Half-Way Home: American League Edition
So you've seen my National League choices for first-half award winners. Now it's time to pick the best of the first half from the Junior Circuit.
AMERICAN LEAGUE CY YOUNG:
Winner: This is a very difficult award to give out. There have been a handful of dominant hurlers in the AL so far, and you really can't go wrong with picking guys like Justin Duchscherer or Joe Saunders.
But I am going to go with the likely candidate for AL Comeback Player
of the Year, Indians left-hander Cliff Lee. In 2007, Lee missed the first month of the season with an oblique injury. And after struggling
through the first half plus of that season, he was demoted to Triple-A
on July 26. Before being sent down, Lee was 5-8 with a 6.38 ERA.
Flip the calendar to 2008, and Lee sports an 11-1 record, a 2.34 ERA
and 90 strikeouts - all of which are good for top 10 in the league. When you think of what this man has been through, it's hard NOT to look
at him as the best pitcher of the first half in the American League.
Runner Up: He has five complete games; he's won two of them.
Right-hander Roy Halladay continues a very impressive and very quiet
career here in 2008. He has a record of 8-6 (on an offensively-lacking
Blue Jays team), a 3.12 ERA, 100 strikeouts and a league best 121 1/3
innings pitched. If the Blue Jays were actually capable of scoring
runs for this former Cy Young award winner, maybe he'd have a better
shot at being named the first-half recipient.
Honorable Mentions: Duchscherer (OAK), Saunders (LAA), Felix Hernandez
AMERICAN LEAGUE ROOKIE OF THE YEAR:
Winner: For my money, this one is a no-brainer. Tampa Bay's Evan
Longoria is absolutely destroying American League pitching this season.
He leads all AL rookies in home runs (15), walks (31) and is second in
RBI (47). Just in the month of June, he's got 8 homers and 19 RBI. And
he's only 22 years old! This kid will be around for a very long time
and will only get better as time goes on.
Put this into perspective: last season's National League ROY, Ryan
Braun, made his debut on May 25. So if we compare the stats of Braun
and Longoria between May 25 and June 29, we see this:
Braun: 124 AB, 41 H, 6 HR, 21 RBI, .331 BA
Longoria: 122 AB, 37 H, 8 HR, 21 RBI, .303 BA
Very like numbers, and there's no reason NOT to think Longoria will be
the top rookie in the AL this season.
Runner Up: The quantity of AL rookies this season is quite low, as only
four hitters qualify as rookies. But regardless, you can't argue with the season Rangers' outfielder David Murphy is having.
Murphy quietly came over in the deal that sent Eric Gagne to the Red Sox last July. He was the Red Sox first-round pick in the 2003 draft, and the Rangers are reaping the benefits here in '08. Murph is batting .272 with 10 home runs and 52 runs-batted-in. Murphy almost didn't qualify as a rookie this season, as he had accumulated 127 at-bats prior to 2008 - three shy of the qualifying number. But, he does meet the criteria, and is having a great season for surging Texas Rangers.
Honorable Mentions: Greg Smith (OAK), Jacoby Ellsbury (BOS), Carlos Gonzalez (OAK)
AMERICAN LEAGUE MANAGER OF THE YEAR:
Winner: The Oakland Athletics were supposed to finish sub-.500 and not come even close to contending in the AL West. Instead, they come into play tonight seven games over .500 at 44-37 and only 4 1/2 games in back of first-place Anaheim. And most of their shocking success can be attributed to manager Bob Geren, my choice for Manager of the Year (or first half).
Geren took over as skipper for the A's to begin the 2007 season and has really worked his team to a terrific season here in '08, despite a number of injuries. There haven't been any temper tantrums or drama coming out of Oakland, as the team has just gone about its business and played hard.
Runner Up: I've been saying since the beginning of the season that the Tampa Bay Rays were going to be good this season. And boy was I right? The Rays came into play tonight with the best record in baseball. They've done it with a good mix of youth and veteran leadership. But it all comes back to manager Joe Maddon.
Maddon, manager of the Rays since 2006, has been able to teach his young players to play hard and not give up. And now, while they weren't expected to win, here they are right in the thick of a division race. This year's Maddon can be compared with 2003's Jack McKeon - manager of the World Champion Florida Marlins.
Honorable Mentions: Ozzie Guillen (CHW), Mike Scioscia (LAA), Ron Gardenhire (MIN)
AMERICAN LEAGUE GOLD GLOVE:
P - Roy Halladay (TOR)
C - Dionner Navarro (TAM)
1B - Kevin Youkilis (BOS)
2B - Akinori Iwamura (TAM)
3B - Scott Rolen (TOR)
SS - Orlando Cabrera (CHW)
OF - Ichiro (SEA)
OF - Nick Markakis (BAL)
OF - Bobby Abreu (NYY)
AMERICAN LEAGUE MOST VALUABLE PLAYER:
And here we are. The most prestigious single-season award for any player, the MVP award. And my pick for the first-half AL MVP is the Texas Rangers' Josh Hamilton.
Hamilton was the other half of that tremendous trade between the Rangers and Cincinnati Reds. This trade sent Hamilton to the Rangers for Cy Young front-runner Edinson Volquez.
Hamilton, who sat out of baseball for four years while recovering from drug and substance abuse, is tied for the league lead in home runs (19), leads the league in RBIs (80 - in 81 games, which is almost one RBI per game), and is 10th in batting average. For a good portion of the first half, Hamilton was looking like a possible Triple Crown threat, but his average has dropped off a bit.
Neverthless, Hamilton has had an incredible season, building on his breakout season of a year ago. The Rangers would not be having the season they are having without this 27-year old.
Runner Up: One can seriously make a case for Carlos Quentin of the White Sox. The Arizona Diamondbacks practically gave up on this kid, and dealt him to the South Side for minor leaguer Chris Carter. Well, like the saying goes...one team's trash is another team's treasure, and Quentin has been gold for the ChiSox.
Quentin is tied for that league lead in homers, third in RBI and has been a very pleasant surprise for Ozzie Guillen and the White Sox this season. He is a crucial reason as to why the White Sox are atop the AL Central, and should continue to shine all season long.
Honorable Mentions: Kevin Youkilis (BOS), Jermaine Dye (CHW), Milton Bradley (TEX)
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