Posted 07/09/2009 at 01:47 AM
We’re at the halfway mark of the season, so it’s time for my first half awards. I’ll hand out four in each league, MVP, Cy Young plus two Rookies of the Year, one for a position player, one for a pitcher. Today I’ll concentrate on the American League, and the NL will follow tomorrow.
AL MVP: Torii Hunter, Angels. The Halos are just one game out of first in the AL West. They’d be looking at a much greater deficit without the immense contributions of Hunter. He’s having a phenomenal season. He’s on pace for what would be by far his best offensive campaign. Hunter remains a superb defender and he’s won at least a couple of games with his glove. There’s probably not a better clubhouse guy in all of baseball. Considering the enormous problems on the Angels pitching staff, they’re still in great shape to win their division yet again, and Hunter is clearly the biggest reason why.
AL Cy Young: Zack Greinke, Royals. Sure, he’s leveled off a little since his mind boggling April. But Greinke remains the clear choice for the top AL pitcher at the halfway mark. He’s got a great shot at the pitching Triple Crown, as he’s just one win behind league leader Tim Wakefield, he’s got a commanding lead in ERA and only Justin Verlander has more strikeouts. All that while pitching on a woeful team. Greinke is an easy choice for the first half AL Cy Young.
AL Rookie Position Player of the Year: Elvis Andrus, Rangers. He’s been okay offensively, which was the main concern for Andrus coming into the season. Defensively, Andrus is already a star. He’s transformed the Texas infield with his amazing range, and that in turn has provided a huge boost to the Rangers pitching. Andrus won’t turn 21 until next month, and his ceiling is incredibly high. I really think we’re seeing the birth of a superstar here, as his bat will get better with experience and he’s the best defensive SS I’ve seen come into the majors in years.
AL Rookie Pitcher of the Year: Andrew Bailey, Athletics. Talk about a huge surprise, it can’t get much more amazing than Bailey. He was 5-9, 4.32 pitching in AA last season and was just another body in spring training. But the A’s saw enough to promote him to the big club, and Bailey has put together a spectacular season to date. Four wins, nine saves since stepping into the role of closer, terrific ERA and WHIP and 57 K’s in only 48.2 IP. He’s probably been a little bit on the fortunate side, and could decline some as the season wears on, but Bailey’s first half makes him a clear cut winner.
Manny Parra has been a huge disappointment for the Brewers this season. Coming off a very promising rookie campaign, they were counting on big things from the lefty. But he couldn’t find the strike zone, lost his confidence and eventually had to be optioned out. Parra is now back with the big club off his best effort of the season, a seven inning whitewash at Round Rock where he gave up just two hits and two walks. Obviously, he wasn’t facing Albert Pujols there, and he will here. But with Joel Pineiro on the mound for the Cardinals, I’m willing to give Parra a shot and I’ll back the Brewers.