Clayton Kershaw is the first-half N.L. Cy Young winner. Photo Credit: SD Dirk, Flickr, Wikimedia Commons, 2010
Clayton Kershaw is the first-half N.L. Cy Young winner.
Photo Credit: SD Dirk, Flickr, Wikimedia Commons, 2010

The 2013 Major League Baseball season resumes Friday night, July 19. We can reflect on the best performances of the season so far with unofficial claims to first-half awards. Only official qualifiers may get the Cy Young and Most Valuable Player awards; the Rookie of the Year may go to someone who came up late but has still made a tremendous impact — especially if he appears likely to meet the minimum qualifications by the end of the season.

Here are National League awards for the first half of 2013. All statistics are as of July 18.

Cy Young – Clayton Kershaw

It is a tough choice between the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw (8-6, 1.98 ERA) and Arizona Diamondbacks’ Patrick Corbin (11-1, 2.35). It goes to Kershaw for his monthly splits. Only in June has he had an ERA over 2.00, and it was still 2.65. His offense did not support him early on or he might have a record much closer to Corbin’s. Kershaw also leads the National League in WHIP at 0.91 and is second in innings pitched with 145.1 and strikeouts with 139. He is well on pace to secure his second National League Cy Young award. Now that the Dodgers are scoring more runs, Kershaw will be vital in their push to overtake Arizona for the division title.

Most Valuable Player – Allen Craig

St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina’s name makes it into nearly every discussion about league MVP and rightfully so. If not for teammate Allen Craig’s first-half performance, Molina would win the nod easily.  The Cardinals first baseman, Craig has both the presence to win it and the numbers to support this claim.

Craig makes his hits count when his team needs them the most. He is second in the league in hitting at .333 and RBI with 74 (on only 10 home runs). Most impressively, though, is his slash line with runners in scoring position: .489/.500/.689 in 90 at bats. Performance like this for the rest of the year should make him the N.L. MVP for real come November.

Rookie of the Year – Yasiel Puig

At first, it looked like the Braves’ Evan Gattis would take this award. He got hurt in mid-June and has played in only one game since. Then came Yasiel Puig. He gets the top first-half rookie award not just for the attention he has received but for his performance. In just 38 games, Puig leads all National League rookies at .391. His slash line is .391/.422/.616. He also has eight home runs and 19 RBI in that short span.

Defensively, Puig has a vacuum for a glove and a bazooka of an arm. He has made the highlight shows numerous times for his defense alone. He could also contend for the National League MVP award by the end of the season. On June 1, the Dodgers were in last place in the N.L. West, 7.5 games out. Since his call-up, they have moved into second place, just 2.5 games behind Arizona.

Manager of the Year — Clint Hurdle

For the past few seasons, the Pittsburgh Pirates have had great first halves but fell off in the second half to finish with yet another losing record. That will not happen this year. Manager Clint Hurdle will make sure that the Pirates break the string of 20 straight losing seasons and even contend for a National League postseason berth. He has his team in second place in the N.L. Central, just one game behind St. Louis, with nearly the same roster he had last year and without a standout such as Craig, Kershaw, or Puig. He just knows how to win games. He manages the roster effectively, and with a dominant closer in Jason Grilli, any late lead he has is safe.

The second half promises even more excitement as teams make trades and pushes toward the postseason. These players and others will provide what fans hope to see; hard-core baseball in the season’s final two and a half months. We will soon see which teams come out on top and which players and manager will win these awards when they become official after the season.

Additional Sources:                              

Major League Baseball, Sortable Pitching, Hitting, and Top Rookie Statistics, as of July 18, 2013.

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