We're halfway through a terrific baseball season. So of course, it's time for the envelopes please ...
1. Miguel Cabrera, Tigers 1B. He's appeared to have turned his life around while also stepping up what was already an excellent game. Playing home games in a pitchers park, he leads the AL in batting average (.3462 to Josh Hamilton's .3460), RBIs (77) and is second in home runs (22). Also doesn't hurt that he was my preseason pick.
2. Josh Hamilton, Rangers OF. Amazing that he hasn't lost anything after his drug issue and time away. Incredible streak has helped Texas to a surprisingly strong start. Looks wise now to have turned down a $24-million, three-year offer made several months ago. His 1.014 OPS is third best in the league.
3. Justin Morneau, Twins 1B. He is overshadowed by hometown hero Joe Mauer but is outhitting Mauer this year (and just about everyone else, as well). Generally overlooked star is right on target in first year in new Target Field. Has 1.055 OPS and major league-leading .437 on-base percentage.
4. Robinson Cano, Yankees 2B. He's done a superb job taking over the No. 5 spot in the Yankees' lineup, batting .336 with a .556 slugging percentage. His defense also has been nothing short of excellent. In the spring of 2006, A-Rod said it was up to Cano: he could either go to Columbus (where the Yankees' Triple-A team was at the time) or Cooperstown. He's definitely not going to Columbus.
5. Carl Crawford, Rays OF. His timing is impeccable. On the cusp of free agency, he's about to cash in big-time with one of the bigger contracts ever for a non-power hitter. Could even make $100 million the way he's going. He's first in the AL with 70 runs, is second with 31 stolen bases and has a career-high .521 slugging percentage.
LVP (Least Valuable Player)
Chone Figgins, Mariners 2B. For $36 million, he's provided very little. He's hitting .235 with a pathetic .608 OPS. Maybe it was all too much -- the new team, new ballpark, new position and new salary. Such a waste. Had a good thing going with the Angels.
1. David Price, Rays. The No. 1 overall pick from a few years ago has really emerged, giving Tampa the ace it needs. As terrific as anyone thought he would be. More good work by Tampa.
2. Cliff Lee, Rangers. By staying in the AL after the Seattle-Texas trade, he keeps alive his chance for a second AL Cy Young in three years. Went 8-3 for poor-hitting Mariners -- not bad -- and now has 91 strikeouts and six walks.
3. Jon Lester, Red Sox. Has 11-3 record, 1.09 WHIP and 2.78 ERA.
4. Jered Weaver, Angels. Leads the league in starts and strikeouts (137) in just 121 innings, despite not being an extremely hard thrower. Living up to his new billing as Angels ace.
5. Andy Pettitte, Yankees. Originally an All-Star snub by his own manager, Pettitte has an 11-2 record, 1.15 WHIP and 2.70 ERA (fourth best in AL). Certainly a deserving All Star.
Cy Old (Worst Pitcher)
Rick Porcello, Tigers. Last year's Rookie of the Year candidate was dispatched to the minors in June after going 4-7 with a 6.14 ERA. Sophomore jinx strikes.
1. Brennan Boesch, Tigers OF. The Tigers have a couple very good rookies in the outfield, with Austin Jackson bring the other. Boesch has made the greater impact, however, and is batting .342 with 12 home runs and 42 RBIs.
2. Neftali Feliz, Rangers RP. Stuff is as good as any closer in the game.
3. Austin Jackson, Tigers. He's easily outplayed Curtis Granderson, the man he replaced, and a lot of other folks as well.
1. Terry Francona, Red Sox. Despite injuries to Josh Beckett, Jacoby Ellsbury, Mike Cameron, Dustin Pedroia and Victor Martinez, Francona has kept the Red Sox just behind the Yankees and Rays. He also is the one who stuck up for David Ortiz, and more importantly, stuck with him. Great call.
2. Mike Scioscia, Angels. Doubters emerged after the Angels' rough start, but Scioscia has them right back in the race with his usual superior handling of the team. They've lost a lot of good free agents in recent years (Mark Teixeira, Francisco Rodriguez, John Lackey, Figgins), yet Scioscia performs his magic year after year. Will have work to do to catch the Rangers, however.
3. Ron Washington, Rangers. He shrugged off the spring cocaine revelation and led his team to an excellent first half. Michael Young was right. They did have his back.
Jon Daniels, Rangers. The Lee deal was a coup for bankrupted Texas, even if it came at the expense of very good hitting prospect Justin Smoak. But Daniels did his best work in the offseason. Colby Lewis is one of the best free-agent pickups of the year, for $5 million over two years. Darren Oliver has also been very good in a reprieve. And Vladimir Guerrero has been his old self. Just about everything but Rich Harden went right (and Kevin Millwood, whom Daniels traded to the Orioles, isn't exactly bowling them over in Baltimore, anyway).
And the winners from the Senior Circuit...
David Wright, Mets, 3B. Despite a slow start and playing in a pitchers home park, he leads the NL in RBIs (65) and is back to being the key cornerstone player on a contending team. Nice turnaround.
2. Albert Pujols, Cardinals 1B. Is he supposed to be having an "off'' year? Maybe for him, he is. Even though every team he faces tries to avoid pitching to him, he's at .308/.416/.576 and has 64 RBIs, one behind Wright.
3. Joey Votto, Reds 1B. The biggest of the original All-Star snubs before he won the extra fan vote, he leads the NL with a 1.011 OPS. Also way up there in just about every other category. All-Star manager Charlie Manuel made some strange choices.
4. Adrian Gonzalez, Padres 1B. Stats are down a tad in a down year for hitters, and, of course, PETCO is a pitcher's friend. His slugging percentage (.533) and OPS (.930) would be much better anywhere else. But he is the main offensive cog on the most surprising team in baseball.
5. Scott Rolen, Reds 3B. Very impressive bounce-back year, with 17 home runs, 57 RBIs and .548 slugging percentage.
LVP (Least Valuable Player)
Aramis Ramirez, Cubs 3B. This almost seems like a different guy. Easily the most disappointing offensive player in baseball. Has a .207 batting average, and that's not a misprint.
1. Ubaldo Jimenez, Rockies. Sure, he recently allowed 17 runs over 17 innings, sending his ERA skyward to 2.20. But he's still 15-1 with a 1.05 WHIP after being otherworldly for nearly three months.
2. Josh Johnson, Marlins. With the best WHIP (0.96) and ERA (1.70), he's certainly made it a race. His 9-3 record isn't bad, but some folks (including myself) count the record, especially when another guy is a ridiculous 15-1.
3. Adam Wainwright, Cardinals. He's been extremely good in almost every game and would be better than 13-5 if not for spotty support. He ranks second in the league in ERA (2.11) and innings pitched (136 1/3) and fourth in strikeouts (127).
4. Roy Halladay, Phillies. He leads in innings (148), complete games (seven) and shutouts (three) and also has thrown a perfect game. In another year, that's Cy worthy.
5. Mat Latos, Padres. Has 0.97 WHIP, second only to Johnson. Yet another undeserved snub. Manuel needs to start watching West Coast games.
Cy Old (Worst Pitcher)
Charlie Morton, Pirates. His numbers are a joke (1-9, 9.35 ERA), even by Pirates standards. Carlos Zambrano and Oliver Perez are worthy of this dishonor, as well, though maybe not quite as worthy.
1. Jaime Garcia, Cardinals SP. The shocker is that it isn't Jason Heyward at this point. But Garcia's having a better year, with an 8-4 record, 2.17 ERA and 1.25 WHIP.
2. Mike Leake, Reds SP. Lots of good choices in this stacked category, but without any minor-league time, he's been very impressive.
3. (tie) Stephen Strasburg, Nationals SP. He's been the most spectacular in his short time, and his chances will be curtailed by his innings limit. But what an impact he's made.
3. (tie)Jason Heyward, Atlanta OF. The big favorite has been slowed by injury lately. Ike Davis, Buster Posey, Tyler Colvin, Gaby Sanchez and others make this about the best rookie class in years.
1. Bud Black, Padres. There isn't any doubt which team is the biggest surprise. The club was thought to have no hitting, but instead its most noticeable trait is splendid pitching. Pitching coach Darren Balsley has helped, too.
2. Jerry Manuel, Mets. His job was in jeopardy for a month, but his positive attitude has helped pull the Mets out of it. A decision about his future won't be made until year's end, and Mets scout Bob Melvin looms as a potential replacement. But Manuel has been pretty good, despite some odd strategic decisions at times.
3. Bobby Cox, Braves. Could his final year be the stuff of legends? He is one, that's for sure.
Frank Wren, Braves. Not all the trades have worked (Nate McLouth, Melky Cabrera), but as Joel Sherman of the New York Post pointed out, the free agent picks (Billy Wagner, Troy Glaus, etc.) were flawless. Even Eric Hinske has made a big impact among their free agents. Signing up Tim Hudson late last year looks wise now, too.
1. Rangers. They strongly enhanced their chances at a title in a year in which they are in bankruptcy. They gave up a fair amount for Cliff Lee, but far, far less than they got two summers ago for Mark Teixeira (though Teixeira had a year and a half to go before free agency).
2. Mariners. They did well by getting Smoak plus three others, though Smoak hasn't yet hit like everyone expects (batting just .206 with a .311 on-base percentage).
1. Everyone else. Lee was the darling of the trade market. Credit the Yankees for trying hard. They were annoyed Lee went to Texas after thinking they had a deal for him, but refrained from saying anything publicly. They know George Steinbrenner in his day could woo free agents after they had verbal agreements to go elsewhere, so they understand it's not quite a deal until it's a signed deal.
They thought catching prospect Jesus Montero and second-base prospect David Adams in a package of three was a pretty fair offer, and indeed it was. But the Mariners liked that Smoak is big-league ready now, or thought to be, anyway.
Lee would have liked to have gone to the Yankees, according to sources, and that is understandable considering 1) they were the favorite to sign him, anyway, 2) they are the World Series favorites, and 3) he (and most others) pitch better in Yankee Stadium than in Texas. The White Sox made a late run (no surprise for their GM, Ken Williams, to be involved) but wouldn't include struggling but talented second-year man Gordon Beckham for the rental Lee. The White Sox might try to get Houston's Roy Oswalt now, though they are leery about pitchers going from the National League to the American League.