The second half of the 2021 Major League Baseball season is underway — a refreshing reminder that America’s pastime is almost 100% back to normal as ballparks are filling up with fans and the completion of a 162-game season is looking good.
We’ve already played much more baseball than all of last season in what was a nightmare of a 60-game sprint — and we’ve also have had some unforgettable, headlining performances around the game.
The wonderful thing that a normal season reminds us of, however, is that baseball under normal circumstances is a marathon, not that poor excuse of a sprint we had last year.
So while we keep an eye on the standings and record books ever so diligently, we thought we’d dole out some first-half awards to get you primed and ready for the dog days of summer — and hopefully and entertaining a finish to the 2021 campaign.
Here’s what we came up with:
NL Cy Young Award: Jacob deGrom, New York Mets
Jacob deGrom has put together one of the finest first halves of pitching in the live-ball era. In fact, his numbers are trending better than Bob Gibson’s 1968 campaign — widely regarded as the best pitching season ever — when he posted a 1.12 ERA. Through 15 starts this season, deGrom has a 1.08 ERA with 146 strikeouts; both major pitching aspects that currently lead the league. But deGrom also leads the league in ERA+ at an unprecedented 363 (the live-ball era record is 210), FIP (1.23), WHIP (0.543), walks per nine innings (1.1), strikeouts per nine innings (14.3), and strikeout-to-walk ratio (13.27). This feels like more of a coronation than anything as deGrom is on track to win his third Cy Young Award in four years.
AL Cy Young Award: Lance Lynn, Chicago White Sox
The completely revitalized Lynn is finding unprecedented success with the White Sox, which is his fifth team in 10 years. The 34-year-old leads the American League with a 1.99 ERA, which is 0.30 lower than second-place Kyle Gibson of the Texas Rangers.
NL MVP: Jacob deGrom, NYM
Should deGrom sustain these historic numbers, there is no question that he should also be the National League’s Most Valuable Player. He would only be the 12th pitcher since 1956 to win the MVP and the first to do so since the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw won it in 2014.
AL MVP: Shohei Ohtani, Los Angeles Angels
We’ve never seen anything close to what Shohei Ohtani is currently doing this season. The Japanese superstar is not only one of the better pitchers in the American League with a 4-1 record, 3.49 ERA, and 87 strikeouts in 67 innings, he is also the leading power-hitter in the game right now. His 33 round-trippers in the first half led the majors — garnering Ruthian-like comparisons as he’s on pace to hit 60 home runs this season. The thing is, Ruth never excelled on the mound and the plate at the same time as Ohtani currently is.
NL Rookie of the Year: Trevor Rogers, Miami Marlins
It’s tough to stand out as a pitcher in the National League East, but Marlins rookie Trevor Rogers is doing just that in his first full MLB campaign. In 18 starts, he’s 7-6 on a bad Marlins team with an impressive 2.31 ERA to go with a WHIP of 1.066.
AL Rookie of the Year: Adolis Garcia, Texas Rangers
Garcia is making the most of his chance to play every day down in Texas after appearing in just 24 career games between 2018-2020. In 80 games this season, the 28-year-old is slashing .270/.312/.527 (.840 OPS) with 22 home runs and 62 RBI. Those runs batted in is tied for sixth-best in the entire league.
NL Most Surprising Team: San Francisco Giants
In an NL West division that was supposed to belong to the Los Angeles Dodgers yet again, the Giants went into the All-Star break in first-place — to the surprise of everyone. Bust Posey and Brandon Crawford have turned back the clock to San Francisco’s pseudo-dynasty of the 2010s while the rotation headlined by Kevin Gausman (1.73 ERA) and Anthony DeSclafani (2.68 ERA) is one of the more underrated groups in the game.
AL Most Surprising Team: Boston Red Sox
Is the return of Alex Cora providing that much of a boost in Boston? The Red Sox are back to being a threat in the AL East after a last-place finish in 2020 as they lead the pack at 55-36. The three-headed monster of Xander Bogaerts, Rafael Devers, and J.D. Martinez creates one of the more imposing lineups in baseball while a revamped bullpen has exceeded expectations.
NL Most Disappointing Team: Atlanta Braves
Even before Ronald Acuna Jr.’s season-ending injury just before the break, the Braves failed to meet the expectations of a team that had won the NL East in each of the last three seasons. At one game under .500 (44-45), they’re third in a division led by the Mets with a lineup that’s been bitten by the injury bug. The rotation hasn’t fared much better as new acquisitions in Drew Smyly and Charlie Morton have struggled to find consistency in Atlanta.
AL Most Disappointing Team: New York Yankees
Even with the Minnesota Twins imploding in the NL Central, the Yankees are a clear choice here. For a team that finally looked poised to take that next step toward an AL pennant, the Yankees have sputtered in mediocrity for the first half in a division and league that should have been a cakewalk for them. The offense has struggled, the rotation remains uncertain, and a once-reliable bullpen has been a liability. That’s the trifecta of disappointment.