The envelope, please: Presenting my 2009 midseason awards
Joe Mauer, Jason Bay and Torii Hunter are the top candidates for AL MVP
Albert Pujols stands alone right now in the race for NL Most Valuable Player
Zack Greinke and Tim Lincecum are my midseason Cy Young Award winners
It's been a great year for very young starting pitchers, surprise managers in the American League and Albert Pujols. Here are my midseason award winners:
1. Joe Mauer, Twins. Looks like it'll be three times for an AL catcher winning a batting title, with the previous two winners also being Mauer. Superb pick by former GM Terry Ryan and those great Twins scouts taking Mauer over the higher-priced Mark Prior. Terrific defender. On a level by himself.
2. Jason Bay, Red Sox. Sixteen of his 19 home runs have come with men on base, an outrageous percentage, which explains how he leads the league with 70 RBIs. Great get by GM Theo Epstein to acquire him for the malingering, hCG-using Manny Ramirez. Now the trick will be signing him.
3. Torii Hunter, Angels. Terrific leader and team player has been hot all year, keeping the Angels in a dead-heat situation despite a tragic first half that could have derailed one of baseball's best organizations.
4. Evan Longoria, Rays. Superb all-around player is living up to the glowing projections, both offensively and defensively.
5. Ben Zobrist, Rays. While playing most positions, the versatile Zobrist has come out of nowhere to have a .609 slugging percentage.
AL LVP (Least Valuable Player): Vernon Wells, Blue Jays. A splendid player before signing a $126 million contract, he hasn't been worth a fraction of it ever since. Batting .167 with RISP, .281 with bases empty. Too bad, because it's been a great year for Adam Lind, Aaron Hill, Marco Scutaro and most of the other Blue Jays.
1. Albert Pujols, Cardinals. No contest here. His numbers (33 HRs, 82 RBIs, .336 average) are crazy, even for him. The absolute best.
2. Hanley Ramirez, Marlins. Terrific talent had 10-game RBI streak recently. The Marlins are right in the thick of the race with their perennially tiny payroll and the usual issues (defense, 'pen) thanks largely to this guy.
3. Raul Ibanez, Phillies. A groin injury has kept him out for weeks, yet he's still on the home run and RBI leaderboard. He played so well that folks were disbelieving it was real.
4. Prince Fielder, Brewers. The majors' most valuable vegetarian (I'm not counting Tony La Russa) is back to his form of two years ago with 22 homers, 76 RBIs and a .313 batting average. Teammate Ryan Braun, who has become a terrific left fielder in no time, is another worthy candidate.
5. Brad Hawpe, Rockies. He has been in the center of the Rockies' incredible comeback. His .990 OPS stands out.
NL LVP: Milton Bradley, Cubs. Not only has he played poorly (.245, 6 HRs, 19 RBIs) but he has lost track of the number of outs and moved to No. 1 on Piniella's enemies list.
AL Cy Young
1. Zack Greinke, Royals. He doesn't have that sub-Gibby ERA anymore (now there's an unbreakable record), but he has generally been the best pitcher in the league. How else to win 10 games with that offense?
2. Roy Halladay, Blue Jays. Generally seen as baseball's best pitcher, and it's hard to argue, what with his almost 1960s-like ability to complete games.
3. Kevin Millwood, Rangers. He has been the horse Rangers owner Tom Hicks envisioned when he signed him to a $60 million, five-year contract. That 2.80 ERA is even more impressive considering his home park.
4. Felix Hernandez, Mariners. Superb talent, and he's gone somewhat under the radar in Seattle.
AL Cy Old: Chien-Ming Wang, Yankees. His improvement was often cited in recent outings. But improvement on what? He has a 9.64 ERA. And he's now out with a shoulder issue.
NL Cy Young
1. Tim Lincecum, Giants. What happened to that slow start? He's 9-2 with a 2.23 ERA and 141 strikeouts. The Giants have to get off their duff and try to lock this guy up.
2. Dan Haren, Diamondbacks. It's practically a crime that he's only 8-5. Dynamic competitor.
NL Cy Old: Manny Parra, Brewers. Talented left-hander has been dreadful with a 3-8 record and a 7.52 ERA. Now in the minors even though Brewers badly need pitching (as Braun pointed out).
AL Rookie of the Year
1. Ricky Romero, Blue Jays. Toronto was ripped for taking the left-hander a spot ahead of Troy Tulowitzki, but he's 6-3 with 2.85 ERA.
2. Elvis Andrus, Rangers. Playing a terrific shortstop and has hung in there nicely on offense (.267, 16 stolen bases).
3. Andrew Bailey, A's. He has 57 strikeouts to go with a 4-1 record and a 2.03 ERA.
4. Rick Porcello, Tigers. He might be the most impressive rookie, as he's doing this (8-6) at age 20. Tigers may have to scale back his innings as the season drags on, though.
NL Rookie of the Year
1. Colby Rasmus, Cardinals. After a poor spring he's showing the talent everyone saw in him last spring (10, 32, .282).
2. Tommy Hanson, Braves. He's off to a 4-0 start. With Jair Jurrjens he gives the Braves a good shot to steal the division.
4. Andrew McCutchen, Pirates. Pittsburgh made room for him by trading Nate McLouth, and he has responded by hitting .300 with six stolen bases in six attempts and five triples.
5. Ronald Belisario, Dodgers. Has a 1.18 WHIP and 46 Ks.
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