Hello again everybody...
No complaints about Monday today. I mentioned it last week, but I'm on a 3-day work week this week, so today is really my Wednesday. Yes, I know it gets annoying to hear someone else talk about their vacation time while you're still stuck at work. But I can't help it. I've been looking forward to these four days off for weeks. And they can't come soon enough!
Now, just because I'm taking some days off the job doesn't mean I'm taking time off from the blog! At least, that's the plan anyway. Monday and Wednesday are solid. Friday, I'm listed as “probable”. As always, that's subject to change. But for now, I'm planning on bringing you a Friday column from the home office.
Seeing as we've reached the 2009 All-Star Break, today's column is focused on the unofficial midway point of the season. We passed the 81-game mark over a week ago, so officially the second half is already under way. But since there won't be any games to talk about for a few days, we'll call this the midway point and treat it as such.
The Home Run Derby heads your way tonight. I tried predicting who'd win it last year. Big mistake. All I'll say about it this year is that I hope it doesn't screw up Joe Mauer's swing. Beyond that, I have no clue. Pujols will get the biggest reaction obviously, and if he can keep his adrenaline under control, he's the odds-on favorite.
Instead of those predictions, today I'm going to focus on the mid-season awards. If I was voting today, who'd be the MVP's, Managers of the Year, Cy Young's and Rookies of the Year in each league?
Let's find out!
"Far from idleness being the root of all evil, it is rather the only true good."
- Soren Kierkegaard (1813 - 1855), Danish philosopher and theologian
Moderation, as always, is the key to the usefulness of this quote. Certainly there is such a thing as too much idleness. A line which I push seemingly daily. But I still think this is a clever way of reminding us to pause and enjoy not having to do anything once in a while. Of course, I say that as a single guy with no kids, so I understand others have limitations.
As I mentioned earlier, we've reached the unofficial mid-point of the 2009 MLB season. With that in mind here are some...
2009 Mid-Season Awards
AL MVP: Joe Mauer, Minnesota Twins
Honorable Mention: Justin Morneau, Minnesota Twins
This might be the toughest award to pick of the whole slate. Normally, I wouldn't go for guys on 3rd-place teams, but if you look at the division leaders, there's no one player who's stats jump off the page from any of them. In absence of that, the door opens for guys like Mauer and Morneau. And quite frankly, you can flip a coin between them.
Mauer leads the league in batting, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, and OPS. Morneau leads the league in total bases and appears in the top 5 in home runs, RBI, slugging percentage, and OPS - the only player in the league to appear in the top 5 of all those categories.
Call me a homer if you want. If you can find a candidate with a better cumulative resume than these two guys, I'm happy to hear about it.
NL MVP: Albert Pujols, St. Louis Cardinals
Honorable Mention: Prince Fielder, Milwaukee Brewers
As difficult as it was to pick the AL MVP, it was absurdly simple to pick the NL winner.
Pujols leads the NL in on-base percentage, slugging percentage, OPS, runs scored, total bases, home runs, RBI, and walks. Oh, and he's in the top 5 in batting average.
Any questions? Didn't think so. It's a remarkable season for Pujols, and the fact that his club is on top of their division by 2.5 games is simply icing on the cake.
Regular readers know I'm not a huge fan of Milwaukee's Prince Fielder. But it's hard to deny his stats. He's second in the league in on-base percentage, OPS, total bases and RBI. He's third in the league in slugging percentage and walks. And he's top 5 in home runs. If he played in the AL, you could make a solid case for him as their MVP. But he plays in the same league as Albert and that relegates him to a solid second place.
AL Cy Young: Zack Greinke, Kansas City Royals
Honorable Mention: Roy Halladay, Toronto Blue Jays
The Cy Young winners depend less on their team, outside of win totals, than MVP's do. Being the best pitcher in a league is fairly easy to determine from statistics. How "valuable" a player is, that's a little more subjective.
I fully intended to vote for Halladay in this category until I looked at the stats. Quite simply, I couldn't find any category where Halladay's stats bested Greinke's, except for strikeout-to-walk ratio.
Greinke leads the AL in ERA, complete games, and shutouts. He's second in WHIP, walks per 9 innings, and strikeout-to-walk ratio. And he's third in wins, strikeouts per 9 innings, and strikeouts. And all of that on a team that gives him minimal run support.
Halladay gets the honorable mention for now. I say that because Toronto's dangling him as trade bait. I'm dubious as to whether they'll actually move him. It would seem near to impossible to get fair value for him - just ask the Twins about what they got for Johan Santana. But if he does get moved, it seems most likely that he'd be moved to the National League, which would take him off the Cy Young list for the AL. If that happens, Detroit's Edwin Jackson would step in to challenge Greinke.
NL Cy Young: Dan Haren, Arizona Diamondbacks
Honorable Mention: Tim Lincecum, San Francisco Giants
Another toss up, this time between two deserving pitchers. And whereas MVP candidates are punished if their team is doing poorly, in this case, I give the nod to Haren precisely because his team is doing so poorly. When you compare the numbers, these two guys are relatively even, but I give the award to Haren because he has so much more to overcome.
Haren leads the league in ERA, WHIP, complete games, and strikeout-to-walk ratio. And he's top 5 in strikeouts, shut-outs and innings pitched. While he's technically tied for 6th with 9 wins, that's only 2 behind the league-leader, Colorado's Jason Marquis, and one behind the group tied at 10 which includes Lincecum.
Speaking of Lincecum, he leads the NL in strikeouts, strikeouts per 9 innings, shutouts and is tied for the lead for complete games with Haren. And he's top 5 in ERA, wins, WHIP, innings pitched, strikeout-to-walk ratio and home runs per 9 innings.
Lincecum gets the start in this year's All-Star game. And for that matter so does Halladay, so perhaps I've got my votes flip-flopped. But given what the guys I've voted for have to contend with in terms of support - or specifically the lack thereof - I think their cases are very compelling.
AL Rookie of the Year: Ricky Romero, Toronto Blue Jays
Honorable Mention: Rick Porcello, Detroit Tigers
Porcello lept out of the gates as the leader for the RoY award. He's still 8-6 with a 4.14 ERA on a division-leading club. But he's lost two in a row, and hasn't gotten out of the 5th inning since June 12th. That's a bit of a fade.
Conversely, Romero started slowly, making only 5 starts over the months of April and May. But injuries forced him into the starting rotation in June, and he's gone 5-1 with two no-decisions since then. His ERA on the year is 3.00 which is good enough to land him in the top 10 of league-leaders.
Experts are still waiting for Orioles C Matt Wieters and Rays P David Price to step up and show the promise that made them the favorites to win the RoY award during the pre-season. If Porcello's numbers continue going south, they could get in the picture. But so far, Romero's the clear favorite.
National League Rookie of the Year: Tommy Hanson, Atlanta Braves
Honorable Mention: Colby Rasmus, St. Louis Cardinals
This award might be the one I feel least strongly about.
Hanson is 4-0 with a 2.85 ERA over 7 starts. Rasmus is hitting .278 with 11 home runs and 34 RBI.
Comparing pitchers to batters is a completely subjective thing. When in doubt, I lean towards pitching, because I feel that it's under-valued by common fans.
AL Manager of the Year: Jim Leyland, Detroit Tigers
Honorable Mention: Mike Scioscia, LAAGOCROCUSPE
Manager of the Year is the most subjective of all of these awards. There are two basic routes to get the award. One, you take a team that wasn't expected to do well, and significantly exceed those expectations. Two, you take a team that was expected to do well, and take them to the top of your league and MLB as a whole.
Leyland falls into the former category. Many pundits, yours truly included, predicted another below-average year from the Tigers. Instead, they have a 3.5-game lead at the break. And they've done so without any superstar performances offensively. In terms of pitching, Justin Verlander and Edwin Jackson have both been outstanding, but the rest of the rotation has been average, and the bullpen is certainly shaky.
Given those criteria, credit has to go to the manager for pulling together a bunch of fairly average performers, and guiding them to a division lead.
Scioscia makes the list due to the obstacles his club has had to overcome. Everybody has to deal with injuries on some level, but it seems that the Angels have had more than their fair share over the last couple of years, especially in the pitching department. Add in the tragic death of Nick Adenhart at the beginning of this year, and it's truly remarkable that the Angels have a 1.5 game lead a the break. Again, a credit to their steady leadership in the form of Mike Scioscia.
NL Manager of the Year: Bruce Bochy, San Fancisco Giants
Honorable Mention: Tony LaRussa, St. Louis Cardinals & Joe Torre, L.A. Dodgers
Bochy also belongs to the "exceeds expectations" category. I think people thought the Giants would improve over their record last year. But I don't think they saw them as a serious playoff contender. At the break, the Giants trail the Dodgers by 7 games for the Western Division lead, but they lead the Wild Card race by two games.
Granted, Bochy has an amazing pitching staff to work with. Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain might be the best one-two punch in the league. And a guy who only recently had come out of the bullpen, Jonathan Sanchez, just threw a no-hitter Friday night! But the Giants are certainly offensively challenged. So Bochy deserves a lot of credit for guiding them into playoff contention.
I gave two "honorable mentions" in this category because I couldn't decide between those two guys. LaRussa has Albert Pujols, and that always helps. But the rest of that line-up is barely major league-worthy. And while Chris Carpenter is a nice Ace to have - when he's healthy - the rest of that pitching staff isn't lighting the world on fire.
Torre on the other hand, falls into the latter category that I mentioned earlier: taking a team with high expectations to the top of the league. The Dodgers were a near universal pick to win the NL West. And clearly we're seeing why. But they've gone beyond playoff contention and now have the best record in either league. And they did so while their chief offensive weapon, Manny Ramirez, took a 50-game break for a PED problem. That they survived that stretch is credit enough to Torre. That they got through it and maintained the best record in baseball puts him squarely in MoY contention.
So there you have them ladies and gents. My 2009 mid-season awards. Have a beef? Think I left somebody out? Add a comment and let us all know!
That does it for today. I'll be back on Wednesday with a wrap on all the All-Star festivities. And if there's time, perhaps even some predictions for the 2nd half? We'll see.
Until then, thanks for reading!