MLB Storylines: Midseason Awards

American League

Most Valuable Player: Brandon Lowe | 2B | Tampa Bay Rays

Yes, Brandon Lowe. Not Mike Trout, Aaron Judge, or Alex Bregman. Right now, Brandon Lowe is emerging as a leader for the first-place Rays, and as one of the better players in the American League. Even after surpassing the 100 plate appearance mark, Lowe is still sporting an OPS north of 1.000. In addition to his nine home runs and 25 runs batted in, Lowe also has seven doubles and two triples. Lastly, almost nobody in the league has a better Barrel% than Lowe. In other words, virtually nobody is combining optimal exit velocities and launch angles more than Lowe is at the moment.

Cy Young: Shane Bieber | SP | Cleveland Indians

Despite an impressive 2019, in which he finished fourth in Cy Young voting and was awarded MVP of the All-Star Game, Shane Bieber entered 2020 absent on most lists of elite starting pitchers. That fact has since changed. His seven starts in 2020 have catapulted Bieber in the eyes of most as arguably the game’s best. Bieber is 6-0 with a 1.35 ERA and 0.814 WHIP. He has 75 strikeouts to just nine walks. He’s surpassed 10 strikeouts in five of his seven starts and managed to complete at least six innings in every outing. He gave up two runs in six innings on Tuesday against Minnesota and his ERA and WHIP went up. He’s as dominant as they come right now and he deserves the Cy Young at the halfway point.

Rookie of the Year: Kyle Lewis | CF | Seattle Mariners

There’s a lot of excitement over Luis Robert, the new center fielder for the White Sox, but Seattle’s center fielder has rapidly made a name for himself in 2020. Kyle Lewis has a 1.014 OPS in his 130 plate appearances in 2020. One big improvement for Lewis over his brief 2019 MLB debut is his patience at the plate. Overall, his Chase% and Swing% are both down, leading to an impressive 13.8% walk-rate and 0.446 on-base percentage.

Manager of the Year: Rick Renteria | Chicago White Sox

In his four previous seasons as a manager, three with the White Sox and one with the Cubs, Rick Renteria failed to finish a season above .500. However, in 2020, Renteria’s White Sox are well on their way to an above .500 record and a playoff birth. Renteria is balancing a playoff-caliber team with a great combination of youth (Yoan Moncada, Luis Robert, Eloy Jiminez, Lucas Giolito, Tim Anderson) and veterans (Yasmani Grandal, Dallas Keuchel, Jose Abreu, Alex Colome) that is scarily reminiscent of the 2019 AL Central winning Minnesota Twins. They’ve won nine out of their last ten and have a better run differential than anyone else in the American League.

National League

Most Valuable Player: Fernando Tatís Jr. | SS | San Diego Padres

The Fernando Tatis Jr. era of the San Diego Padres has arrived. The young phenom, who is barely old enough to legally drink alcohol, is well on his way to an MVP award. He’s on pace for a 10 WAR season across a full-length 162-game schedule, is tied for the league-lead in home runs at 12, and is sixth in OPS at 1.032. Biggest of all though, his swing-on-3-0-grand-slam controversy catapulted the Padres to a seven-game win streak and has them primed for their first playoff appearance since 2006.

Cy Young: Yu Darvish | SP | Chicago Cubs

Yu Darvish has had a tumultuous road to recovery since undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2015. After quietly returning to form in 2019, Darvish has seemingly achieved a new level in 2020 and is leading the first-place Cubs with gaudy numbers. In his six starts, he is 5-1 with a 1.70 ERA and 0.92 WHIP. He’s struck out 44 batters to just seven walks in 37 innings of work. Outside of a shaky four-inning, three-run opening start to the season, Darvish has pitched at least six innings without giving up more than one run in his past five starts.

Rookie of the Year: Jake Cronenworth | INF | San Diego Padres

Everybody is in love with San Diego right now, and rightfully so. Fernando Tatis Jr. may be the new face of the franchise, but rookie Jake Cronenworth has quietly been a pivotal member of the playoff-bound squad. He’s appeared in 25 of their 31 games, posting a 1.010 OPS in 87 plate appearances with eight walks to just 12 strikeouts. In addition to his offensive contributions, Cronenworth has played at first, second, third, and shortstop. True defensive versatility mixed with high offensive production is a rare commodity, and the Padres are getting that from a rookie.

Manager of the Year: David Ross | Chicago Cubs

At just 43 years of age, and just four years removed from appearing as a catcher for the Cubs, David Ross has recaptured the hearts of Cubs nation. With a plus-four run differential that suggests the Cubs should be closer to .500, David Ross has the Cubs leading the NL Central division at 18-11 despite some key injuries, a slow start from a handful of middle-of-the-lineup guys, and some bullpen woes. The Cubs are well on their way to a division title. If they do win, Ross will likely be widely recognized for rallying this Cubs team that has not lived up to expectations since winning the World Series in 2016.

Zach Boeder is a high school math teacher that has a passion for sports and data journalism. Zach received a Bachelor's Degree in Mathematics and a Master's Degree in Education from the University of Arizona. He currently teaches in Saint Paul and Lives in Minneapolis with his partner Sarah, their dog Dozier, and cat Remy. Zach plans to argue for a very long time that "2020 would have been the Twins' year if baseball hadn't been shut down."

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