Dave’s Free Play, Monday 6/30/14

  • June 30, 2014

It’s roughly the midway point of the 2014 MLB campaign, so no better time to hand out my first half individual awards. Chime in with your own thoughts at Twitter (@davecokin) and make a case where you think I’ve got it wrong, or feel free to agree as well.

AL MVP: Mike Trout is the best player in the game and it’s absolutely no coincidence that as Trout has heated up, so have the Angels. Trout has the best WAR in the majors again, and he’s a good sized favorite to win the full year award this time. Take Trout out of the Halos lineup and I wonder if they’re even a .50o team.

NL MVP: Troy Tulowitzki was putting up insane numbers prior to the Rockies getting absolutely gutted by injuries. I can see a debate here as the team is pretty much dead meat at this point, and the tendency is to give MVP awards to players on at least contending teams. But Tulo still has terrific numbers, he’s a superb defender and I can’t penalize him because much of his supporting cast is currently residing on the DL.

AL Cy Young: Felix Hernandez, and this one is a complete runaway. King Felix is obliterating the competition and if he isn’t starting the All-Star game, they probably ought to cancel the event.

NL Cy Young: Adam Wainwright by a nose over Clayton Kershaw. The Dodgers southpaw is on a phenomenal roll, and if you’re asking me who I want anchoring my staff, he’s my first choice. But Kershaw did miss several starts while on the DL, and Wainwright has therefore had the overall better first half. I think Kershaw is the chalk to win the full season award, but I’m going with the Redbirds ace for the first half.

AL Rookie of the Year: Really close call here, but I went with Jose Abreu over Masahiro Tanaka. No beef with anyone who flips the order, but I went with Abreu for one key reason. I have a tendency to favor guys who play every day over those who pitch once or twice per week.

NL Rookie of the Year: Billy Hamilton is getting better by the week. If you’re thinking he’s just a speed merchant and not much else, think again. Hamilton’s offense is improving and he’s also proving to be a run preventer with his outfield play. The ground this kid covers in the pasture is amazing. I had doubts about whether he could be a legit everyday OF in the show, but not anymore. He’s the real deal.

AL Manager: Bob Melvin. Total no brainer. The A’s are killing the opposition, as evidenced by that enormous run differential. Also, Melvin almost never bunts, and that’s a big point with me. It indicates he’s actually not stuck in the 20th century like way too many of his managerial peers. Let’s also remember this team lost two key pitching components before the season even started, and yet never missed a beat.

NL Manager: Ron Roenicke. I thought the Brewers had to be improved this season for a multitude of reasons. I did not envision them playing better than .600 baseball and having the best record in the NL by a pretty decent margin three full months into the season.

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1-2 Sunday for me, as I won a nice dog call with the White Sox but lost a couple of late games, including a frustrating loss with the Diamondbacks. Nevertheless, it’s been a very solid month and I’m looking to finish off June with a strong card today.

This is the final day for the June Baseball Special, including what is definitely a pretty substantial guarantee. If you’re wondering what it’s about, drop me a line at cokin@cox.net and I’ll explain everything. But don’t wait around, as the offer closes today. I’ll have a new offer up tomorrow for July.

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The Padres and rookie righty Odrisamer Despaigne beat me on Sunday, but I’m convinced he’s smoke and mirrors and won’t last long as a big league starter. That remains to be seen, of course, and it’s not like I’ve never been wrong in my pitcher projections. I’m much higher long term on the rookie I’ll be backing tonight.

06/30 05:10 PM   MLB   (965) SEATTLE MARINERS at  (966) HOUSTON ASTROS

Take: (965) SEATTLE MARINERS -105

The Mariners have gotten much more than expected out of the back end of their 2014 rotation. But the staff should get a substantial boost starting tonight as the very highly regarded Taijuan Walker is finally healthy and ready to go. Walker is a major talent and I think he’s got a great chance to flourish on a team that already has a monster at the top of the rotation. Having Felix Hernandez on hand to lead the way removes the burden of having to deliver from everyone else on the staff, and in the case of a rookie like Walker, that’s a meaningful plus.

This is not the debut for Walker, who was with the M’s late last season. In fact, Walker already has a dominating performance against the Astros, and I’m pretty sure that was part of the thought process when Seattle decided this would be the right spot for his 2014 coming out party. Walker arrives in very solid form, with his last start on the farm a complete game gem.

Walker has a pretty tough mound adversary tonight in Collin McHugh, who rates as one of my biggest surprise success stories of the first half. McHugh’s expanded repertoire has transformed him from what looked like strictly a journeyman to a solid big league starting pitcher. Don’t be misled by the recent 0-3 skid for McHugh. Let’s say he’s deserved a better fate than he’s received lately.

But the fact is, McHugh has lost three straight and part of the reason is Houston has not been hitting much lately. This is still a very young team that’s going to be prone to extended slumps, and they’ve been particularly feeble of late vs. righties. As for the Mariners, their offense has been better than expected for the most part, and they’ve been at their best when they get away from the restrictions they have to live with at Safeco.

I’m calling the starting pitching pretty much a wash here. But give the offensive edge to Seattle and the Mariners have the vastly superior bullpen. They’re also a very good road team, better than they are at home. That has actually made for some real value in backing the Mariners on the road, and I believe that’s the way to play tonight as well.