play all prospects is not wise. You have to grow your talent and promote it when it is ready. Do it too soon and your odds of failure go up substantially. Look at what Billy Beane is doing by resurrecting older prospects who were promoted too soon, failed and then thrown out on the trash heap. The 1982 Twins were horrible and wonderfully talented with Hrkek, Brunansky, Launder, Viloa, and soon to join Puckett. They were horrible because Griffith went cheap and dumped all of the veterans and saddled Twins fans with a good AA team. That team was poor until McPhail brought in some veterans to settle down the wild horses. Today we have seen our team improve its record by 7-8 games over last year. We are seeing greater team work and camaraderie. What a transformation Dozier has made and to think a year or two ago in the blogs it was Dozier this and Dozier that. If the Twins had dumped him as many in the blogs had wanted where would we be? The pitching has shown considerable improvement. They are sprinkling the team with prized prospects like Santana, Pinto, Gibson, Polanco, and Arcia. If it wasn't for injuries Sano would be on the team and Buxton a late season call up. Later this season we will see May and Meyers on the team and maybe Berrios and Vargas in September for a cup of coffee. I am doubtful if Rosario gets a September call up, but one never knows. Hicks is in the process of turning it around, not unlike old Twins favorite Torri Hunter who was up and down between the major and minors until he finally figured it out. In two years our outfield will probably be: Rosario, Hicks and Buxton and our starting staff will be Meyers, May, Gibson, Berrios, Nolasco (hate to say it but Nolasco will rebound and Stewart and Thorpe are too far away). Despite an occasional prospect failure, Ryan has done a super job in turning around the farm system and in setting up a future in which the Twins will be a dominate team for years to come.
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