Highlights From The First Half The 2012 MLB Season [16 High Quality Photos]

The first half of the MLB season is over already? That went fast! We are in Kansas City for the second to last stop of our Windows Phone Baseball Bucket List journey eagerly awaiting the home run derby and All-Star game and go  to talking about the biggest baseball stories and highlights of the year so far. 2012 is clearly the year of the pitcher but there are also several hitting stars who are having their way with the league including a new class of rookies that will be baseball heros for decades to come. With All-Star break here we take a look back at the biggest news stories of the year to date.

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At the beginning of the season we weren’t sure if Bryce Harper would even make it up to the bigs before the year was over. But now, only half way through the season, the Rushmores, depicting presidents Lincoln (L-R), Washington, Jefferson and Teddy Roosevelt, got their wish as Bryce is the youngest position player to ever be named to the all-star team. [Photo credit: REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst]

At the beginning of the year who would have guessed that a 37 year old journey man with 41 total career wins leading into the season would be the best pitcher in the National League? R.A. Dickey did something that hadn’t been done in a generation by throwing two consecutive one-hitters.

Speaking of amazing performances on the mound 2012 has been the year of the pitcher. Things started off with a perfect game by White Sox righty Phil Humber against the Seattle Mariners on April 21st.

Less than two weeks later on May 2nd Jered Weaver shared a special moment with his family in attendance by throwing an emotional and masterful no-hitter against the Minnesota Twins. With a record of 10-1 and an ERA of 1.96 Weaver is tearing through the American League at a pace that hasn’t been seen in decades. Going back to 1950, Weaver and Sandy Koufax are the only two pitchers to have 10 or more wins and an ERA below two.

Next it was the New York Mets’ Johan Santana who on June 1st threw the first no-hitter in the club’s history against the St. Louis Cardinals.

On June 8th, one week after Santana dominated the reigning World Series champions six Seattle Mariners pitchers, Kevin Millwood, Charlie Furbush, Stephen Pryor, Lucas Luetge, Brandon League and Tom Wilhelmsen, combined for a no-hitter against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

To cap off the incredible pitching streak Matt Cain tossed the first Perfect Game in San Francisco Giants’ franchise history on June 13th. Sports Illustrated statisticians calculated Cain’s perfect game to be the second most dominating 9-inning performance in MLB history and that is what locked him in as the National League All-Star game starter.

The Miami Marlins opened up their new stadium.

Two exciting new players entered the league and are tearing up their divisions. Not only is Mike Trout running away with the AL Rookie of the Year Award but he very will might be the second MLB player to win the RoY and league MVP award in the same year.

While Trout my be the best rookie player in the league Bryce Harper is the people’s champion. Although the smooth swinging 19-year-old has only been in the league for a few months he is rocketing up the popularity charts and leading the Nationals to a magical season.

Many of the games top players have missed all or a significant part of the season due to injuries. This includes Matt Kemp, Evan Longoria, Troy Tulowitzki, Jacoby Ellsbury, Roy Halladay, Chris Carpenter. A notable injury was Yankees closer Mariano Rivera who injured his knee while sagging fly balls during batting practice. Many speculated that it would be a career ending injury but Rivera stated that he will be back for the 2013 season.

Sports Illustrated said it best, “When Josh Hamilton hit four home runs against the Orioles on May 8th, he became just the 16th man in baseball history to accomplish the feat. More men (21) have thrown perfect games. Hamilton’s performance was even more impressive than that, however. When you factor in the fact that Hamilton went 5-for-5 on the night, mixing a double in among his four homers, it could be argued that his was one of the handful of best single-game hitting performances in major league history.”

The amazing pitching and Josh Hamilton’s insane hitting ability is nothing compared to what Aaron Hill did in June. Hill hit for the cycle twice in the same month. The photo above shows Hill sliding into trird completing his amazing feat. Hitting for the cycle twice in a season is rare enough, only four players have ever done so but doing it in the same calendar month has happened only one other time when in 1883, Cincinnati first baseman John Reilly cycled twice in eight days.

In May 49-year-old Jamie Moyer turned in one of the best pitching performances of the year for the Rockies letting up only 6 hits and 0 earned runs over 7 innings and in the process became the oldest pitcher to win a game in Major League Baseball history. He has since been cut from the ROckies and several other teams but the record is in the books.

He was one of the 25, as we like to say around here in tribute to that extraordinary brotherhood of players who brought the 2004 World Series trophy to Boston. And now, eight years later, only one of the 25 remain.

So it was natural that those in attendance at Fenway Park turned sentimental and nostalgic Sunday when Kevin Youkilis was removed from the game in the seventh inning, those swirling trade rumors finally settling on the south side of Chicago as his destination.

Youkilis’s final scene in a Red Sox uniform couldn’t have been more perfect if Dr. Charles Steinberg had scripted it and the Pops was in the house to give it a soundtrack. It was better than that, actually, because it was genuine, organic and real.

He chugged out a triple (aided by the haywire GPS of two cooperative Atlanta outfielders), sliding hard into third and no doubt covering up a recently acquired dirt stain with a new one. His old friend Nick Punto came on to pinch-run — this is it, the trade must be complete, we seemed to recognize in unison — and Youkilis knew it, too. These were his final acts as a member of the Red Sox, the only organization he had ever known.

It was sentimental, it was nostalgic, and despite Bobby Valentine’s transparent attempts to appear as if he’s copacetic with Youkilis — theatrical ol’ Bobby V. has never seen a scene couldn’t try to steal — it was authentic.

Youkilis hugged his teammates — Punto, David Ortiz, and Dustin Pedroia, who appeared to make a particular point of paying homage and showing solidarity. He waved his helmet appreciatively, and he savored one last salute of “Yooooooooouuuuuukkkk!!!,” which sounds like a chorus of boos, though no one around here requires an earnest announcer to inform us that it is precisely the opposite. I can’t think of a ballplayer ever getting a more appropriate, mutually sincere sendoff, especially during a game.

– By Chad Finn, Boston.com Staff

What stories would you have liked to see on our list? Sound off on Twitter @RSVLTS

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