For whatever reason the first and second half of the MLB season is unbalanced. There are noticeably less games to be played after the All-Star Break than before. So I figured, why not make it the first 81 games instead? That game was late last week, and all of these stats are from that deadline. Please strike from your thoughts any great or terrible performances that have occured in the meantime. Presented to you in alphabetical order, your top Cy Young (Ben Sheets?) Award nominees.
Fiers isn’t a surprise here. He was my preseason choice for top starter for the year, as he was with many Brewers fan writers. In the first 81 games, Fiers fanned considerably more batters per 9 innings than his fellow starters, while keeping his walk rate reasonable. His opponent slash is not strong, but a .347 BABIP likely has a role in that. His 3.68 FIP is much better than his more mundane 4.14 ERA.
Standout Stat: Fiers’ 1.4 fWAR (which quantifies by FIP rather than ERA) was nearly twice that of the next closest Brewers pitcher.
87 IP 9.62 K/9 3.41 BB/9 4.14 ERA 3.68 FIP 1.4 fWAR .279/.342/.446
Nelson has been the only steady starter outside of Fiers, throwing well and continuing to walk few. Thus, he has been more of an innings-eater than Fiers, which is valuable when two of five of your rotation consistently forced the bullpen into games early. With a new, strong pitch in a curveball, Nelson should only improve from here. His xFIP (3.99) is nearly equal to that of last year due to an unlucky home run per fly ball percentage in the first half.
Standout Stat: Despite being brand new, Nelson’s curve has had a better SLG% this year than his likewise outstanding slider (.034 to .042).
96 1/3 IP 7.29 K/9 3.27 BB/9 4.48 ERA 4.24 FIP 0.5 fWAR .253/.328/.396
K-Rod has been outstanding as the team’s closer, though luck has played its part (.229 BABIP, 90.9 LOB%). His changeup has been about as close to unhittable as possible (69 AB, 4 hits, .058 BA, .087 SLG). Rodriguez is a perfect 18 for 18 in save opportunities.
Standout Stat: In save chances, K-Rod has a sky-high 5.67 K/BB ratio while opponents have nine hits over 18 innings, slashing .148/.188/.197.
31 IP 10.45 K/9 2.61 BB/9 1.45 ERA 2.47 FIP 0.7 fWAR .168/.231/.262
Setup man Will Smith has dominated batters this year, all without benefiting from just too much luck (though a little, .278 BABIP). He was even better against righties than his fellow lefties in the first half, a far cry from his career troubles that made him look like a LOOGY last year. He has managed to maintain his astronomical strikeout rate from last year, while reducing his walk rate (4.25 to 3.60).
Standout Stat: Smith has let up just 20 hits, with only six doubles, and no triples or home runs for a .056 ISO.
30 IP 12.0 K/9 3.60 BB/9 1.50 ERA 1.72 FIP 0.8 fWAR .183/.270/.239
It’s pretty clear that the Brewers have some nice pieces, the choice is yours, and will be a tough one. Each player has an area where he is doing something the others have not/can not. The half-way MVP voting can be found here.