MLB Midseason Points
With the 78th All Star game on tap it’s about that time to divvy out some midseason awards, reassess World Series contenders (as well as a couple of big-money sleepers) and address the biggest burning question of this 2007 campaign. Let’s get to it.
AL MVP Alex Rodriguez
Some say Magglio Ordonez, others say Vlad or Ichiro. Duly noted. I say there’s no debate that A-Rod is the MVP so far this year. He’s hit 30 home runs, driven in 86 and scored 79. His slugging percentage is .665 and his OPS is 1.078. He leads all of MLB in each of the previously stated categories with the exception of OPS, in which he second to Bonds. Between walk-offs and late-inning go ahead hits A-Rod has singlehandedly accounted for more wins than any other player in baseball. Oh and his team happens to sit at a game under .500, ten games behind the Red Sox. Some say the Yankees are out of it, but not I (we’ll get to that). Regardless it’s a matter worthy of debate. What’s undebatable as well as indisputable is the fact that without A-Rod the only title the Yankees would be contending for would be that of “cellar dweller” in the AL East. He’s been that good. (And they’ve been that poor.)
NL MVP Jose Reyes
Prince Fielder, Chase Utley and Matt Holliday are all deserving but Reyes gets my vote. He had an MVP-like season last year and has gotten markedly better. Only his power numbers are down (4 home runs, 35 RBI). His on-base percentage has gone from .300 in ’05 to .354 in ’06 to .387 this year. He’s on pace for over 200 hits, 120 runs, 15 triples and 85 stolen bases (85!?!). He is the single most dynamic player in the game today and he’s carrying a first place team that has had its fair share of offensive woes. With Beltran and Delgado slow to hit their stride this season and Pedro in the middle of a furious rehabilitation from rotator cuff surgery, Reyes has been the glue that’s kept the Mets atop the NL East. In my opinion that’s an MVP.
AL Cy Young Johan Santana
Props to Josh Beckett, Dan Haren and C.C. Sabathia. All should be at the top of the Cy Young voting in the end. However my vote goes to Santana, not just because of what he has done (10-6/2.75/125 K’s), but what his track record indicates he will do in the second half of the season. For a team like Minnesota, which is traditionally built around strong pitching and defense, the Twins pitching has been very sub par this year. Santana, traditionally a slowish starter, has been the rock in a rotation that has allowed an uncharacteristic amount of runs. Since the Twins actually have some big boppers in the middle of the lineup they’ve been able to score runs, but it sure helps to have the best pitcher in baseball starting every fifth day. Santana’s the closest thing to Pedro ’97-2000 that we’ve seen in baseball, and like Pedro, saves his true dominance for after the All Star break.
NL Cy Young Jake Peavy
I don’t know about you but I’ve come to love the new segment on Baseball Tonight called “that’s nasty”. It’s basically the web gems for pitchers and I’m fairly positive Peavy has been featured in that bit more than any other hurler in the game this season. No matter what, he has no doubt been the nastiest pitcher in baseball this season. With a 9-3 record and 2.19 ERA, Peavy has silenced some critics and fantasy owners who were skeptical about him after an un-Peavy-like 2006 (11-14/4.09). This year he’s leading the NL in strikeouts with 125, and included was a stretch during which he fanned 46 over four starts. Nasty. He’s also the best pitcher on the team (San Diego) with the best record in the National League (although a hearty honorable mention goes to his staff-mate, Chris Young).
AL World Series Contenders Tigers, Indians, Angels, Red Sox
At least three, maybe all four of these teams will be playing in October, which will make the American League pennant race lots of fun down the stretch and into the playoffs. All four have aces at the tops of their pitching staffs and bashers in the middle of their lineups. All but the Indians are playoff-tested. As for prospective playoff rotations, if Curt Schilling comes back healthy the Red Sox would have the best front three (Dice-K, Schilling, Beckett) of any contender (followed by Detroit, Anaheim and Cleveland). With Manny, Papi and Papelbon, that keeps the Sox put as my favorite to go to the Series.
Big Money Sleeper Yankees
I reiterate: if it were not for Alex Rodriguez the 2007 season would already be a distant memory in New York. At this moment the Yankees would’ve already been fish in a bucket. Then they would’ve found themselves staging a $200 million fire sale at the trading deadline. Finally, come October Derek Jeter would’ve joined Johnny Pesky as the only other guy suiting up for a game he’s not allowed to participate in. What coulda/shoulda/woulda been without A-Rod is moot. The guy’s having a season for the ages and saving a franchise that he doesn’t have a whole lotta love for and vice versa. Let’s put it this way: if the Yankees don’t turn it around and win 92-95 games they are no longer “the Yankees”. Simple as that.
NL World Series Contenders Mets, Brewers, Dodgers
I maintain that the National League pennant is the Mets’ to lose. They will be the team standing in the way of other World Series hopefuls, and will have to be beaten into submission in order to be thwarted for a second consecutive year. That said, the Brewers have an MVP candidate in the middle of their lineup, an ace at the top of their staff and stopper in the bullpen. That’s a team built for the long haul. Out west where pitching is prevalent I’m sticking with the Dodgers, simply because they have more pop in the middle of their lineup than the Padres. Although I still think the Mets’ most serious competition will come from a certain big money sleeper…
Big Money Sleeper Cubs
Talk about a roller coaster ride. First Lou Piniella said he had never coached a team with more talent than the Cubs. Then they started sucking like the Cubs tend to do. Then they hit rock bottom when Carlos Zambrano beat the snot out of his back-talking catcher for botching a play. Since then they’ve unloaded the enigmatic-Michael Barrett and been the best team in the National League over the last month (22-12). Zambrano meanwhile, has redirected his haymakers towards opposing hitters and reverted back to being the anchor of a deep rotation. Alfonso Soriano has awoken and Derek Lee is healthy so no worries about the Cubbies’ offense. With Sweet Lou at the helm and uncanny adversity in the rear view, watch out for the Cubs.
Biggest Burning Question of 2007 What’s the deal with the Dominicans?
They are the most dominant ensemble of sluggers in the game today. In last spring’s inaugural World Baseball Classic they became collectively known as “the most fearsome lineup in the history of baseball”. Individually they are better known as Alfonso Soriano, Vlad Guerrero, Manny Ramirez, David Ortiz and Albert Pujols. Each of them have hit at least 38 home runs three times or more in their respective careers. All except Soriano have had multiple 40+ home run seasons. Yet at this All Star break only one of them (Pujols) is on track to crack even 30 bombs. Pujols is sitting on 16; Soriano has 15; Papi and Vlad have hit 14 a piece while Manny is chugging along with 11 big ones. So I ask again: what’s the deal? My guess is as good as yours. I do know that health issues aside the long balls will start to come in droves for this quintet. I mean they have to, right? Unless Bud Selig secretly unwound the baseballs to thwart Barry Bonds all I have to say is that we’re in for quite a show from the DR contingent this second half.