First-Half MVP?

About a week ago, I received another of those interesting emails to which I referred to in yesterday’s post. This one was from Blaine Blontz, the lead writer of FanSided’s general MLB blog Call to the Pen. He was checking for opinions on who the different blogs felt was the first half MVP for the team it covered.

As I’m prone to do, I took the task of having the staff here determine that. I received some insightful selections…and reasons (as I had requested) for each pick. Here’s a look at how the BRM staff (and a former friendly face) voted…

The first vote I received went to none other than 2010’s NL MVP Joey Votto. As for why, I’ll let Alex tell you:

The Reds first half MVP has undoubtedly been Joey Votto. Votto’s approach at the plate has made the Reds lineup better from top to bottom over the past 2 seasons. His bat has led the NL’s most potent offense and the NL’s top scoring offense for two years now. Jay Bruce has been streaky so far this season and has benefited from hitting behind Joey Votto because Votto so frequently gets on base. Votto has also proven to be one of the best fielding first basemen in the National League. The first one to the ballpark and the hardest worker is in fact that Reds MVP so far in 2011.

Can’t completely disagree, can you? While some people may think Votto of 2011 is not even close to Votto of 2010, that’s because of how Joey has had to adapt at the plate. He’s not seeing as many good pitches so he must adjust to that. He got a couple good whacks this past weekend, so may be we’re going to see a little more of 2010 Votto.

I would think that maybe a few of us could might disagree with Alex….

…like Kevin did. He went a direction I thought more would. In fact, Kevin voted for the player I thought (not my choice, mind you) would be the overall selection. So, who did Kevin vote for?

Jay Bruce, without a doubt. Bruce has been the catalyst for the Reds offense all season long. He has come up with big hit after big hit. He was named National League Player of the Month for May and although his production has slowed a tiny bit, he is still a huge piece of the puzzle for the Reds.

I know Bruce has cooled as of late. I believe that was a concern I had having Bruce bat cleanup, he’s streaky…and Dusty has slightly altered that plan a bit this past weekend (which I will get to in another post).

What you may find hard to believe that I received two other votes…and other explanation why multiple players deserves such recognition. The votes. Yeah, one for Votto. One for Bruce. The last two?

They came from former staffer John Bell (who I invited to participate in any vote we have) and Justin. They both went the mound for their choices of which are the same. Here’s John…

Johnny Cueto – hands down.In a season filled with inconsistencies, the one constant has been a quality outing and bulldog style pitching coming from Johnny Cueto. He’s not afraid to use the entire plate, his change-up and slider are now effective pitches and he routinely comes back from being down in the count. Jay Bruce is the only other contender at this point for the all-star game, but again inconsistencies are plaguing the Reds’ right fielder. I honestly feel for Dusty Baker when he’s making a line-up because he may as well be flipping a coin at most positions.

That last statement, though not really a part of why Cueto was John’s vote is a little telling as some have already offered a version of their own (again, another post).

So you know then that Justin voted for Cueto. He has logical reasons as to why he voted Cueto…

Okay, bear with me. My version of an MVP is less of stats and numbers (though it finds its logic there) and more of value and impact. I could easily choose Joey Votto, and I probably should have, but we all know the Reds offense is at the core of the team’s strengths. I looked at the team’s weakness and who helped ballast that the most to find my MVP.The Reds weakness in 2011 most definitely consistent starting pitching. And who returned to help anchor a struggling starting staff and has proceeded to be the de facto ace since his season debut May 8th? Johnny Cueto. With a 5-2 record in 9 starts, Cueto has a 1.63 ERA and 0.973 WHIP (my personal favorite Cueto stat) and the Reds are 6-3 in his starts. Cueto has also went at least 6 innings in all of his starts but one and not given up more than 3 ER in any start. Providing a shot in the arm at a position where your team is hurting? Putting up near top-of-the-league numbers at your position to boot? That’s the MVP for me. If Cueto started the season healthy and pitched this way he would be mentioned in the prospective Cy Young conversation and by the end of the year, he still might.

While Cueto still gets more attention for his antics during last year’s brawl, that tide is starting to change, literally and figuratively. As eluded here more than once, Cueto is now a pitcher, not a thrower. It really is hard to imagine that even though Cueto does not have double digit starts, he can be viewed as the team MVP for the first half of 2011. But where would the Reds be without Johnny Cueto?

Now, I ask that of our readers…and then some. Among a list of seven players (as brought to us by John Heitz) is your pick as the Reds MVP for the first half of this season? Here’s why John could not make a definitive choice…

It is not as easy a decision for me to select an MVP for the first half of the Reds season as I wish it would be. For me there are 6 competitors but all have weaknesses to go with a few obvious strengths. Alphabetically they are Jay Bruce, Francisco Cordero, Ramon Hernandez, Brandon Phillips, Drew Stubbs and Joey Votto.Bruce was dominating in the month of May taking over the league lead in both HR and RBIs. Unfortunately as always seems occur with Jay he turns on and off like flipping a switch and has virtually vanished as a productive offensive threat in June making it hard to select him.Francisco has been a consistent performer this year with 15 saves and leading the Reds relief staff in Quality Relief Outings. His weakness is actually not his own fault but simply the lack of save opportunities. His ERA is 2.00 better than this time last year but he has 2 less saves due to a lack of opportunities.Ramon Hernandez is not considered the Reds starting Catcher but given the fact that he splits games and at bats with Ryan Hanigan. He has 7 Home Runs in only 140 at bats.Brandon Phillips has disappointed me at the plate this year but he must be considered a viable candidate for team MVP simply because of his mind bending defense. He is one of the reasons baseball is fun to watch.Drew Stubbs has the same amount of HRs as Joey Votto and along with it has 22 Stolen Bases. He strikes out far too much for a lead off hitter but he does make things happen. As any quality leadoff man should, he leads the team with 54 runs scored.Joey Votto. He is the best player on the Reds team, but is he the Most Valuable? He is tied for the most RBIs, 2nd and HR and runs. He draws an absurd number of walks because of the fear he instills in opposing managers. I am spoiled by past success so I tend to expect too much. That creates the hesitancy I feel in my selection but I do choose Mr. Votto as my 1st half MVP. I do hope in the second half his numbers become even more dominant.

Yes, John did NOT have Cueto, but he didn’t really make a pick either, and that’s another reason why I want to see what Reds fans think. We’ll add Cueto to the mix of the six players John mentions in a poll. Polls are located under the section labelled “FanSided Tweets” on the right-hand side of the blog. Make sure you cast your vote. In a week, I’ll announce your choice as the Reds first half MVP.