All-star break hon­ors

Barry Svrluga picks MLB’s first-half awards.

The Washington Post Sunday - - SPORTS - BY BARRY SVRLUGA

The all-star break ended Fri­day, when all 30 ma­jor league teams re­turned to ac­tion. Be­fore the first pitch, though, let’s re­view who owned the first half of the sea­son — while won­der­ing whether they can keep it up. Here are the pace-set­ters for MLB’s year-end awards (all stats en­ter­ing Fri­day): Na­tional League MVP: Bryce Harper, Na­tion­als Do we have to ex­plain this one? Harper leads base­ball in on-base per­cent­age at .464 (the high­est since Chip­per Jones’s .470 in 2008), slug­ging per­cent­age at .704 (high­est since Barry Bonds’s .812 in 2004) and on-base-plus-slug­ging per­cent­age at 1.168 (high­est since Bonds’s ridicu­lous 1.422 in 2004). The Na­tion­als, who have oc­ca­sion­ally fielded a lineup with Clint Robin­son (pre­vi­ous ma­jor league plate ap­pear­ances: 14) hit­ting fourth, are fifth in the league in runs scored only be­cause Harper has kept them afloat. His at-bats are events, and he’s qui­etly a con­tender for the Triple Crown. He’s hit­ting .339 to the .340 of Di­a­mond­backs first base­man Paul Gold­schmidt, has 26 home runs (be­hind only the in­jured Gian­carlo Stan­ton’s 27) and 61 RBI, trail­ing Gold­schmidt and Colorado’s Nolan Arenado (both with 70) and Stan­ton (67). What other choice is there? Cy Young: Max Scherzer, Na­tion­als This is where it gets tougher. Zack Greinke of the Dodgers is work­ing on a five-start stint with­out al­low­ing a run — 352/ in­nings, in­ter­rupted only by Mike Trout’s lead­off home run in the All-Star Game. That gives him a 1.39 ERA at the break, which, if it held, would be the low­est ERA since — get this — Bob Gib­son’s 1.12 in 1968, the Year of the Pitcher. But by the slimmest of mar­gins, Scherzer (whose ERA is 2.11) leads the league and beats Greinke in walks and hits per in­ning pitched (0.780 to 0.843, the top two in base­ball), field­ing in­de­pen­dent pitch­ing (2.20 to 2.66), in­nings pitched (132 to 1231/ 3) and bat­ting av­er­age against (.183 to .190, the top two in base­ball). Throw in Scherzer’s 16-strike­out, one­hit per­for­mance in Mil­wau­kee that he backed up with a no-hitter that was one pitch away from be­ing a per­fect game against Pittsburgh and the fact the banged-up Na­tion­als would hardly be in first place with­out him, and Scherzer has to be the choice. Rookie of the year: Kris Bryant, Cubs Dodgers out­fielder Joc Ped­er­son showed his power in push­ing Todd Fra­zier in the Home Run Derby, and he has 20 homers and an .851 OPS . But Bryant has been far more con­sis­tent, hit­ting .269 (to Ped­er­son’s .230), reach­ing base at a .376 clip (to Ped­er­son’s .364) and post­ing an .848 OPS that barely trails Ped­er­son while driv­ing in 51 runs— 10 more than any other rookie.

Amer­i­can League MVP: Mike Trout, An­gels So many good can­di­dates, but the 2014 MVP — who also has won the last two all-star game MVPs — keeps trip­ping into these awards. Trout trails Detroit’s Miguel Cabr­era in OPS (1.034 to 1.019), but he leads the league in slug­ging per­cent­age (.614) and runs scored (68) and is tied with team­mate Al­bert Pu­jols in homers (26). Plus, Trout has helped push the An­gels past the hot­start­ing Astros, some­thing fel­low MVP can­di­dates Cabr­era (on the dis­abled list), Josh Don­ald­son of Toronto and Jason Kip­nis of Cleve­land can’t say. Cy Young: Sonny Gray, Ath­let­ics Chris Sale of the White Sox may have the sex­i­est num­bers, what with his 157 strike­outs, league­lead­ing 0.947 WHIP, .204 av­er­age against and his­toric string of eight straight starts with at least 10 strike­outs. Hous­ton’s Dal­las Keuchel, who started the All-Star Game, leads the league in in­nings pitched, has a 1.005 WHIP and a 2.23 ERA (that beats Sale’s 2.72) and has an­chored the staff of the sur­pris­ing Astros. But Gray has been the most con­sis­tently spec­tac­u­lar. He trails only Sale in WHIP (0.962), leads the league with a 2.04 ERA and is al­low­ing hit­ters a .198 av­er­age, best in the league as well. More­over, he has al­lowed more than three earned runs just twice, and in 10 of his 18 starts he has given up ei­ther zero or one earned run. A great race to watch the rest of the way. Rookie of the year: Devon Travis, Blue Jays This one seems the most likely to change by year’s end be­cause Hous­ton short­stop Car­los Cor­rea is com­ing — and com­ing hard. Cor­rea has the same num­ber of homers as Travis (seven), five fewer dou­bles and 13 fewer RBI— even though he has had 67 fewer plate ap­pear­ances be­cause he wasn’t called up un­til June. But let’s not dis­count what Travis has done in be­com­ing a cog in base­ball’s best lineup. He’s hit­ting .304 (to Cor­rea’s .276), and his .845 OPS is the best among AL rook­ies, 25 points higher than Cor­rea.

PHOTOS BY TONI L. SANDYS, JONATHAN NEW­TON/THE WASHINGTON POST, AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS AND GETTY IM­AGES

Clock­wise from top left: Kris Bryant, Max Scherzer, Sonny Gray, Devon Travis, BryceHarper andMike Trout all pro­ject to win post­sea­son awards.

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