Wrapping up the National League, let’s take a look at who our NL East writers have chosen as their squad’s first half most valuable players.
Atlanta Braves – Brian McCann
If he played in New York or Boston everyone would be raving about him but in Atlanta he’s largely flown under the national radar. This year however, as we close in on the halfway The Braves are in second place largely due to Brian McCann. A healthy Joe Mauer may one day challenge him for the crown and in a few years Buster Posey may have played long enough to be considered (less than one year in a job doesn’t make you the best) but right now, today, this year and arguably for the last two years, McCann is without question the best all around catcher in baseball. He came to camp 20 pounds lighter this spring and noticeably more agile. That showed up in his defense, particularly blocking pitches in the dirt. His handling of pitchers has improved and the staff has nothing but praise for his game calling and help during critical periods in a game. McCann could always hit but this year he’s been more dangerous when the chips (and Chipper Jones) were down. With Dan Uggla struggling, Jason Heyward injured and Chipper playing at about 80%, McCann became the man for the Braves. He leads the team in homers with 14 (10 of the 14 came with the Braves behind or the game tied) and RBI with 47. With RISP he’s 20 for 56 with three homers for a line of .345/.474/.552. With 2 out and RISP he’s 10 for 26 with 12 RBI and a line of .385/.556/.462. He’s even stolen two bases. On May 17th he came off the bench to hit a home run that tied the game in the ninth, and then he won it in the 11th with a walk off homer. On June 12th in Houston he took Brandon Lyon deep in a tie game to put the Braves in front for good and on the 13th Brett Myers saw a 3-0 pitch land in the deep in the right field seats. Headed for his sixth consecutive All Star Game and – due solely to uninformed fan votes, the players voted him in every year – his first as a starter, McCann is finally getting the national recognition he deserves. He’s our MVP and when we head to the post season he may be the league MVP as well.
Florida Marlins – Gaby Sanchez
The Marlins first half, as disappointing as it may have been, does have an MVP to it. First baseman Gaby Sanchez is one of the few players that has both played well and played throughout the season. He lasted the longest amount of time without taking time off, has been injury-free all season, and has produced a solid .298/.372/.487 slash line, good for a .373 wOBA. His strikeout and walk rates have improved slightly since last season, but one of the biggest advantages of a player like Sanchez is that his play is consistently good; you know what he is going to do, barring variations in luck-driven stats like BABIP. He is solidly powerful, strikes out lightly, walks a decent amount, and has been a perfectly strong player for the Fish this year. Other hitters like Logan Morrison and Mike Stanton have been more impressive, but because of their missed playing time, Sanchez takes the cake.
New York Mets – Jose Reyes
It goes without saying that Jose Reyes has been the Mets most valuable player so far in 2011. The 28 year-old has posted an eye-bursting .349/.393/.525 line with 3 homeruns, 21 doubles, 15 triples, 32 RBI, 65 runs-scored, and 30 stolen bases. The shortstop has also garnered an impressive 5.1 UZR/150, which makes him a threat on both sides of the field. As most people know, Reyes will be a free agent for the first time at season’s end. While there has been much talk about the state of re-signing him (or possible trading him), regardless of the decision, Reyes has been a delight this season and since his debut in 2003.
Philadelphia Phillies – Cole Hamels
For a first place team with the best record in baseball and a 4.5-game lead in the division, the Phillies don’t have a wealth of standout stars. The offense is one sad trombone after another, but thanks to the pitching, we’re able to choke out wins without throwing too much shit at the wall. So, despite of all Placido Polanco has done to ensure an All-Star selection, we have to err on the side of the pitching.
And Roy Halladay is so good at what he does it’s basically cliché to call him a legend. So I think I’m going to go with the guy who wasn’t necessarily going to be as good as he’s been: Cole Hamels. Under constant scrutiny of assertive fans who’ve watched him grow up and brainless journalists who fart “analysis” our of their mouths, Cole has kept pace with Doc; and now that he’s not the biggest victim of zero run support (it’s now Cliff Lee) he can even get a win or two now and then. The way he can go from girly-voiced surfer dude to stone cold killer on the mound is astounding.
Washington Nationals – Michael Morse
I would say Mike Morse would be the Nationals MVP.
You can make a case with Danny Espinosa, but I like the overachieving angle of Mike Morse.
Morse blossomed into a good hitter this year, and he had more playing time with Adam LaRoche out. Morse made the most of his opportunity, and he managed to have 14 home runs and 46 RBIs. He seems to get clutch hits or key home runs when the team needs him. He seems to deliver in tight games.
Again, same can be said for Danny, but Mike’s feel-good story made me go with him.
Be sure to check out our picks for the rest of the National League’s MVPs.