This has been a great first half for the Pirates. As a team, they’re 56-37, a game out of first place, and have a strong hold on a wild card spot. There have been some pleasant surprises (Jeff Locke, Francisco Liriano, even Pedro Alvarez), a couple of great stretches, and a couple of really bad ones. So, which Pirates as individuals have made this all happen? Which moments of this season have been the best?
Biggest surprise: Francisco Liriano. Who would’ve expected Liriano to 9-3 at the break with an ERA of 2.00, by raise of hands. Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? Although he hasn’t played as much as other pitchers, Liriano has been nothing but an ace this season, since coming back from a broken right arm. You can’t take everyone to the All-Star Game, but the fact that Liriano isn’t in the game is a genuine disappointment given his performance to date.
Biggest disappointment: Neil Walker. The hometown kid is on pace to post career lows as a hitter this year. Compared to last year when he hit .280, with a career high fourteen home runs, this year has definitely been a step back. If he figures things out from the right side of the plate as well, his second half numbers should improve, but for now Walker is the biggest disappointment on the year.
Best young player: Jeff Locke. Locke has been nothing short of spectacular this season, and has yet to show signs of slowing down. He’s a deserving All-Star this year, and his stuff is great. Locke is going to be good for a long time.
Best shaving cream pie to the face: A.J. Burnett on Jordy Mercer.
Weirdest moment: Steve Blass calling Russell Martin’s walkoff against Detroit “Kinky”
Most enjoyable game: Gerrit Cole’s debut. Everything in the baseball world was right on the night of Cole’s debut. The Pirates beat up on Lincecum and the Giants in front of a sellout crowd, and Cole threw nothing but smoke. Fantastic.
MVP: Andrew McCutchen. This one should be a no-brainer. McCutchen isn’t posting the power numbers he did last year, but he’s posted a triple slash of .302/.376/.471, and he’s third in the N.L. in WAR. He’s not having a down year, he’s not struggling, he’s still a top five position player in the league, and he’s dominating again. Andrew McCutchen is the Pirates first half MVP.