MLB Grades: Full Report Cards for Baseball's Top 50 Players After the First Half
Over the last few days, every MLB team has hit a milestone in the 2011 season: Game No. 81—the halfway point of the year.
Believe it or not, more than 50 percent of the regular season is already behind us. Boy, time flies.
Last month, I made a list of the 50 best players in baseball approximately as it would have looked before the 2011 season started, and gave grades to each of them at the one-third point in the season.
Now it's time to take another look at the gradebook.
Here are the results of their midterms.
In case you missed it in the third paragraph, this list is how the Top 50 would have looked before the season.
No. 50: Stephen Strasburg, Nationals
You can't do well if you don't show up.
It's not Strasburg's fault that he's been recovering from Tommy John surgery, but he doesn't get a good grade when he doesn't show up for class.
No. 49: Buster Posey, Giants
Posey wasn't doing as well as he did last year even before he broke his leg.
He's still good, but maybe it's too soon to call him a truly elite player.
No. 48: Jay Bruce, Reds
Bruce has been roughly as good with the bat this year as last year, but his defense has gone down the tubes. His UZR/150 is down by fully 26.9 runs from 2010.
No. 47: Jason Heyward, Braves
The Jay-Hey kid has fallen from deserving NL Rookie of the Year in 2010 to mediocre in 2011. He's hitting just .234 with a .735 OPS and 0.7 WAR.
No. 46: Carlos Santana, Indians
Ignore his low batting average—that's the fault of an insanely low .250 BABIP.
Even bad luck can't negate Santana's power and insane plate discipline, as he's got a 117 wRC+ while playing the hardest position in the game.
No. 45: Mark Teixeira, Yankees
So what if he's hitting .244? With 25 homers and an .892 OPS, Tex is on pace for one of the best seasons of his career.
No. 44: Ichiro Suzuki, Mariners
Ichiro has been a below-average hitter and fielder, both career firsts.
Shockingly, he's been below replacement-level this year.
No. 43: David Price, Rays
Price's ERA has shot up 71 points from last year, but that's not his fault.
He's halved his walk rate while increasing the strikeouts, bringing his K/BB ratio up to 5.3.
No. 42: Adrian Beltre, Rangers
Beltre's walk rate is down slightly this year, but, other than that, the reason for his struggles looks like his uncharacteristic .254 BABIP.
Since his Power Factor is virtually identical to what it was last year, his numbers should pick up soon.
No. 41: David Wright, Mets
Injuries have robbed Wright of roughly half his season to date, but he hasn't been quite himself even when on the field.
He's having the worst offensive season of his career to go along with his declining defense.
No. 40: Adam Wainwright, Cardinals
Can't blame a guy for undergoing Tommy John surgery, but you can't credit him either. Sorry, Adam.
No. 39: Nelson Cruz, Rangers
The power's still there—his Power Factor is an insane 1.220 and he's on pace for 47 homers over 162 games—but that's about it for Cruz this year.
Not a great follow-up for a guy who posted 5.2 WAR in 108 games last year.
No. 38: Kevin Youkilis, Red Sox
The Greek God of Walks has been as patient as ever this year (14.6 percent walk rate), but the rest of his game has been a little off—including his defense, which hasn't translated as well to third base as Boston had hoped.
No. 37: Jered Weaver, Angels
Pick a number; Weaver has been phenomenal. He's 10-4 with a 1.92 ERA, a 2.41 FIP, a 0.92 WHIP, and 4.3 WAR.
No doubt he's the front-runner for the Cy Young.
No. 36: Justin Morneau, Twins
Plate discipline, power, defense—every piece of Morneau's game has been in decline this year. Injuries are a part of it, but you can't blame it all on that.
No. 35: Ben Zobrist, Rays
Zorilla's not quite channeling his 2009 self, but his impeccable plate discipline and phenomenal defense have once again made him an elite player.
No. 34: Francisco Liriano, Twins
Liriano's ceiling seemed sky-high before the season, but instead he's sunken into the basement. After 14 starts, he's 5-7 with a 4.76 ERA.
No. 33: Zack Greinke, Brewers
Greinke has been quite the enigma this year. He's 7-3 despite a 5.63 ERA, but he has an ace-like 2.72 FIP and a jaw-dropping 2.13 xFIP.
Combine that with injuries that have cost him several starts and it's hard to come up with an appropriate grade.
No. 32: Matt Holliday, Cardinals
So what if he missed nearly a month of the season? Holliday is absolutely raking this year, hitting .321 with a .966 OPS and 3.2 WAR through 59 games.
No. 31: Mariano Rivera, Yankees
Just another typical season for Rivera, who has a 1.69 ERA and 21 saves through 34 appearances.
What more do you want from Mo?
No. 30: Dustin Pedroia, Red Sox
Amidst Red Sox fans' claims that he was in a terrible slump, Pedroia has quietly heated up as of late.
On the year, he's got a .797 OPS with 15 steals and 3.8 WAR.
No. 29: Jon Lester, Red Sox
A 3.43 ERA ain't bad, but Lester's 4.02 FIP is somewhat underwhelming. Even his solid 3.47 xFIP seems disappointing in a weak year for hitters.
No. 28: Adam Dunn, White Sox
The White Sox signed Adam Dunn to do one thing: hit.
With a .168 average and a 72 wRC+, it's safe to say he hasn't lived up to expectations.
No. 27: Justin Verlander, Tigers
Verlander has been completely lights-out this year, going 11-3 with a 2.32 ERA.
His superficial stats are supported by a sub-3.00 FIP and xFIP and a ridiculous 0.86 WHIP.
No. 26: Jayson Werth, Nationals
Werth has been a fairly average hitter this year, combined with uncharacteristically bad defense.
At 0.9 WAR, he hasn't been the superstar the Nationals envisioned when they overpaid for him this winter.
No. 25: Ryan Braun, Brewers
Braun is having a career year, hitting .320 with a .961 OPS and 4.0 WAR.
As long as he's raking like this, his abysmal defense doesn't matter.
No. 24: Robinson Cano, Yankees
His All-Star vote total notwithstanding, Cano hasn't lived up to expectations in 2011. His numbers have dropped in every important category.
No. 23: C.C. Sabathia, Yankees
Sabathia's superficial stats are impressive enough—he's 11-4 with a 3.05 ERA—but he's also got a 2.66 FIP after 18 starts.
No. 22: Chase Utley, Phillies
Utley's been absolutely phenomenal this year—he's on pace for 9.1 WAR over 162 games.
Unfortunately, he missed almost the first two months of the season.
No. 21: Shin-Soo Choo, Indians
Part of Choo's problem this year has been bad luck; but even looking at his luck-neutral stats he's not quite himself.
Still, he's made up for some of the decline with his phenomenal defense.
No. 20: Tim Lincecum, Giants
A 3.04 ERA, a 2.73 FIP, a K/BB ratio over three—just business as usual for Lincecum.
No. 19: Prince Fielder, Brewers
Fielder's offensive ability seemingly knows no bounds.
In a walk year at age 27, he has a 174 wRC+—i.e., he's been 74 percent better than the average MLB hitter—and looks like a legitimate candidate for NL MVP.
No. 18: Ryan Zimmerman, Nationals
Zimmerman hasn't been quite himself even when healthy this season.
He's hitting just .219 with a .664 OPS after 26 games.
No. 17: Carlos Gonzalez, Rockies
CarGo has been good this year—he's hitting .294 with an .846 OPS and 2.4 WAR—but it's nothing compared to his breakout 2010 MVP-esque campaign.
No. 16: Alex Rodriguez, Yankees
He may be past his prime, but A-Rod is hitting like it's 2002.
Believe it or not, he actually deserves his starting spot in the All-Star game this year.
No. 15: Cliff Lee, Phillies
Holy smokes, this guy is good.
He's 9-5 with a 2.66 ERA and his 8.8 K/9 rate is the best of his career.
No. 14: Carl Crawford, Red Sox
The most sought-after position player of last year's free agent market is hitting poorly and playing subpar defense. He's been very slightly below replacement level.
No. 13: Josh Johnson, Marlins
He's made only nine starts this year, but so far he has a 1.64 ERA.
Sure, he hasn't played much, but did you see that ERA?
No. 12: Joe Mauer, Twins
Mauer's had trouble staying on the field in 2011, and he's been below replacement level even when he has.
Contact ability, plate discipline, power—it's all seemingly gone down the tubes.
No. 11: Felix Hernandez, Mariners
His ERA is up to 3.35 and his peripherals have slipped a little bit from his Cy Young campaign last year, but his 2.82 FIP is still the best of his career.
No. 10: Jose Bautista, Blue Jays
Bautista cooled off significantly from his torrid April, but he's still OPSing 1.150 and he has 5.6 WAR at the beginning of July.
At a 211 wRC+, he's been more than twice as good as the average MLB hitter.
No. 9: Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies
His bat has been quiet compared to in years past, but Tulowitzki is still a five-tool stud.
He could well have locked up his bid for Cooperstown by the time his current contract is up.
No. 8: Josh Hamilton, Rangers
When Hamilton's been healthy, he's been a valuable contributor. But he hasn't looked at all like he did in his MVP season last year, and he's definitely undeserving of his All-Star starting spot.
No. 7: Hanley Ramirez, Marlins
Ramirez is doing his best to destroy his reputation as one of the best young players in the game.
He's on pace to set new lows in every major offensive category, and it's no longer safe to call him a five-tool stud.
No. 6: Evan Longoria, Rays
Longoria has struggled to stay healthy this year and his bat has been somewhat subdued in roughly two months' worth of games so far, but his great defense and power have still made him an extremely valuable part of the Rays lineup.
No. 5: Miguel Cabrera, Tigers
Considering the subdued run environment this year, Cabrera's numbers to date are arguably the best of his career.
The future Hall of Famer is clearly one of the best players in the game.
No. 4: Adrian Gonzalez, Red Sox
Gonzalez has taken to Fenway Park like...well, himself to a hanging fastball.
He's hitting .353 with a perfect 1.000 OPS.
No. 3: Joey Votto, Reds
The reigning NL MVP isn't quite living up to his standard from last year, but with a .941 OPS and 3.6 WAR it's hard to complain about his performance.
No. 2: Roy Halladay, Phillies
The best pitcher in baseball is clearing his own lofty standards in 2011.
He's 11-3 with a 2.44 ERA, 4.8 WAR and a downright scary 2.20 FIP.
No. 1: Albert Pujols, Cardinals
For most players, 17 homers and an .855 OPS would be cause for celebration.
But Pujols isn't most players.
The Machine, who some had speculated could earn upwards of $300 million as a free agent after the season, was hurting his case with a relatively down year even before going down with an injury.
For more of Lewie's work, visit WahooBlues.com.