As a frustrating first half of the 2010 season winds down, it's time to evaluate the winners and losers on the St. Louis Cardinals talented roster. The MLB All-Star Game is traditionally viewed as the midpoint of the season as most players get a three day break to rest, heal, and reset. It also is the perfect time to evaluate what we've seen so far. Here's this humble scribe's breakdown of the Redbirds first half award winners.
- Albert Pujols : All discussion of Most Valuable Player (either for the Cardinals, or for the NL) begins with the All-Star first baseman. While Pujols hasn't been as clutch as fans are accustomed, the slugger hasn't slacked off the pace of his phenomenal career. He is batting .307 with 21 HR, 61 RBI, and 54 Runs scored. His .412 OBP .577 SLG & .989 OPS slash line is below career norms, but all rank in the top 3 in the NL. Always looking for a way to win, whether through his aggressive but intelligent base-running or his Gold Glove caliber defense (.997 fielding percentage with 3 errors), Albert is the engine that drives the team.
- Adam Wainwright : Last season was Wainwright's breakout season, winning 19 games and garnering the most first-place votes for the Cy Young award. He didn't win that award though, finishing 3rd in the balloting. That slight seems to have pushed the righthander to an even higher strata. He is second in the NL in Wins (13) ERA (2.11) and Complete Games (4). Taking the torch as staff ace from Chris Carpenter, Wainwright's losses reflect his dominance as much as his wins. He's suffered 2 losses in 1-0 games, and another loss came in a complete game which he allowed only 2 earned runs.
And the winner is... PUJOLS. This is an exceptionally tough decision, based simply on Pujols being an everyday player.
- Adam Wainwright : 13-5 2.11 ERA 19 starts 4 CG 1 SHO 136.1 innings 127 strike outs.
And the winner is... WAINWRIGHT. No one else in the conversation.
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
- David Freese : Freese was handed the job on Opening Day 2010 and is clearly the team's #1 at the position. He has been solid defensively, with flashes of brilliance. At the bat is where Freese has shined, though. His .296 batting average ranks first amongst all NL rookies in batting, staying over .300 until an ankle sprain slowed him down. Currently on the DL, Freese's discipline at the plate and penchant for driving in runs has been sorely missed in the line-up.
- Jaime Garcia : Coming into Spring Training after missing most of 2009 due to Tommy John surgery, this touted prospect was a long-shot for the rotation. Garcia simply forced his way in with his outstanding performances in camp. Garcia hits the break with an 8-4 record and his 2.17 ERA ranks just behind teammate Adam Wainright for third in the NL. He has a fantastic curve, a major league fastball, and command of a variety pitches, but Garcia does walk too many batters and has been shaken by errors by his fielders. But these are correctable, and show that there is still room to improve upon his fantastic start.
- Jon Jay : Recently called up from Triple-A Memphis for the second time this season, Jay is proving to be the catalyst the Cardinal offense has been needing. Since rejoining the Cardinals on July 2, Jay has been involved in half of all the innings the St. Louis offense has put runs on the scoreboard. The 25 year old OF enters the break on riding an 11-game hitting streak and is batting .385 in his limited AB and sporting a very impressive OPS of 1.018 which would be 3rd in MLB if he had enough plate appearances.
And the winner is... GARCIA. As impressive as Freese has been, without Garcia the Cardinals would be challenging the Cubs for irrelevance in the NL Central.
COMEBACK PLAYER OF THE YEAR
- David Freese : Freese missed a good portion of the 2009 season due to ankle surgery precipitated by injuries sustained in an automobile accident the previous winter. Though he made the Cardinals 2009 opening day roster, he didn't stick around long. He was penciled in as the big league club's starting third baseman in this past off-season, but he put that opportunity in jeopardy with a DUI arrest. He has put that problem behind him, and has been a vital part of the Redbird line-up.
- Jaime Garcia : Garcia first sported the Birds on the Bat late in the 2008 season going 1-1 while starting one game and appearing in nine others. He was showing good promise, but suffered a ligament injury and had to undergo Tommy John surgery missing most of the 2009 season. As 2010 Spring Training commenced, Garcia was ticketed for the minors to rebuild arm strength, but he impressed enough to travel north with the team. Now Redbird fans cannot imagine where the Cardinals would be without him in the rotation.
And the winner is... GARCIA. Both had tough roads back, but Garcia is more valuable.