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MLB first-half awards: In pitchers' year, Cabrera stands alone

Clearly, someone forgot to tell Miguel Cabrera that this is the Year of the Pitcher. In a half-season full of transcendent performances on the mound -- including perfect games thrown by Dallas Braden, Roy Halladay and Armando Galarraga (*), plus a no-hitter by Ubaldo Jimenez and a 14-strikeout big league debut by Stephen Strasburg -- it is easy to overlook what the Detroit Tigers' resurgent first baseman has done in the season's first three months.

We're talking one homer shy of a first-half Triple Crown (through Wednesday). A straight-out-of-the-Steroids-Era slugging percentage of .647. An OPS of 1.070.

There aren't many easy calls in picking baseball's first-half award winners, but Cabrera as the American League's MVP is one of them. Even as Cabrera was coasting to an average of 33 homers and 115 RBI per year over the first six full seasons of his career, folks were wondering what he could do if he really cared. And now, after a winter of alcohol rehabilitation and soul-searching, we know the answer.

Here are my complete picks for the first-half awards:

AL MVP: Cabrera (Tigers). See above.

AL Cy Young: Cliff Lee (Mariners). Of all the amazing pitching achievements in the first half, nothing compares to Lee's 89-to-6 (or 14.8) ratio of strikeouts to walks. How remarkable is it? The major league record is 11.0 by Bret Saberhagen of the Mets in 1994. Other than that, no pitcher has ever posted a K/BB ratio above 10.

AL Rookie of the Year: Brennan Boesch (Tigers). Have you seen these numbers? A slash-line of .341/.396/.595. Twelve homers and 47 RBI in 62 games. In another couple of weeks, Boesch is going to have enough plate appearances to qualify for the batting title, and right now he'd rank third in the AL in batting average and fourth in OPS.

AL Manager of the Year: Ron Washington (Rangers). Washington, who nearly lost his job over a drug scandal during spring training, has the young, dynamic Rangers off to a 50-34 start and enjoying the biggest lead (5 1/2 games) of any first-place team in baseball.

NL MVP: Joey Votto (Reds). Explain to me again how this guy was left off the NL all-star team? He leads the NL in home runs, OBP and slugging, and is in the top five in batting average and RBI. Plus, he plays for a surprising first place team. That's a recipe for an MVP, but apparently not an all-star.

NL Cy Young: Josh Johnson (Marlins). About a month ago, you could have bet your life savings on Colorado's Jimenez running away with this thing. But Jimenez has given up 19 hits, eight walks and 17 earned runs in his last three starts. So while Jimenez's 14 wins will still entice old-school types, I'm going with Johnson, who leads the majors in both ERA (1.70) and WHIP (.959).

NL Rookie: Jaime Garcia (Cardinals). Jason Heyward's thumb injury has thrown this race wide open, and Garcia is the one to watch. He ranks second to Florida's Johnson among all NL pitchers in ERA (2.17) and has limited opposing hitters to a .600 OPS, which ranks fifth in the NL. Perhaps Strasburg can catch Garcia by the end of the season, but for now Garcia has a comfortable lead.

NL Manager: Bud Black (Padres). Anyone who has been at Nationals Park the last two nights must be wondering: How in the world are the Padres in first place? In fact, lots of folks have been asking that all season. Two simplistic answers: the best ERA in baseball, and Black in the manager's office.

By Dave Sheinin  |  July 8, 2010; 10:19 AM ET
 | Tags: MLB All-Star break, MLB first half, MLB first-half awards, Miguel Cabrera Tigers, Tigers Miguel Cabrera, first half awards MLB  
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