Melissa: It was a tough choice between James McDonald and AJ Burnett, but I had to go with AJ. As we know, AJ had 2 rough starts, one in which he gave up 12 runs in 2.2 innings and the other in which he gave up 6 runs in 5 innings. And despite those, AJ’s ERA is 3.68. To lower it that much takes a lot. He’s also a 10-game winner already. He’s also been an incredible veteran presence in the clubhouse and a huge reason for our 2nd best pitcher’s success.
Rich: I was a huge A.J. Burnett advocate when the trade was just a rumor and he hasn’t disappointed me! A.J. has been great on the field and especially off it. Burnett has helped in more ways than just his performance, especially with James McDonald. I’m not so sure there is this James McDonald without A.J. Burnett, so I had to go with A.J..
Brad: Even though he has been roughed up a bit lately, I’m going with James McDonald. Coming into this season we knew JMac had good stuff. Did we know it was this good?
Bill: Three choices come to mind; JMac, Burnett and Grilli (how about the Bucs’ staff considering I left out the only Pirates pitcher to make the NL All Star roster, Hanrahan). I did a first half awards post for another website and picked James McDonald as my second choice for the Cy Young, so its hard not to go with him here and not look like a hypocrite. Rich makes an interesting point as well because Burnett has been awesome this year (2.59 ERA without the 5/2 STL start, 10 wins) and no doubt has had a major part in JMac’s emergence.
Well you can call me a hypocrite because despite the facts listed above I am still going to go with Jason Grilli. The guy has been absolutely lights out while anchoring the 8th inning and a pivotal part of the Pirates 41-0 record when leading after 7 innings. His emergence as the setup guy to Hanrahan has allowed bullpen flexibility during middle relief as well . Oh yea and his numbers are sick: 1.87 ERA, 0.950 WHIP, 14.4 K/9, .145 Opp BA, 3.6 K/BB and 1.0 WAR.
Melissa: Andrew McCutchen. I feel like anything I can say has been stated already or I am not doing it justice, but Cutch is batting .362 with 18 homeruns and 60 RBIs, and we’re only halfway through the year. And he’s only 25. It can only get better from here. We’re talking Triple Crown potential here, and if he keeps this up he better win MVP of the league. However, I have to give some love to my boy Rod Barajas here too and the leadership and mentorship he’s brought to the team. As Clint Hurdle said, “He brings a veteran presence to the catching position and a leadership role in the clubhouse.” Yeah Cutch has better stats, but Barajas has been an incredibly valuable part of this team.
Rich: There really is no other choice here. Andrew McCutchen is probably the MVP of the first half in the National League, let alone on the Pirates. He has carried this team at times and there isn’t a player more important to his teams success than Andrew McCutchen. Anywhere.
Brad: Too easy of a question. Next.
Bill: Probably Andrew McCutcheon, although I hear that Andrew McCutchen guy has been pretty good too.
Rookie Of The Half
Melissa: Tony Watson. The 3.81 ERA is misleading due to the fact that Tony has pitched more than an inning only 3 times. Only twice has he given up more than a run, but the limited number of innings makes it hard to get the ERA down quickly. However, in 36 appearances Tony has given up just 11 earned runs while striking out 21 and walking just 10. He’s mostly a situational lefty, and out of 37 inherited runners, he has stranded 30.
Rich: I guess I’d have to go with the Veloci-reliever Jared Hughes. Sure he might remind you of Slingblade when he is on the mound, and he had his struggles in the beginning, but he is having a fine season. One neat thing about the Pirates is that they haven’t had to rely on rookies this year so that made this category almost worthless. Next year might be a different story though.
Brad: Jared Hughes because there’s not really anyone else in this category to pick.
Bill: Not a whole lot of options here. Jared Hughes has recorded some big outs in middle relief allowing the Bucs BP to get to the Grilli and Hanrahan innings. Hughes leads Watson (the only other candidate to my knowledge) in several significant categories (WHIP, ERA, WAR, OPP BA) so he gets the nod; not to downgrade the superb work Watson has done as a lefty specialist.
Melissa: Jason Grilli. The Phillies ditched this guy, left him in the minors until the Pirates wanted him. He now has 21 holds and a 1.87 ERA for the Buccos. He’s given up just 7 earned runs over 33.2 innings pitched.
Rich: I agree with Melissa. Jason Grilli literally went from the minor league scrap heap to being in the conversation about All Star game snubs. Grilli is behind only Aroldis Chapman and Craig Kimbrel in K/9 (pitchers with 30 or more appearances).
Brad: Jason Grilli. While Joel Hanrahan gets a lot of the credit (and rightfully so), Grilli has been phenomenal.
Bill: Grilli should win this but I already gave my man an award so I am gonna take it in a different direction and hand it over to Michael McKenry, who was my Rookie of the 1st half last year (Brad took Correia as his top pitcher…oofda). Obviously McKenry has found success before based solely on the TiGO award I honored him with, but did anyone think he could sustain it in a second season or show the pop he has over the 1st half.
McKenry has the 3rd highest OPS on the team (.852) and as the backup catcher the Fort has provided 7 HR, 14 XBH and 18 RBI in 35 games. You will be hard pressed to find a backup catcher contributing that much offensively in MLB. Along with Barajas the catcher position has provided the Pirates with 14 HR, which is among the leaders in baseball (7th). McKenry once again, seems to provide timely hits; look no further than the 3-run shot against the Phillies, a half inning after CBP was going nuts after back-to-back solo HRs by Chase Utley and Carlos Ruiz in a pretty must win game.
Melissa: I hate saying anything bad about any Pirates player ever. I guess I will say Jose Tabata, but I hope he figures out what’s going on and is back in Pittsburgh very soon. The same goes for Evan Meek. He’s told me how much he wants to be in Pittsburgh.
Rich: Without a doubt Jose Tabata. Tabata was putrid in Pittsburgh this season. Not only was his play itself bad, he routinely took it easy and cost his team with his tentativeness. The team thinks he is afraid to get hurt, but he signed his contract and he owes it to the team paying him to work through that fear.
Brad: Jose Tabata. I’m a Tabs fanboy so I hope he figures it out. Clint Barmes deserves to be in the discussion also.
Bill: There were many, many candidates when the Pirates were looking to set historic records for their offensive futility in the early part of the season. Wish I could find a way to not join the “dump on Tabs” party but most guys shook off the early woes and have contributed, leaving Jose Tabata as the prime candidate for this “award”. Heck even Clint Barmes has had some stretches of phenomenal defense (the 9th inning Saturday vs. the Giants is a prime example). I’m not ready to give up on Tabata because of his youth, but a guy that talented shouldn’t look so listless in both the field and at the plate.
MiLB Player of the Half
Melissa: He may not be the absolute best, but Jeff Clement is having himself a nice season in Indianapolis, and it’s quite a surprise. He’s had a long road back from injuries and has, by far, one of the best attitudes of any player I’ve ever met. This year, he is batting .299 with 25 doubles, 13 homeruns, and 43 RBIs.
Rich: Probably Starling Marte. The Pirates have a lot of talent at Triple A right now so it was really a toss up between four players for me. Marte is on the brink of being called up and is mashing. He already has nine homers this season, very close to his career high of twelve. He has power, can get on base, and has a cannon of an arm. He will be up this season, and may make it very easy to dump Jose Tabata if the Pirates get the right offer.
Brad: Starling Marte. Read everything Rich said again. An outfield of Marte, McCutchen and Tabata has me giddy.
Bill: Let me state how much I love Starling Marte. Absolutely can’t wait to see him and Cutch do a outfield high five after some huge W in the 2nd half. Probably will be my phone’s wallpaper. With that said I am going with Rudy Owens or Jeff Locke……no I can’t do it. Starling Marte is the best player on that Indians team and he is positively raking right now. I fully expect for him to come up and provide an Alex Presley-like spark we saw last year. Still the previously mentioned lefties, Locke and Owens need some due recognition as both may help the Pirates in the second half from a pitching depth standpoint. Marte’s award though.