We have completed the unofficial first half of the MLB season and that means it’s time for the Pittsburgh Pirates’ midseason awards!
Best Starting Pitcher: Francisco Liriano
Liriano started off the season on the disabled list and the team was hoping he would at least hold down the fifth spot in the rotation until Charlie Morton and/or Gerrit Cole arrived. No one would’ve guessed it, but Liriano has simply been awesome since he’s arrived in Pittsburgh: 9-3, 2.00 ERA in 12 starts, including a complete game. Honorable Mention: Jeff Locke
Best Starting Position Player: Pedro Alvarez
Most people would go with Andrew McCutchen here and he definitely makes a case – and Starling Marte has been awesome this year as well – but Pedro is doing something we Pirates fans have been waiting for a long time. He’s putting up big power numbers in the cleanup spot and playing very nice defense. Kudos, Pedro! Honorable Mention: Starling Marte
Best Moment in a Game: June 11 vs. Giants
Cole starts his first game with the Pirates. Pitch 1 – strike (save the ball), Pitch 2 – strike, Pitch 3 – swinging K (save the ball). A bit later, Cole rips a nice RBI hit (save the ball) to help his own cause on the way to a Pirates win. That’s three balls for the trophy case in one night. Pirates win 8-2. Fantastic!
Honorable Mention: June 30 vs. Brewers
The “Shark Tank” bullpen pitches 12 shutout innings to help the Pirates finish a sweep of the Brewers. Morton started the game and pitched two innings before a two-hour rain delay ended his day. Vin Mazzaro pitched five perfect innings and five other relievers held the Brewers to one run in 15 innings.
Biggest Surprise: Liriano
No one and I mean no one would have expected the results the Pirates have gotten from Liriano and it is absolutely worth mentioning twice. Honorable Mention: Jordy Mercer supplanting Clint Barmes as starting shortstop.
Biggest Disappointment: Neil Walker
Walker has been hurt quite a bit this season and when he has played, he’s been pretty terrible at the plate. His defense is superb and it makes you wonder if all the extra practice reps on defense has taken away from his reps with the bat. Dis-Honorable Mention: Garrett Jones
Best Overall Moment: The Pirates being ranked No. 1 in MLB by almost all national publications. Honorable Mention: Jason Grilli and the “Shark Tank” on the Sports Illustrated cover.
Best Stretch of Play: June 20-30
The Pirates win nine in a row, starting with a four-game series victory in Cincinnati and followed by a sweep at the Angels, two over Seattle and a sweep of the Brewers. Honorable Mention: May 10-31 – The Pirates went 16-5 in that span.
Team Pitching MVP: Locke
Locke has been doing it all season long, and while Liriano has been fantastic and no one can take it away from him, Locke deserves to be an all-star. Besides losing his last game vs. Oakland on July 8 when the Pirates fell 2-1, Locke hadn’t dropped a decision since his first start of the season at the Dodgers on April 7. That is MVP-worthy. Honorable Mention: Liriano
Bullpen MVP: Grilli
Grilli has been awesome this year as the closer, going 29 out of 30, earning his first all-star appearance and having career type numbers: 40.2 IP, 9 R, 9 BB, 63 K, 1.99 ERA and 0.86 WHIP. Grilli was offered more money elsewhere but he wanted to stay with the Pirates because he believed in what the team was doing and the potential for a great season. Well played, sir. Honorable Mention: Mark Melancon
Team Hitting MVP: Alvarez
Pedro started out slow again this season, hitting .180 in April and .225 in May; he had 10 homers in the first two months of the season. In June, Pedro hit .309 with 10 HRs and so far in July, he’s hitting .298 with four HRs. Pedro was also selected to his first All-Star Game and participated in the Home Run Derby. Pedro may have only gotten six home run in the contest and gotten knocked out in the first round, but he could be a mainstay there for many years to come. Honorable Mention: McCutchen
Team MVP: McCutchen
The Pirates go as McCutchen goes. Cutch is considered to be having a down year to his standards, despite hitting .302 with a .376 OBP, .471 SLG and .847 OPS. His power numbers are down (10 HRs) but he has 20 stolen bases, 26 doubles, one triple and is playing amazing defense. He was named to his third All-Star Game and figures to be a major reason the Pirates end their 20 years of losing. Honorable Mention: Russell Martin