Who Has Been the Astros’ MVP of the Second Half?
The Houston Astros have had quite the successful second half of 2022. Who has been their most valuable player since the all-star break?
The Houston Astros have been a model organization for the past couple of seasons, and that still rings true in the second half of 2022. Since the all-star break, they’re 19-13 which is a top-5 record in MLB, and they’ve since passed over the New York Yankees to become the AL’s top seed at 78-45. Throughout both the lineup and the pitching staff, a deep list of contributors has stepped up to chip in toward the team’s winning ways. Which player, though, has been the team’s most valuable of the second half?
The fact that many potential names come to mind speaks to how strong the Astros’ roster is. First, a couple of honorable mentions that haven’t quite been MVP-level but deserve a shoutout for the second half they are having:
Chas McCormick has had an excellent past few weeks. His 143 second-half wRC+ ranks 3rd among all Astros with at least 70 plate appearances and a huge part of his success has been his ability to hit righties. In the first half, McCormick was a pedestrian right-handed hitting, 3rd/4th outfielder that crushed lefties but couldn’t hit righties. However, in 68 second-half plate appearances against right-handed pitching, he has a 119 wRC+, which is well above league average.
The Astros’ best reliever of the second half might surprise some. Bryan Abreu continues to warrant consideration for a bigger role, thanks in part because he is the only Astros reliever to not allow an earned run since the all-star break. His 13.1 K/9 is the best of all their relievers since then, and despite normally having control issues, he has now walked less than 2 batters per 9 innings in that stretch. Combine that with 0 home runs allowed in 10.1 innings, and his second-half FIP comes out to 1.09: very impressive.
There are only two legitimate candidates, in my opinion, for the title of the Astros’ second-half MVP so far. The first is Alex Bregman, who hasn’t just been one of the best Astros since the all-star break, but one of the best players in MLB. For years, the narrative surrounding Bregman has entailed the fact that he has been good, but not close to his MVP-caliber 2019 self. That is finally changing in a big way at the moment.
In the second half, Bregman is slashing .325/.391/.623 for a 187 wRC+, 41 points higher than the next closest Astro (Aledmys Diaz at 146). Diaz deserves some love, as he was on a tear before injuring his groin in Chicago last week, but luckily, he’s expected to be back for the final couple of weeks before the postseason. McCormick, as stated, has been outstanding, as has Yordan Alvarez even though he hasn’t quite met the standard he set in the first half of late. Kyle Tucker has had a good second half despite a lengthy slump as well. Bregman, though, has been worth a full win above replacement more (1.8) than his next closest teammate, according to Fangraphs.
In terms of where he stands relative to the rest of MLB in this timespan, Bregman’s wRC+, HR, and RBI are all top-5 in the league, while his fWAR is top-10. Only a handful of players can claim to have been as consistently hot as Bregman of late, and he surely hopes that this is part of a greater transition back to the franchise cornerstone that he was during the late 2010s. If that’s the case, give him credit: after all, he called it himself this past offseason.
The other clear candidate for second-half MVP is on the pitching side with Justin Verlander. Since mid-July, the 39-year-old has established himself as the Cy Young favorite in the American League. His 2.14 ERA, 0.89 WHIP, and 2.26 FIP are all outstanding as per usual. Cristian Javier’s ERA has been lower (2.12) during that stretch, and while he has been having an excellent year, his recent numbers might be inflated due to some good fortunes, as evidenced by his much higher FIP (4.39) and absurdly low .173 BABIP.
Last week, Verlander outdueled his top competition for the Cy Young award, Dylan Cease, despite the Astros losing the game in the late innings. He has completed 6 innings in all 5 of his second-half starts, and he has completed 7 innings in 3 of them. It will be interesting to see how he fares in his next outing against former Astro Carlos Correa and the Minnesota Twins on Tuesday, but it wouldn’t be surprising in the least to see him continue his award-worthy season.
Verlander’s 2.14 ERA ranks 16th among qualified MLB starters in the second half, and his 1.4 fWAR is inside the top 5 behind only Zac Gallen, Blake Snell, Julio Urias, and Max Scherzer. He’ll only have a few starts left with the Astros’ 6-man rotation to prove his worth for the Cy Young award, but so far, he has been up to the task at every turn.
Framber Valdez, Verlander’s teammate and fellow ace, deserves a shoutout too because he has made a record 20 consecutive quality starts, but looking at the second half only, all of Verlander’s outings have been quality starts too. Besides, he has been slightly more effective in his appearances than Valdez has. Verlander’s season is becoming Hollywood movie material, and he’s only the tip of the iceberg in terms of the wealth of pitchers the Astros have.
While the choice between Bregman and Verlander, I have to consider Bregman the current frontrunner for Astros second-half MVP. He has been more dominant from the perspective of the entire league than Verlander has, and while this isn’t fair to Verlander considering he can only take the mound once every six days as a starting pitcher, Bregman’s ability to put the team on his back as he did in Chicago last week demonstrates just how valuable he can be.
Who’s your choice? Reply in the comments or on Twitter!