Near the Halfway Mark: A Look at MLB Award Candidates
It's that time again. After sifting through the dust, that has been the first half of the 2009 Major League Baseball season, we look at who the leading candidates are for baseball's awards.
Although the Los Angeles Dodgers have the best record in the league, do they have any candidates worthy of an award?
Albert Pujols has put up a mezmerizing season. Does he deserve the NL MVP?
Has this been a strong rookie class?
Let's take a look.
AL MVP: Justin Morneau, Minnesota
2. Jason Bay, Boston
3. Torii Hunter, Los Angeles
4. Mark Teixeira, New York
5. Evan Longoria, Tampa Bay
This is a tight race. With Jason Bay sliding recently, the nod goes to Justin Morneau.
Morneau has been great this season again for the Twins. While hitting .309 with 19 home runs and 64 RBI, Morneau is again in the hunt for another MVP.
His OPS is .963, with an on-base percentage of .389.
What Jason Bay has done to carry the Red Sox offense and the team to the best record in the A.L. has been astounding.
Jason Bay has been the offensive catalyst that makes the Red Sox run. He leads the league in RBI and tied for third in home runs in the American League. His .951 OPS is in the top 10.
But it’s the damage he’s done after the seventh inning that makes him dangerous. He’s hit six of his 19 home runs and driven in 19 RBI from the seventh inning on.
With runners in scoring position, Bay is hitting .347. He's driven in 47 of his 69 RBI in those situations.
The Red Sox currently own the best record in the American League and Bay has been a major force behind that. He’s making Sox fans forget Manny Ramirez.
But his recent slide and an average dipping into the .260’s range knock him out.
Surprisingly in the hunt has been Torii Hunter. His bat and glove have kept the Halos from sliding in the American League West. Hunter has provided the offense while Los Angeles waits for Vladimir Guerrero to return to form.
Mark Teixeira has come as advertised, although it took the return of Alex Rodriguez for him to get going.
Evan Longoria is establishing himself as the most dominant third baseman in the American League in only his second season.
NL MVP: Albert Pujols, St. Louis
2. Raul Ibanez, Philadelphia
3. Prince Fielder, Milwaukee
4. Ryan Braun, Milwaukee
5. Chase Utley, Philadelphia
Is there anyone in the universe better than Albert Pujols?
Pujols is leading the majors in home runs and RBI while batting .328 and has a ridiculous OPS of 1.170. He is making a run for the first triple crown since 1967.
Right now, St. Louis is tied with Milwaukee for the Central division and it’s been Pujols leading the way.
Is there much to discuss?
Well, there might be. Raul Ibanez came into take over for Pat Burrell to provide a little more offensive lift for the Philadelphia Phillies.
Ibanez left Seattle for the comfy confines of Citizen’s Bank Ballpark. He’s smashed 22 home runs, driving in 59 runs and batting over .300.
Ibanez' career high has been 33 homers and 123 RBI in 2006. He’s hitting above his career average of .287 at .312, which would be a career high also. The Phillie left fielder is on pace to hit 54 homers and drive in 154 runs.
Right behind Ibanez has been Prince Fielder. He and Ryan Braun have been carrying the Brew-Crew to a tie for first place in the Central division.
Chase Utley, along with Ibanez and Ryan Howard, has been leading Philadelphia with a potent offense and to a first place lead in the NL East.
AL Cy Young: Zack Greinke, Kansas City
2. Roy Halladay, Toronto
3. Josh Beckett, Boston
4. Felix Hernandez, Seattle
5. Justin Verlander, Detroit
From the start of the season, Zach Greinke has been the best pitcher in the American League. But he has company. It’ll be interesting how this Cy Young race shapes up as Roy Halladay returns from a groin injury.
Greinke is tied with Halladay and other for the league lead in wins with 10. But Greinke leads the AL in ERA with a 1.95. Greinke is tied for second in strikeouts behind Justin Verlander.
The story with Halladay is that he doesn’t strike out a lot of batters. His ERA is now 2.56, which is fourth in the AL.
Call me crazy, but Josh Beckett is pitching like one of the best pitchers in the majors since May 1.
The month of April, he was 2-2 with a 7.22 ERA.
Since May 1st, he’s 7-1 with a 1.94 ERA.
Verlander has been the ace of the Tigers staff, leading them to first place in the AL Central.
Hernandez has been bordering on dominant keeping the M’s afloat in the AL West.
NL Cy Young: Tim Lincecum, San Francisco
2. Matt Cain, San Fransisco
3. Johan Santana, New York
4. Yovani Gallardo, Milwaukee
5. Josh Johnson, Florida
Is there a more dominant pitcher in the league?
Lincecum has a Pedro Martinez-like frame and a sick arm with it. Standing at 5’11" and only 170 pounds, Lincecum has been silly this year.
Tim Lincecum leads the N.L. in strikeouts, second in ERA and is only two wins shy of the NL lead.
Think about his first two starts to the season. A combined eight and one-thirds innings pitched, seven earned runs, 14 hits allowed, and struck out 10 while walking six. He was 0-1 with 7.56 ERA.
Since then? He's 8-1 122 strikeouts in 105.2 innings pitched and an ERA of 2.29.
He is every reason the Giants are leading the Wild Card.
Lincecum’s teammate, Matt Cain, has finally come as advertised. After spending the previous three years with double digit losses, Cain is 9-2 and third in the NL in ERA.
Johan Santana was the front-runner for N.L. Cy Young until June rolled around. Before June, Santana was 7-2 with a 1.77 ERA.
Since June, Johan is 2-4 with a 6.19 ERA. He got shelled by the Yankees on June 14, allowing nine earned runs.
Yovani Gallardo has recovered from his injury last season and is pitching brilliantly going 8-4 with a sub-three ERA.
Josh Johnson, another pitcher plagued by injuries last season, is 7-1. But he has eight no decisions, seven of which he allowed three or less runs. A clear sign the Marlins need more bats.
AL Rookie of the Year: Ricky Romero, Toronto
2. Rick Porcello, Detroit
3. Nolan Reimold, Baltimore
4. Aaron Bailey, Oakland
This is one of the tightest races so far.
Ricky Romero has been superb so far for Toronto. He’s 6-3 with a 2.85 ERA.
He’s struck out 61 batters in 72 innings pitched. Romero is finding his strikeout power, fanning six plus batter in his last five outings.
Five of his last six starts, Romero has gone seven or more innings. Control has been a little issue with 24 walks so far this season.
He has been every bit of worthiness when he was drafted by Toronto in the first round
Porcello is 8-5 with a 3.90 ERA. But, Procello has helped the Tigers to first place in the A.L. Central.
The Orioles look like they found a decent bat in Nolan Reimold. Hitting .288 with nine home runs and 20 RBI, Reimold will provide protection once Matt Wieters finds his stroke. This is evident by the .883 OPS
There was a reason the Oakland Athletics traded away Huston Street. They found themselves a nice closer in Aaron Bailey. Bailey is 4-1 with eight saves and a 2.09 ERA.
NL Rookie of the Year: Colby Rasmus, St. Louis
2. Tommy Hanson, Atlanta
3. Kenshin Kawakami, Atlanta
4. Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh
Colby Rasmus leads the N.L. Rookie of the Year, now. Hitting .270 and banging out eight home runs while driving in 29 RBI, isn’t spectacular, but not bad as the Cardinals continue their outfield rotation.
When all is said and done, unless Rasmus gives the Cardinals a reason to start every day, this race will be between Tommy Hanson and Andrew McCutchen.
Hanson has only started five games so far, but he’s 4-0. After a rough debut, going six innings and allowing six earned runs, Hanson has gone his last three outings not allowing a single runner to score.
17 1/3 innings and zero runs.
Hanson’s problem has been his control: 18 strikeouts to 17 walks.
McCutchen has hit well since the call up after Nate McClouth was traded. Although, his last five games, McCutchen has one hit in his last 18 at-bats.
So far, Andrew is hitting .295, with a home run and 18 RBI in 112 at-bats. Most importantly, his on-base percentage is .342 with a .797 OPS.
He has provided speed and on-base for Pittsburgh.
Imagine the outfield of McCutchen, McClouth, and Jason Bay. Wow!
Kenshin Kawakami has provided stability at the bottom of the Atlanta pitching staff going 4-6 with a 4.25 ERA.
AL Manager of the Year: Ron Washington, Texas
2. Jim Leyland, Detroit
3. Cito Gaston, Toronto
4. Terry Francona, Boston
It was just months ago that Ron Washington’s job was in jeopardy. Now his Texas Rangers stand a game and a half behind West leading Los Angeles.
Washington has done a nice job being able to balance rookie Elvis Andrus at short and moving Michael Young to third, while mixing in Hank Blalock and Omar Vizquel without any disruption.
Washington has lost power hitter Josh Hamilton to an injury. But that has opened up more playing time for the likes of Nelson Cruz.
His offense leads the American League in home runs with 115.
The only knock on the offense has been the team batting average which is at .256. Last season they led the American League with .283. A big drop off and a sign of how important Hamilton is to that line-up.
But the biggest change has been the pitching. His team ERA last season was 5.37 and this year it’s running at 4.38. Almost a full run shaved off. Texas was dead last in ‘Quality Starts’ with 54. This season, they already have 36.
Opponents hit .288 off Texas starting pitching in 2008. This season, they are hitting .266.
Jim Leyland’s Tigers lead the AL Central by three game over the Minnesota Twins and Chicago White Sox.
The Tiger’s pitching has been the story this season with the resurgence of Justin Verlander, Edwin Jackson and mixing in rookie Rick Porcello to the rotation. The team’s ERA is ranked fifth in the AL, going from a 4.90 ERA in 2008 to a 4.19 this season.
How about the job Cito Gaston has done it that tough American League East? Especially after losing four-fifths of his rotation to free agency or injuries, he still has his mainstay of Roy Halladay to carry the load. More importantly has been the development of Aaron Hill and Aaron Lind.
Terry Francona makes the list for simply making his team the best in the American League. Being able to hold off from that abysmal start to the season and be 17 games over .500 with many questions lingering on the offense side.
NL Manager of the Year: Bruce Bochy, San Francisco
2. Jim Tracy, Colorado
3. Ken Macha, Milwaukee
4. Fredi Gonzalez, Florida
Last Bruce Bochy and the Giants were 18 games under .500. This season, they lead the N.L. Wild Card by two games and are eight games over .500.
Bochy is riding the coattails of young right hander Tim Lincecum. But the surprise here has been the coming out party of Matt Cain. The Giants are also equipped with recent 300-game winner in Randy Johnson, who still has a little left in the tank. San Fran’s pitching staff is ranked second in team ERA with a 3.61 ERA. Opponents are only batting .244 against the Giants.
Two games behind the Giants are the ever-so hot Colorado Rockies, led by interim manager Jim Tracy. Tracy took over for Clint Hurdle, who was let go in May. Tracy has led the Rockies to a 23-8 record since taking over and have the Rockies rejuvenated, especially shortstop Troy Tulowitzki.
He is hitting over .300 since Tracy took over and showed some pop hitting seven homers in the month of June.
Even with the loss of Ben Sheets and ace CC Sabathia, the Milwaukee Brewers continue to own the N.L. Central. Ken Macha has done a nice job molding Yovani Gallardo and has that offense still as high powered as it was last season.
Fredi Gonzalez continues to take the low-payroll team and keep them in contention in the NL East. They stand a game and a half out of first place.