Half Way Home: National League Edition

Jason Lempert@MetsPride84Correspondent IJune 29, 2008

The All Star Game is commonly referred to as the mid-way point of the season.  But more accurately, the half-way mark of the season for most teams is either today or tomorrow. 


So, in honor of the actual mid-season, here are my MLB awards for the first half of the season.


Winner: Edinson Volquez, CIN—What a trade between the Cincinnati Reds and the Texas Rangers. 


During this past offseason, the Reds sent Josh Hamilton (more on him later) for Volquez, and you won't see more even dividends for both clubs. 


All Volquez has done in the first half is lead the league in ERA (2.08), tie for first in strikeouts (110), and tie for second in wins (10).  But an even more telling stat is that the team has won 12 of Volquez's 16 starts.

Runner Up:  Brandon Webb, ARI—It's very possible that Webb's name will be mentioned in Cy Young discussions every year for the rest of his career.  This guy has the stuff to just dominate a game. When his sinker is on, Webb is almost certain to come out victorious.  But he trails Volquez by 26 strikeouts, and his ERA is over a run higher. 

Honorable Mentions:  Tim Lincecum (SF), Ben Sheets (MIL), Carlos Zambrano (CHC)—Zambrano would probably get more talk if it weren't for his short DL stint.


Winner:  Last year's Rookie of the Year in the National League didn't arrive in the Major Leagues until the end of May.  My mid-season pick for the 2008 ROY is Geovanny Soto, catcher for the Chicago Cubs. 


Soto, a former 11th round draft pick, is hitting .282 with 13 homers (which leads all NL rookies).  Soto, 25, has all the tools to be a top-line catcher for years to come.


Runner Up:  Last October, the Atlanta Braves made a somewhat surprising move, sending All-Star shortstop Edgar Renteria to the Detroit Tigers in return for Gorkys Hernandez and Jair Jurrjens. 


This trade had many in the baseball world going, “Huh?”  But someone in the Braves’ organization deserves a ton of credit.  While Renteria has seriously struggled in the Motor City, Jurrjens has had an incredible rookie season with the Braves. 


He leads all MLB rookie pitchers with a 2.94 ERA (which is also good for fourth in the NL).  He’s got an 8-3 record and has been a staple in what has been a very inconsistent rotation. 


There wasn’t room for him in Detroit, but he should be helping the Braves win games for a long time.


Honorable Mentions:  Johnny Cueto (CIN, P), Joey Votto (CIN, 1B), Kosuke Fukudome (CHC, OF).





Winner: For me, this is probably the most difficult award to hand out.  Players are fairly easy to evaluate, thanks to statistics.  But managers do not hit home runs or strike anyone out.  And obviously you can’t just give the award to the manager with the best team record. 


So, that being said, my pick for NL Manager of the Year goes to the skipper of the Florida Marlins, Freddi Gonzalez. 


As of June 29, 2008, the Marlins own a 41-39 record and are only two games back of the Phillies for first place in the division.  This team wasn’t expected to win much at all this season, and yet they just keep on winning. 


The Marlins have a good mix of youth, veteran leadership and the passion to play hard.  The question remains, however—does this team have enough pitching to maintain this success in the second half?


Runner Up:Tony LaRussa is arguably the best manager of the last decade.  His leadership and overall knowledge of the game can not be ignored. 


And now, the Cardinals are 46-36 and are only three-and-a-half games behind the front-running Cubs. 


This is a team who has been without their ace (Chris Carpenter) for the entire season, lost their closer (Jason Isringhausen) for a good portion with a back injury, and were hardly expected to finish in third place.  But with LaRussa at the helm, this team will never back down.


Honorable Mentions:Ned Yost (MIL), Bruce Bochy (SF), John Russell (PIT)





P—Aaron Cook (COL)


C—Chris Snyder (ARI)


1B—Lance Berkman (HOU)


2B—Brandon Phillips (CIN)


3B—Jose Bautista (PIT)


SS—Cristian Guzman (WAS)


OF—Carlos Beltran (NYM)


OF—Rick Ankiel (STL)


OF—Ryan Braun (MIL)





Winner: As far as player performance goes, this is the most difficult award to hand out.  There has been much debate about whether the MVP should be a member of a solely a winning team, or if a player can be valuable on a team that has underperformed. 


For my money, a Most Valuable player is a player that has helped his team win as much as possible—in other words, a player whose team would not have been as competitive without his presence. 


For instance, it’s conceivable that the Yankees of the late 90’s would have won with or without one of their key players, and that is why, I feel, no one from those teams was ever named the MVP. 


So who is my NL MVP of the first half?  That honor goes to Dan Uggla of the Florida Marlins.


Uggla shares the league lead in home runs with fellow “U” second baseman Chase Utley.  But more than that, his replacement in the lineup at second base would either be Alfredo Amezaga or Robert Andino—neither of which would be able to keep the Marlins in the division race. 


Without Uggla’s bat in that lineup, the Marlins would not be where they are right now.  His clutch hitting and flashy defense have helped make the Fish one of the most surprising team in all of baseball. 


Sadly for Uggla and the Marlins, he left Saturday’s game with a sprained left ankle.  This could be crushing for the Marlins in the second half, should this injury linger the rest of the season.


Runner Up: It’s almost impossible to say who is more deserving; Chase Utley or Lance Berkman.  Both have had tremendous first halves and are on pace to have career seasons. 


But again, a player can’t be all that valuable to a team if that team is not winning.  And the Astros are sub-.500, and sit 11 games out of first place. 


Meanwhile, the Phillies are looking almost dominant in the NL East (even though they’ve lost eight of their last 10 games).  Utley is a constant threat both at the plate and at second base. 


It’s really a toss-up between all of these candidates for MVP, so feel free to make your own pick—you can’t go wrong with any of them.


Honorable Mentions: Lance Berkman (HOU), Adrian Gonzalez (SD), Chipper Jones (ATL), Derrek Lee (CHC), Ryan Braun (MIL).


Stay tuned for my American League picks!


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