With the second half of the MLB season set to get underway on Friday, let’s take a look at some of the top storylines:
MVP & Rookie of the Year in Same Season
Los Angeles Angels center fielder Mike Trout heads into baseball’s post-All-Star Game schedule with a legitimate chance to become the third player to win Rookie of the Year and MVP awards in the same season. He would follow Fred Lynn of the Red Sox (1975) and Ichiro Suzuki of the Mariners (2001).
How good has Trout been? Really good.
He became just the fifth American League rookie to hit .340 with 10 home runs before the All-Star break and was the first to do it AND make the All-Star team since Lynn in 1975. Only Walt Dropo (1950) and Joe DiMaggio (1936) managed to match the .340/10 plus All-Star team sweep before Lynn did it.
Trout’s specialty is hitting pitches in the lower third of the strike zone or below.
The average major-leaguer hits .222 with a .632 OPS in at-bats ending with a pitch in the lower third of the strike zone or below. Trout is at .361/.920, and the .361 is the best in baseball. His .920 ranks fourth.
How much Albert Pujols’ revival plays into Trout’s quest for postseason trophies is unknown, but the middle of the Angels’ lineup has looked much healthier since Pujols shook off his horrendous start to the season.
Albert Pujols on 0-0, 0-1, 1-0 Counts
The Angels have scratched back into the AL West – they’ll resume play Friday night at Yankee Stadium four games behind first-place Texas – in no small part because of Pujols’ rediscovery of his attack mode early in the count.
Through May 4 he was hitting .154 with a slugging percentage of .192 on 0-0, 1-0 and 0-1 counts. Since May 4, he’s hitting .452 with a .935 slugging percentage on those counts. He has eight homers and 14 extra-base hits on those counts since May 4 after hitting no homers and just one extra-base hit on those counts before May 4.
Washington Nationals starting pitcher Stephen Strasburg entered the All-Star Break at 99 innings, meaning he’s projected to throw nearly 200 innings this season. The Nationals have said they will likely cap Strasburg at 160 to 170 innings, meaning his season will likely end in the early part of September.
Strasburg's teammate Bryce Harper is hitting .282 with eight home runs, 25 RBI and an .826 OPS through 63 games. If Harper finishes with an .826 OPS, it would be the third-highest since 1900 by a player with at least 300 plate appearances in his “age 19 or younger” season (meaning his age on June 30 of that year).
The only ones higher would be Mel Ott (.921, 1928 Giants) and Tony Conigliaro (.883, 1964 Red Sox). Harper’s OPS would be higher than that of both Mickey Mantle (.792, 1951 Yankees) and Ken Griffey Jr. (.748, 1989 Mariners) in their 19-year-old seasons.