The 10 MVP-caliber starts of 2012

David Brown
Big League Stew

The All-Star rosters have been announced and all 30 teams are reaching the midway point of the 162-game marathon. That means there's no better time to take a look back at what has been a very eventful and historic three months in Major League Baseball. Today, we'll narrow it down to the 10 best overall performances during the first half of the 2012 season.

1. David Wright — New York Mets

.354/.443./.570, 11 HR, 26 2B, 180 OPS+

It's by far the best season of his career, given ballpark and league context. He and Ruiz rate a little more valuable than Votto because of their respective defensive positions. Wright has never finished a season with more walks than strikeouts, but he's doing so right now (48 to 45). He struck out 161 times two seasons ago.

2. Carlos Ruiz — Philadelphia Phillies

.355/.419/.596, 13 HR, 20 2B, 171 OPS+, 13 HBP

Talk about an oasis in the desert. Chooch has been as good as the rest of the Phillies (except for Hunter Pence) have been bad. He already might have been the most-liked player in his city, but this season cements that distinction. This is actually his fourth straight above-average season offensively. It all started with a hot 2008 postseason.

3. Joey Votto — Cincinnati Reds

.345/.464/.619, 14 HR, 34 2B, 60 BB (12 IBB)

The best hitter in his sport, he's been walked intentionally 12 times to lead the league. He also leads in on-base percentage, slugging, doubles and walks. A season ago, he led the NL with 40 doubles, a total he could very well surpass with two months to spare. And he plays a strong first base, as far as anyone can tell.

4. Mike Trout — Los Angeles Angels

.348/.403/.555, 26 SB, 10 HR, 168 OPS+

The top freshman in either league, the 20-year-old Trout could become the first player since Ichiro Suzuki in 2001 (and the third in MLB history after Fred Lynn in 1975), to be Rookie of the Year and MVP in the same season. (And he is eligible for ROY.) He leads the league in batting average, stolen bases and adjusted OPS, and few have made defensive plays like this one against the Orioles in late June.

5. R.A. Dickey — New York Mets

2.40 ERA, 0.933 WHIP, 123 K, 26 BB, 86 H, 3 CG, 2 SHO, 126 IP

Probably the best story of the first half was Dickey's ascendance to stardom at age 37 with what was believed to be a gimmick pitch, the knuckleball. He pitched back-to-back one-hitters, the first time anyone had done it in the NL since 1944. He also wrote a book, gave a ton of great interviews and proved to be a role model for surviving sexual abuse as a child. The personal stuff doesn't factor into the MVP, but it should be noted.

6. Stephen Strasburg — Washington Nationals

2.81 ERA, 2.58 xFIP, 1.075 WHIP, 122 K, 93 IP

He's probably not anywhere close to how good he's going to be, either. His command will improve and he'll probably be tougher to homer against. Reportedly has an innings limit of 160, though Nats GM Mike Rizzo has denied this. If he does, well, he's getting close already. But the way they're playing, the Nationals might be able to abide by it and still win the NL East comfortably.

7. Andrew McCutchen — Pittsburgh Pirates

.356/.410/.603, 16 HR, 37 XBH, 14 SB

The Pirates are in first place and, while it's not one person's doing, this guy is at the front of the list as to why. Known for his speed, it's that .603 slugging percentage that jumps out. He's not walking nearly as much as last season, but his batting average — which leads the majors — is nearly 100 points higher. He loses points on defense — so say advanced metrics such as UZR/150.

8. Justin Verlander — Detroit Tigers

2.58 ERA, 0.950 WHIP, 128 K, 132 1/3 IP, 5 CG

There he goes again. Verlander won the AL Cy Young and MVP in 2011 and could be the best pitcher in the league again at the end. He nearly threw his third career no-hitter against the Pirates in May. Still not perfect, though: His 3.32 xFIP is 14th in the majors. Work on that, Verlander!

9. Josh Hamilton — Texas Rangers

.316/.386/.646, 26 HR, 74 RBI

After a sizzling start, he's in a slump and is unlucky when it comes to injuries, but he's on pace to shatter his personal marks for homers (32) and RBI (130). Wish he would draw more walks.

10. Michael Bourn — Atlanta Braves

.307/.360/.452, 23 SB, 30 XBH, 24 UZR/150

He didn't make the NL All-Star team somehow, and perhaps Robinson Cano belongs on this list just ahead of him, but Bourn has definitely turned into one of the best overall players in the league at age 29. He's also made a series of films about his secret life as a spy.

Also in this series: The top 10 rookie starts of 2012

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