Welcome to the fourth edition of theScore's 2022 Cy Young Rankings, where we pick the top five pitchers from each league. Let's look at who's making a strong impression as we enter the final two months of the season.American League5. Shohei Ohtani, Angels John McCoy / Getty Images Sport / Getty IP ERA FIP K/BB WHIP 105 2.83 2.42 152/24 1.04 Like last time, Ohtani isn't a qualified starting pitcher, missing the threshold by a mere two innings. However, he's still tied for fourth among AL starters with at least 100 IP by FanGraphs WAR. While he's had limited work compared to his peers on this list, Ohtani's been so unbelievably dominant that he still has more strikeouts than Kevin Gausman, Justin Verlander, and 2021 AL Cy Young winner Robbie Ray, among many others. If he manages to reach the 162-inning mark for the season while maintaining this level of productivity, the two-way phenom will certainly get Cy Young consideration. Oh, and in case you forgot, he has 24 homers and 11 stolen bases.4. Kevin Gausman, Blue Jays David Berding / Getty Images Sport / Getty IP ERA FIP K/BB WHIP 117 2/3 2.91 1.98 137/20 1.23 While voters no longer pay much attention to win-loss record, it's truly upsetting that a pitcher as good as Gausman's been is toiling with an 8-8 mark. That seems to start and end with the righty's troubling BABIP. Opposing batters are getting hits on 37% of balls put into play against Gausman, which ranks second among qualified starters, behind only Patrick Corbin and his 7.02 ERA. Gausman easily leads the majors by FIP with better strikeout numbers than Verlander and a better walk rate than Dylan Cease, and he limits homers better than everyone in the American League except Framber Valdez. Gausman's a "Create a Player" who's simply fallen victim to bad batted-ball luck and tricky shifting. Some voters who favor advanced metrics might still lean his way, but a marked decrease to his ERA would certainly help his case.3. Shane McClanahan, Rays Mark Cunningham / Getty Images Sport / Getty IP ERA FIP K/BB WHIP 128 1/3 2.24 2.61 161/23 0.83 McClanahan is perhaps the most gifted pitcher on this list and is quickly becoming the most dominant left-hander in the AL, with a league-leading 33.3% strikeout rate and 28.5% strikeout-minus-walk rate. The story with the Rays southpaw remains the same as it has all year - he gives up almost one homer per nine innings. To put that into perspective, he's the only pitcher in the top 10 by fWAR with that high of a homer rate, and guys like Carlos Rodon, Max Fried, Gausman, and Sandy Alcantara are posting HR/9 rates under 0.50. Because so many of them are solo bombs, McClanahan's ERA is a microscopic 2.24, so it isn't a problem. He also misses bats and suppresses walks better than pretty much everyone else, so if he can limit some hard contact down the stretch, he could easily win some hardware.2. Dylan Cease, White Sox Richard Rodriguez / Getty Images Sport / Getty IP ERA FIP K/BB WHIP 122 2/3 1.98 2.71 166/53 1.16 The White Sox ace never ceases to flummox hitters with his incredibly elite strikeout prowess. Cease boasts an MLB-best 12.18 K/9, and while his erratic command gets him into some walk trouble, it doesn't even come close to impacting his ability to prevent runs. The right-hander is one of three qualified starters with a sub-2.00 ERA, and he's the only one of that trio with a FIP under 2.80. That mastery in both old-school and modern metrics is sure to win him the support of any generation of voters. Perhaps some will hold the fact that Cease pitches in an inferior division against him, but it's also worth mentioning that his double-digit strikeout games have come against the Toronto Blue Jays, New York Yankees, Los Angeles Angels, and Baltimore Orioles.1. Justin Verlander, Astros Icon Sportswire / Icon Sportswire / Getty IP ERA FIP K/BB WHIP 130 1.73 2.98 127/23 0.85 Verlander triggered a clause in his contract Thursday that enables him to exercise a $25-million option in his age-40 season. Somehow, that might end up being a bargain for the Astros. Seemingly for the 100th time, Verlander has rejuvenated his career and improved, this time coming off Tommy John surgery to lead all of baseball with an immaculate 1.73 ERA. That equates to a league- and park-adjusted ERA+ of 224. If Verlander can maintain that for the entire season, he'll be the third qualified starter to put up an ERA+ of 220 or higher since the new millennium (joining Zack Greinke in 2015 and Roger Clemens in 2005). What Verlander is accomplishing isn't just amazing for his age - it's historic for anyone.National League5. Zack Wheeler, Phillies Kevin C. Cox / Getty Images Sport / Getty IP ERA FIP K/BB WHIP 120 2/3 2.69 2.85 129/25 1.01 While 2021 winner Corbin Burnes would've been a very worthy inclusion in this spot, last year's runner-up takes the edge ever so slightly. Wheeler is a better overall pitcher - particularly at limiting walks and homers. He's also limiting hard contact better than most pitchers, boasting an average exit velocity in the 90th percentile, according to Baseball Savant. That all winds up creating a FIP that ranks fourth in the National League.4. Aaron Nola, Phillies Mitchell Leff / Getty Images Sport / Getty IP ERA FIP K/BB WHIP 144 2/3 3.17 2.83 157/20 0.95 Nola's 2022 is a bit like McClanahan's. The Phillies righty's strikeout numbers aren't as elite, but he limits walks at such an impressive clip that the K/BB rate is somewhat comparable. Where Nola and McClanahan are closest, though, is their affinity for surrendering home runs. In fact, the former first-round pick is giving up all sorts of hard contact, ranking in the 36th percentile in barrel rate, according to Baseball Savant. That impacts Nola's ERA quite a bit more because he's allowing more baserunners, but his 0.95 WHIP is still remarkable. Nola has always been very good, and he might be very close to an even higher gear.3. Max Fried, Braves Todd Kirkland / Getty Images Sport / Getty IP ERA FIP K/BB WHIP 138 1/3 2.60 2.45 127/25 1.08 Then there's Fried. Where Nola's weakness is hard contact, the Braves lefty thrives on preventing barrels. Fried hasn't allowed a homer since June 9 - an incredibly impressive stretch of 10 games. He ranks in the 94th percentile in barrel rate, per Baseball Savant. It's curious that a pitcher so good at limiting hard contract wouldn't miss bats as much, but saying it works for him would be an understatement. While he doesn't get many whiffs - at least in comparison to other Cy Young contenders - he does have a remarkably good chase rate (92nd percentile). Instead of getting swings and misses on those pitches, Fried is intentionally nibbling just outside to generate poor contact. On pitches outside the zone, he's producing a 37.4% swing rate (fifth among qualified starters) and 64.9% contact rate.2. Carlos Rodon, Giants Brandon Vallance / Getty Images Sport / Getty IP ERA FIP K/BB WHIP 128 1/3 2.95 2.27 161/39 1.07 It's been quite a season for Rodon. The lefty opened the year looking like he had found a new way to be absolutely unhittable, striking out 53 batters over his first six games with his new club. He then hit a rough patch, allowing 16 earned runs over his next five games while only striking out 22. That run was short-lived, though, and Rodon quickly recaptured his groove to lead all pitchers by fWAR with a league-leading 2.27 FIP. He's been phenomenal and will have no shortage of suitors as a free agent this winter.1. Sandy Alcantara, Marlins Eric Espada / Getty Images Sport / Getty IP ERA FIP K/BB WHIP 158 1/3 1.88 2.86 141/40 0.94 The Cy Young Award is Alcantara's to lose as he stares down the home stretch coming off a third complete game of the season. There have been 12 complete games in MLB all year, meaning Alcantara is responsible for a quarter of them. His 1.88 ERA is the best in the NL, and he leads all of MLB in innings pitched. He's a true workhorse in a generation arguably defined by the Rays' method of deploying a "stable full of guys who throw 98 miles per hour." To put the gulf in workload into perspective, the Marlins righty has thrown as many innings as Rodon and David Price combined, or Wheeler and Liam Hendriks combined. He doesn't get it done by making sure he's racking up strikeouts or worrying too much about walks. But he definitely gets it done.Copyright © 2022 Score Media Ventures Inc. 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After years of teasing elite upside, Sandy Alcantara finally put it all together across a dominant first half of this MLB season. And he's the runaway favorite to win the NL Cy Young - at least, according to oddsmakers.As of Tuesday, the Marlins ace is dealing as the -130 favorite at Barstool Sportsbook to win the award for the first time in his six-year MLB career. Only reigning winner Corbin Burnes (+450) is priced shorter than 10-1, while Max Fried (+1400) and Joe Musgrove (+1400) are the only other pitchers with better than 20-1 odds.Unlike last year's race, which was one of the narrowest in MLB history, oddsmakers are essentially calling this one with two months left in the season. Yet it's fair to ask: Should Alcantara really be this big of a favorite? PLAYER ODDS Sandy Alcantara -130 Corbin Burnes +450 Max Fried +1400 Joe Musgrove +1400 Carlos Rodon +2100 Tony Gonsolin +2100 Zack Wheeler +2500 Max Scherzer +4000 Aaron Nola +4300 Clayton Kershaw +6500 Spencer Strider +7500 Logan Webb +8500 Julio Urias +10000 Kyle Wright +10000 Brandon Woodruff +12000 Tyler Anderson +12000 Yu Darvish +12500 Pablo Lopez +12500 Zac Gallen +15000 Miles Mikolas +15000 Chris Bassitt +15000 Eric Lauer +15000 Josh Hader +20000 Adam Wainwright +20000 MacKenzie Gore +20000 Luis Castillo +25000 Charlie Morton +25000 Blake Snell +25000 Jacob deGrom +25000 Sean Manaea +25000 Kyle Hendricks +30000 Madison Bumgarner +40000 Walker Buehler +50000 Anthony DeSclafani +50000 Adrian Houser +50000 German Marquez +50000 Marcus Stroman +50000 Ian Anderson +50000 Make no mistake, Alcantara is one of the best pitchers in baseball and deserves to be in this spot. He was our favorite preseason bet to win NL Cy Young as a 25-1 long shot, and he's exceeded even our lofty expectations through the first half of the season.Entering Tuesday, the 26-year-old righty led the majors in innings pitched (144 1/3) - nearly 20 more frames than the next-best arm - while pacing the NL in ERA (1.81) and starts (20). He's the only pitcher in MLB with multiple complete games, and he ranks among the best in most box score metrics. It should come as no surprise that he's atop the oddsboard.Yet his profile is still a peculiar one, as he hasn't statistically dominated in the way you might expect from such a heavy favorite.Despite his elite fastball, Alcantara has never been much of a strikeout artist. He's actually striking out fewer batters per nine innings (8.3) than at any point since 2019, ranking 20th in the NL alone in that metric. He sits 12th among qualified NL starters in strikeout rate (24.3%) and walk rate (6.6%), though a strong weak-contact rate has helped him post the second-best WHIP (0.90) in the league.In fact, outside of the most common box score stats like ERA, WAR, and innings pitched, just about every other metric will point you to someone other than Alcantara as the best pitcher in the NL.If you're judging pitchers by FIP - a common advanced metric for filtering out the effects of defense - Carlos Rodon (2.24), Fried (2.48), and Zack Wheeler (2.78) all grade out better than Alcantara (2.79). Advanced metric SIERA, a derivative of ERA, has Alcantara ranked sixth behind those three, Burnes and Aaron Nola.That isn't to take away from Alcantara's brilliance but rather highlight just how strange it is to see him as such a clear-cut favorite. Consider last year's winner, Burnes, who finished the season as the clear-cut statistical leader across the board despite the narrow voting results. Sure, he pitched 40-to-50 fewer innings than his counterparts, but he still led the NL in ERA (2.43), FIP (1.63), strikeouts per nine (12.6), home runs per nine (0.4), and fWAR (7.5), among other stats.Burnes' ERA trailed his peers for much of the season, but his elite strikeout rate and historic FIP always suggested better days ahead for the Brewers ace. By season's end, he was the ERA leader, too, to complement an overall dominant profile.We haven't seen such overall dominance from Alcantara just yet. That isn't to say it isn't coming - he's been the best pitcher over the first half, and there's no reason he can't replicate that over the back half. But it feels a bit too early to anoint him as the next Cy Young winner.C Jackson Cowart is a sports betting writer at theScore. You can follow him on Twitter (@CJacksonCowart) or email him at [email protected] © 2022 Score Media Ventures Inc. All rights reserved. Certain content reproduced under license.
With the second half of the MLB season set to kick off Thursday, we look at the seven biggest storylines to watch during the stretch run.Where does Soto end up? Tim Nwachukwu / Getty Images Sport / GettyThere's no bigger story in baseball right now than the future of Juan Soto. The opportunity to acquire someone of Soto's talent and age with two-and-a-half years of control just doesn't happen. Soto's relationship with the Washington Nationals seems to have deteriorated rather quickly, with leaks coming from both sides heading into the All-Star break. With Soto having rejected a $440-million offer, it makes sense for Mike Rizzo to start exploring trade packages - especially with his team owning the worst record in the majors.But trading a generational talent isn't something the organization should take lightly, and special consideration needs to be given to a fanbase that's watched Bryce Harper and Anthony Rendon walk out the door in recent years. The early suitors in their championship windows appear to be the New York Yankees, Los Angeles Dodgers, New York Mets, San Diego Padres, and Toronto Blue Jays. But don't rule out a second tier that includes the St. Louis Cardinals, Seattle Mariners, Philadelphia Phillies, Houston Astros, San Francisco Giants, and Boston Red Sox. Even if a club feels it can't give Soto the extension he wants, executives need to make the call for what could still be three pennant races. It'll also be interesting to see if the Nationals try to attach the contract of Patrick Corbin in any deal.Will Judge, Yankees make history? Mike Stobe / Getty Images Sport / GettyThe Yankees have an insurmountable 13-game lead in the division, but there's still plenty to play for down the stretch. New York owns a .755 winning percentage at Yankee Stadium this season and will want to lock up home-field advantage throughout the playoffs and a potential World Series. With possible showdowns against the likes of the Astros or Dodgers, the Yankees will seek any advantage they can get. The club is trying to break its single-season franchise wins record (114), which it set in 1998. It'll need to go 50-20 (.714) over the second half to match the record, which seems like a tall ask.Aaron Judge is also playing for plenty. Not only will he want to finish strong to set up a monster payday in free agency and an AL MVP award, but Judge also has a realistic shot at breaking Roger Maris' single-season home run record in what could be his final season in pinstripes. He's been outspoken about his desire to break the record and needs 29 home runs over his final 70 games to do so after hitting 33 in his first 89.How will the AL wild-card race finish? Richard Lautens / Toronto Star / GettyLast year's AL wild-card race gave us an epic sprint to the finish between four 90-win teams, with two unlucky clubs left on the outside. This year, with one extra playoff spot up for grabs, things should be even wilder in the Junior Circuit.Heading into the second half, the Tampa Bay Rays, Mariners, and Blue Jays hold down the three wild-card spots, with Toronto two up on Boston in the final position. The Red Sox, Cleveland Guardians, Chicago White Sox, and Baltimore Orioles - yes, the Orioles - all sit within 3 1/2 games of a playoff berth. Even the Texas Rangers are only 7 1/2 out - and four behind Chicago and Baltimore - despite being eight games below .500. Texas' odds remain incredibly long, but a quick start to the second half could throw another gigantic wrench into this race, if nothing else.By the end of Game 162, we could have four AL East playoff teams, or two from the weaker AL Central if things break right. All we know for sure is that the second half promises absolute chaos in the American League - and we're very much here for it.Will the Red Sox become sellers? Douglas P. DeFelice / Getty Images Sport / GettyBoston's miserable stretch heading into the All-Star break (3-10) has the team outside the final wild-card spot. Making matters worse, the club opens the second half without Chris Sale and with four straight series against winning teams - Toronto, Cleveland, the Milwaukee Brewers, and Houston. The Red Sox could realistically become sellers at the deadline if they stumble out of the gate; Nathan Eovaldi, Xander Bogaerts (opt-out), J.D. Martinez, Enrique Hernandez, Jackie Bradley Jr., Michael Wacha, Rich Hill, Christian Vazquez, Matt Strahm, and Kevin Plawecki are all set to be free agents.Chaim Bloom and the front office thus have a major decision to make. What is the potential deficit the club is willing to face in the wild-card race to be sellers? If it's within a few games of a wild-card spot, how much does it buy? Bogaerts said Monday that Boston needs reinforcements at the deadline. This veteran team proved last season that it can surprise in the postseason, but it needs to show the front office that it's worth investing in.Can Ohtani win another AL MVP? MediaNews Group/Orange County Register via Getty Images / MediaNews Group / GettyThe AL MVP conversation is turning into a redux of last year. Judge is destroying every baseball in his sight and making a run at 60 homers for the league's best team - and he might not even sniff the trophy because Shohei Ohtani exists. Could Ohtani really do this again?Ohtani's also turned his production upside down compared to last year's historic MVP performance. His offensive numbers, while still incredible, are down just a bit from last season. On the mound, however, Ohtani's raised his game several notches, emerging as one of the best pitchers in the AL following a dominant June. He also has the "valuable" component locked up, because the lowly Angels would probably be even worse without him.Last year, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. had an unbelievable season and essentially had to win the triple crown just to have a shot at getting some first-place votes. This year, there could be some voter fatigue on account of Ohtani's novelty wearing off, but as long as the Angels superstar keeps doing what he's doing, Judge might want to hit 60 just to be safe.Can the Mets and Brewers hold on to their division leads?Two of the NL's three division races promise to be nail-biters down the stretch, and there's plenty of reason to try to hang on to first place. Jim McIsaac / Getty Images Sport / GettyIn Flushing, there's lots of confusion as to how the Mets are now in this situation. New York started the season on fire - it's held down first in the NL East every day since April 11 and started June with a 10 1/2-game cushion. That's when the defending champion Braves came roaring back with an unbelievable June run that brought them to 2 1/2 back of Buck Showalter's club heading into the break. The craziest part of this is the Mets have barely slumped - they did just enough to hold the lead through June before ending the first half by winning 11 of 17. With 12 games left against one another, this bitter rivalry is about to get reheated.The Brewers, meanwhile, narrowly held off St. Louis in the NL Central despite losing three straight before the break. These two teams have been flip-flopping all season, and that's probably unlikely to change given the weak divisional opponents both teams get to feast on down the stretch. But unlike the NL East - where the second-place team will likely make the playoffs and host a series - as the NL's No. 4 seed, second place in the Central offers no such guaranteed cushion. Right now, the Cardinals trail Philadelphia by percentage points for the final NL wild-card spot, and the Giants are breathing down their necks. Milwaukee could easily fall into that position by Monday. The weakest division in baseball might have the most important division race of all.Can anyone catch Alcantara for NL Cy Young? Michael Reaves / Getty Images Sport / GettyThe Miami Marlins ace is pulling away from the pack in a hurry. Sandy Alcantara's become the ultimate workhorse in a bullpen-heavy era, easily leading the majors in innings pitched and complete games. He also owns the NL's lowest ERA by a wide margin, has allowed just six homers, and is still the lone Senior Circuit pitcher with more than 4.0 WAR.To be clear, there are some excellent candidates making their push in the NL. Tony Gonsolin, Carlos Rodon, Max Fried, and reigning winner Corbin Burnes are just a few of the names worthy of consideration. But they may have to up their game considerably to catch Alcantara, who gives the floundering Marlins hope every five days. At this point, it may take a lot to wrestle the NL Cy Young out of his hands.Copyright © 2022 Score Media Ventures Inc. All rights reserved. Certain content reproduced under license.
Our editors hand out awards to all 30 MLB clubs at the unofficial halfway point of the 2022 season.Arizona DiamondbacksMVP: Christian WalkerBest Pitcher: Merrill KellyMost Improved: Zach DaviesBest Rookie: Alek ThomasWalker quietly cruising to 22 homers before the All-Star break is pretty impressive, even if he's striking out nearly 20% of the time. On the pitching side, both Kelly and Zac Gallen have been decent, with Kelly edging out his rotation mate with a better ERA and FIP in more innings. In fact, there's a case to be made that the 33-year-old righty has actually been the team's MVP. The brightest spot of the first half, though, has been 22-year-old rookie outfielder Thomas. He's yet to show his full potential at the plate, but racking up seven dingers and four steals over 62 games ain't bad.Atlanta BravesMVP: Austin RileyBest Pitcher: Max FriedMost Improved: Kyle WrightBest Rookie: Michael Harris/Spencer StriderStrider rocketed through the minors to become an invaluable weapon in Atlanta s rotation. The hard-throwing righty has racked up 1.7 fWAR in just 10 starts. His overpowering arsenal has allowed him to register 13.80 K/9 and his transition from the bullpen to the rotation has gone better than anyone could have anticipated. Harris has injected some incredible defense and speed on the base paths, reinforcing the Braves on both sides of the ball.Baltimore OriolesMVP: Ryan MountcastleBest Pitcher: Jorge LopezMost Improved: Jorge MateoBest Rookie: Felix BautistaThe Orioles went from a 110-loss team to a wild-card contender thanks to a big leap from the pitching staff. Baltimore's hurlers accrued the ninth-best fWAR in baseball during the first half, including the third-best mark among relievers. Lopez, the club's lone All-Star, owns a 1.62 ERA with 10.3 K/9 and 17 saves, while Bautista possesses a 1.72 ERA with 11 holds. A marked improvement defensively has also helped, as Mateo ranks in the top 10 in defensive runs saved.Boston Red SoxMVP: Rafael DeversBest Pitcher: Michael WachaMost Improved: Christian VazquezBest Rookie: Kutter CrawfordDevers is making a strong case to be an MVP finalist. The star third baseman has amassed the second-most fWAR (4.6) in the majors, the second-most hits (112), and third-best slugging percentage (.601). On the pitching front, Wacha has come out of nowhere to help a rotation that has been missing Chris Sale for almost the entire season. The 31-year-old veteran owns a 2.69 ERA across 13 starts (70 1/3 innings).Chicago CubsMVP: Willson ContrerasBest Pitcher: Scott EffrossMost Improved: David RobertsonBest Rookie: Christopher MorelContreras is almost assuredly in his final days as a Cub, and he's making sure to leave on a high note. He was the easy choice for first-half MVP as their offensive anchor in the midst of a career-best season. Effross, a rookie reliever who rebuilt himself into a sidearming bullpen ace, stood out as the best pitcher on a disappointing staff. The 28-year-old's 43 appearances lead the majors, and his 1.99 FIP is the lowest on his team. Ron Schwane / Getty Images Sport / GettyChicago White SoxMVP: Jose AbreuBest Pitcher: Dylan CeaseMost Improved: Andrew VaughnBest Rookie: Jake BurgerCease might have been the biggest snub at this year's All-Star Game, but MLB's strikeout leader will take home some unofficial hardware here. The 26-year-old has followed up a breakout 2021 campaign with a career year in which he's posted a 2.15 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, and 12.9 K/9. Cease's emergence as the team's ace has been even more important considering Carlos Rodon's departure and the struggles of Lucas Giolito and Lance Lynn.Cincinnati RedsMVP: Brandon Drury Best Pitcher: Luis Castillo Most Improved: Brandon DruryBest Rookie: Alexis DiazDrury's been the surprising star for the lowly Reds. He's one of only two Cincinnati hitters with more than 10 homers and has an OPS above .800 for the first time in his eight-year career. Castillo, the Reds' All-Star representative, is also enjoying a career-best season despite a bit of a late start due to injuries. Diaz has become an important bullpen arm in his rookie season, and is the only Reds reliever striking out more than 10 batters per nine innings.Cleveland GuardiansMVP: Jose RamirezBest Pitcher: Shane BieberMost Improved: Triston McKenzie/Andres GimenezBest Rookie: Oscar GonzalezIt's hard to put into perspective how important Ramirez is for the Guardians. He leads the team in games played, runs, doubles, home runs, RBIs, stolen bases, OBP, slugging, OPS, and fWAR. He's got six more home runs than the next highest player on his club, and 28 more RBIs. His 4.4 fWAR is worth more than the next highest two players (Gimenez, Amed Rosario) combined. Even after signing a five-year, $124-million extension this winter, you could argue he's criminally underpaid in terms of the value he brings.Colorado RockiesMVP: C.J. CronBest Pitcher: Daniel BardMost Improved: Charlie BlackmonBest Rookie: Brian ServenCron bounced around the majors way more than warranted and he's really found a home in Colorado. His 28 homers last year were impressive, but he's on pace to easily cruise past that now, crushing 21 before the break. Even further, his 135 wRC+ would be a career high. Meanwhile, Blackmon has bounced back after disappointing 2020 and 2021 seasons; the veteran outfielder already has more home runs than he hit last year. The pitching has left much to be desired, though, with Daniel Bard almost winning best pitcher by default.Detroit Tigers MVP: Tarik SkubalBest Pitcher: Tarik SkubalMost Improved: Alex LangeBest Rookie: Beau BrieskeSkubal takes home MVP and best pitcher honors due to limited options. He leads the team with 18 starts, a 4.11 ERA, and 102 strikeouts - 48 more than the next highest pitcher. It's been ugly for Detroit on both sides of the ball, but the pitching has definitely been better than the abysmal hitting. Miguel Cabrera leads all qualified hitters with a .670 OPS. Javier Baez leads the team with nine home runs but is slashing .213/.251/.375. The bullpen has been the Tigers' bright spot with Lange, Joe Jimenez, and Gregory Soto deserving honorable mentions. Mary DeCicco / Major League Baseball / GettyHouston AstrosMVP: Yordan AlvarezBest Pitcher: Justin VerlanderMost Improved: Ryne StanekBest Rookie: Jeremy PenaAlvarez is having an MVP-caliber campaign and is one of the most feared hitters in baseball. The 25-year-old leads the majors in OPS and ranks second in the AL in homers and RBIs despite missing more than a week with a sore hand. Houston's slugger is also on pace to break the franchise record for homers (47) set by Jeff Bagwell in 2000.Kansas City RoyalsMVP: Andrew BenintendiBest Pitcher: Scott BarlowMost Improved: Brad KellerBest Rookie: Bobby Witt Jr. Witt had his share of ups and downs through his first 88 games but has shown plenty of flashes as to why he projects to be a future star. He leads the club with 13 homers and 47 RBIs, and sits third in OPS among qualified hitters behind Hunter Dozier and Benintendi.Los Angeles AngelsMVP: Shohei Ohtani Best Pitcher: Shohei Ohtani Most Improved: Taylor WardBest Rookie: Reid DetmersOhtani's narrative last season was that he was doing things baseball had never seen before. Well, the phenom is actually pitching better than he did in 2021, with superior marks in ERA, FIP, WHIP, and K/9. At the plate, he's on pace to produce more RBIs and doubles, and is hitting for a higher average. If Ohtani stays on this trajectory, he would become the first player to win back-to-back MVPs since Miguel Cabrera in 2012 and 2013.Los Angeles DodgersMVP: Freddie FreemanBest Pitcher: Tony GonsolinMost Improved: Tyler Anderson Best Rookie: Ryan PepiotThe rich get richer. The Dodgers were already a team of stars when they added Freeman and now he's been their best player, hitting 13 homers, swiping seven bags, and posting a 159 wRC+. Perhaps most amazing, though, are the contributions from Gonsolin - who has an immaculate 11-0 record with a 2.02 ERA - and Anderson - who has gone from being a journeyman with a 4.62 career ERA to a stalwart in the Dodgers' rotation with a 2.96 ERA.Miami MarlinsMVP: Sandy AlcantaraBest Pitcher: Sandy AlcantaraMost Improved: Jazz Chisholm Jr.Best Rookie: Cody PoteetAlcantara could have a claim to be the first pitcher to win Cy Young and MVP in the same season since 2014. A true throwback, Alcantara is a threat to go the distance each time he takes the ball. The big right-hander leads the league in innings pitched and fWAR, while sitting second in ERA. The Marlins locked up Alcantara to a team-friendly extension before the season. That deal is looking like one that will help Miami for years to come. Milwaukee BrewersMVP: Corbin BurnesBest Pitcher: Corbin BurnesMost Improved: Victor CaratiniBest Rookie: Jason AlexanderPitching continues to rule in Milwaukee. Burnes is making a very good case to repeat as the NL Cy Young winner; the Brewers would simply be lost without him. Caratini, the Brewers' backup catcher, is one of only two hitters on their 40-man roster with an OPS above .800 (minimum 140 plate appearances). That's a career best for the glove-first backstop, making him indispensable on a team desperate for any kind of offense. Milwaukee doesn't have many rookies on its roster, making it difficult to find a standout. Alexander, a 29-year-old journeyman who's finally getting a shot in the majors, is a bit of a default winner here. Brace Hemmelgarn / Getty Images Sport / GettyMinnesota TwinsMVP: Byron BuxtonBest Pitcher: Joe RyanMost Improved: Luis ArraezBest Rookie: Jose MirandaChoosing between Buxton and Arraez wasn't easy, but we'll give Buxton the edge for his power and game-changing defense. The 28-year-old has already established a new career high in homers, and he's played in his most games since 2019. Meanwhile, Arraez is slashing .338/.411/.445 with a team-leading 104 hits and nine more walks than strikeouts. This comes a season after he posted a career-worst .733 OPS.New York MetsMVP: Pete AlonsoBest Pitcher: Edwin DiazMost Improved: David PetersonBest Rookie: Colin Holderman Diaz has righted the ship and is arguably the most dominant reliever in the game. With the Mets having aspirations of winning their first World Series since 1986, Diaz will be expected to shoulder a heavy load down the stretch. He s in position to cash in as a free agent this offseason. The 28-year-old has a staggering 18.08 K/9 and 75 strikeouts in 37 1/3 innings.New York YankeesMVP: Aaron JudgeBest Pitcher: Gerrit ColeMost Improved: Nestor Cortes Best Rookie: Ron MarinaccioJudge has been one of the key driving forces behind a juggernaut Yankees club. The star slugger tied Roger Maris' club-record 33 homers before the All-Star break. New York's rotation was supposed to be a question mark in 2022 but turned into a strength. The emergence of Cortes, who owns a 2.63 ERA with 1.00 WHIP, gives the team a formidable one-two punch with Cole.Oakland AthleticsMVP: Paul BlackburnBest Pitcher: Paul BlackburnMost Improved: Sam MollBest Rookie: A.J. PukBlackburn has been a standout for the rebuilding A's after a rocky journey over the past four seasons, which included surgery to correct a broken forearm. The 28-year-old was named to his first All-Star team after a first half that included a team-leading six wins and 18 starts alongside a 3.62 ERA and 1.20 WHIP.Philadelphia PhilliesMVP: Kyle SchwarberBest Pitcher: Aaron NolaMost Improved: Seranthony DominguezBest Rookie: Darick HallSchwarber has been exactly as advertised in his first season with the Phillies. With Bryce Harper on the shelf for an extended period of time, Schwarber s prodigious power has helped keep the Phillies in the playoff picture. The hulking slugger has taken his turn leading off and is a threat to hit 50-plus homers for the first time in his career.Pittsburgh PiratesMVP: Bryan ReynoldsBest Pitcher: David BednarMost Improved: Jose QuintanaBest Rookie: Jack SuwinskiEven though he's now on the injured list, Reynolds was a no-brainer as the MVP. The 27-year-old has been their best hitter by just about every margin. Bednar, a first-time All-Star, has quietly been one of the best closers in baseball, surrendering just four homers in 43 2/3 innings. Quintana is a Comeback Player of the Year candidate having rediscovered his form after a downright awful 2021. Suwinski's still on the outside of the NL's crowded Rookie of the Year race, but his 14 homers in 250 plate appearances rank second on his team. MediaNews Group/Pasadena Star-News via Getty Images / MediaNews Group / GettySan Diego PadresMVP: Manny MachadoBest Pitcher: Joe MusgroveMost Improved: Jorge AlfaroBest Rookie: MacKenzie GoreMachado isn't just angling for team MVP honors, he's in the running for the entire NL, helping keep the Tatis-less Padres afloat with an astounding .303/.377/.513 slash line, 15 homers, and seven stolen bases. This is already his most successful campaign by fWAR since joining the Padres four years ago. On the pitching side, Musgrove is pushing for a potential NL Cy Young. The righty was extremely strong in the first half of last year but even better now with a 2.42 ERA in 16 starts.San Francisco GiantsMVP: Joc PedersonBest Pitcher: Carlos RodonMost Improved: Austin SlaterBest Rookie: Luis GonzalezNew recruits Pederson and Rodon lead the way with the former crushing 17 homers and boasting a career-best 135 wRC+ while the latter has continued to show the elite strikeout prowess that made him such a breakout star for the White Sox last year. In fact, only reigning NL Cy Young winner Burnes has a higher strikeout rate in the Senior Circuit. Meanwhile, Slater is now proving that his mind-blowing performance in the pandemic-shortened 2020 campaign might not have been an outlier. The 29-year-old outfielder is crushing opponents with a 150 wRC+, buoyed heavily by a .406 OBP (which ranks fourth among hitters with at least 100 plate appearances).Seattle MarinersMVP: Julio RodriguezBest Pitcher: Logan GilbertMost Improved: Erik SwansonBest Rookie: Julio RodriguezRodriguez has been one of baseball's most electric performers, excelling in all aspects of the game. The AL Rookie of the Year front-runner leads first-year players in homers, RBIs, hits, runs, doubles, and steals. He's also playing above-average defense in center field and established himself as a much-watch player following his performance in the Home Run Derby. St. Louis CardinalsMVP: Paul GoldschmidtBest Pitcher: Miles MikolasMost Improved: Miles Mikolas/Ryan HelsleyBest Rookie: Brendan DonovanGoldschmidt is the front-runner in the NL MVP race after turning in a dominant first half. Mikolas' resurgence as an All-Star has been critical to the Cardinals; he's a workhorse, owns a WHIP below one, and is walking very few batters. He also shares the Most Improved honors with Helsley, a first-time All-Star in the bullpen who's gone from average reliever to nearly untouchable - only three earned runs allowed in 39 innings. Donovan's on-base abilities and versatility make him stand out as the best of several very good Cardinals rookies.Tampa Bay RaysMVP: Shane McClanahanBest Pitcher: Shane McClanahanMost Improved: Isaac ParedesBest Rookie: Shane BazMcClanahan is the favorite to win the AL Cy Young thanks to a monster first half, posting a 1.71 ERA with 0.79 WHIP and 147 strikeouts over 18 starts (110 2/3 innings). The Rays also continue to turn water into wine. Paredes went deep 13 times in 51 games after two homers over 57 contests with the Tigers.Texas RangersMVP: Corey SeagerBest Pitcher: Martin PerezMost Improved: Jonah HeimBest Rookie: Brock BurkePerez has been one of the biggest surprises in baseball this season. The southpaw's 2.4 fWAR is already a career high and his 2.68 ERA and 3.13 FIP are far better than his previous career highs. The veteran lefty also leads qualified Rangers starters in wins and innings pitched while giving up a career-low 0.6 HR/9.Toronto Blue JaysMVP: Alejandro KirkBest Pitcher: Alek ManoahMost Improved: Alejandro KirkBest Rookie: Max CastilloKirk and Manoah emerged as the biggest contributors on an underachieving club. The former turned into an All-Star catcher thanks to a .315/.395/.487 slash line with 11 homers over 83 games, while the latter amassed a 2.28 ERA with 0.95 WHIP over 18 starts (114 2/3 innings). The 24-year-old right-hander holds a .760 winning percentage since entering the majors last season.Washington NationalsMVP: Josh BellBest Pitcher: Josiah GrayMost Improved: Carl Edwards Jr.Best Rookie: Joan AdonBell has been more consistent than Juan Soto so far this season and will be a huge trade chip for the Nationals ahead of the deadline. The switch-hitting slugger paces the Nats in fWAR and RBIs while sitting second in wRC+ and home runs. There wasn't much competition in the best rookie department.Copyright © 2022 Score Media Ventures Inc. All rights reserved. Certain content reproduced under license.
Max Fried of the Atlanta Braves and Gerrit Cole of the New York Yankees talk about the emotions of playing in the 2022 MLB All-Star game. Afterwards, both Fried and Cole praise the abilities of Los Angeles Angels' pitcher Shohei Ohtani.