We talked about this some on the podcast Sunday night, but since the Astros aren't playing right now, let's hand out some mid-season awards. To make it interesting, I've named the after some Astros greats from the past. Today, we'll look at the Jeff Bagwell and Roy Oswalt awards.
The Jeff Bagwell First Half Astros MVP Award - Michael Bourn, CF: I know the tendency would be to swing this award to Hunter Pence because of his team-leading offensive numbers. I get that, I really do. But, I think that's shorting Bourn on a lot of his credit. Consider this: how bad would the Astros defense be without Bourn in center field? I know his defensive stats are down right now, but he's still been playing an excellent center field. Put someone else out there (or slide Pence over) and the pitchers would look even worse than they already do.
Add in Bourn's greatness on the base paths and he's got a great case for being the most valuable player on this team. While Bourn doesn't have great offensive numbers in the power department, he's also having a bounce-back season at the plate and is hitting a robust .287/.351/.395 with a league-leading 35 steals. Did I mention he's leading the league in steals for the third straight season? Or that he's got slightly better numbers than he did in his breakout 2009 season?
Like I said, I don't blame anyone for going with Pence. Hunter's been so good at the plate, it's almost hard to fathom how bad the offense would be without his bat there. However, I think Bourn's been a more valuable presence on this roster, thus he gets the nod.
The Roy Oswalt Astros Pitcher of the First Half Award - Bud Norris, RHP: You could certainly make the case for Wandy Rodriguez there, since he's been one of the best pitchers in the entire league over the past 30 starts. However, you can't beat Norris' combination of exceeding expectations, making The Leap and providing the kind of shutdown stuff to make you feel like he could throw a no-hitter.
While Wandy can be dominant, Norris thrives on making batters miss. His fastball is excellent and he epitomizes Larry Dierker's recent espoused philosophy that a struggling pitcher should focus on two or three pitches and throw them well.
Norris isn't pitching remarkably different from 2010. He hasn't missed time yet, which is good, his strikeout rate is the same as it was last season (more or less) and he's giving up just a miniscule less amount of home runs. The big change is in his walk rate (which is a full 1.00 lower) and his hits per nine rate, also a full 1.00 lower than last season. Basically, Norris isn't giving up as many base runners, which allows his stuff to be more effective. Coming out of the All-Star break, he's got the No. 2 spot in the rotation, and I think he deserved it.