Mid-season MLB awards

July 5 2:50am
AntonioD

With the season half-way through, it’s time to take a look at the best and worst players – and all the surprises – of the first half.

American League

Biggest surprise bat: Curtis Granderson

Granderson finished 2010 on a torrid pace, but nobody expected him to hit 23 HRs by the All-Star break. His .274 batting average and .368 OBP are respectable, but the power numbers he’s contributed (.306 ISO, .580 SLG) help translate to a 4.6 WAR through 82 games. “The Grandy Man” has undoubtedly benefited from having home games at the new Yankee Stadium, but 11 of his 23 dingers have come on the road. (UPDATE: Granderson homered twice more in Tuesday night’s victory over the Indians, giving him 25 on the season!)

Most unlucky (batter): Mark Teixeira

Even though he’s second in the AL with 25 HRs, Teixeira is hitting just .244 – thanks in part to a .214 BABIP, a number that’s bound to come up during the second half. It’s high time fantasy owners take heed and make a move for this powerful Yankee slugger.

Most unlucky (pitcher): Edwin Jackson

Jackson is sporting a .341 BABIP, which means his 4.24 ERA is quite impressive. His 3.13 FIP and 3.28 xFIP portend a much more providential second half. The peripherals are solid (7.77 K/9, 2.61 K/BB), so he’s a good bet for a resurgence after the break.

Luckiest pitcher: Jered Weaver

It might be a good time to sell high on Weaver, who’s holding hitters to a .243 BABIP through 18 starts. His 1.92 ERA is much lower than his 3.43 xFIP, and batters are only going yard 2.9 percent of the time they hit a fly ball. That’s a figure poised to trend toward the mean over his next 15-20 starts.

Biggest surprise arm: Alexi Ogando

Ogando has been pretty darn lucky too (.247 BABIP, but it’s clear he’s a special pitcher with a nasty fastball-slider combo. A converted outfielder, Ogando’s been quite a revelation for the Rangers over his first 16 starts.

Set-up man: David Robertson

Robertson is whiffing 14.42 batters per nine innings this season, mostly because of a mid-90s fastball that he throws 72 percent of the time. It’s a pitch he’s got great command of (63.5 First Strike%).

Top closer: Jonathan Papelbon

I was fearful that Papelbon’s best days as a closer were behind him, but he’s restored the faith of Red Sox fans and given hitters a tough time in 2011. Although he’s got a 3.58 ERA and has recorded just 17 saves, he’s only blown one, and his 12.12 K/9, 1.65 BB/9 and 1.78 FIP show that he’s back to dominance.

Comeback player (pitcher): Bartolo Colon

Left for dead after a couple of injury-plagued seasons, Colon is back in top form. His two-seam fastball has tons of lateral movement and is baffling hitters, and his strikeout and walk rates (8.32 K/9, 1.92 BB/9) are excellent. He may not keep up the blistering 2.88 ERA, but his xFIP is just 2.96, which shows he’s not just getting lucky.

Comeback player (batter): Jacoby Ellsbury

Ellsbury was essentially useless in 2010, playing just 18 games and hitting .192/.241/.244 – a line he’s completely turned around this season: .310/.370/.464. He’s already reached the 100-hit mark (including 9 HRs and 23 doubles) and has swiped 27 bases in 83 games.

National League

Biggest surprise bat: Michael Morse

Morse is flat-out mashing. Through 75 games, he’s hitting .299/.349/.538 with 15 HRs – a big reason the Nationals are nearly a .500 team approaching the All-Star break. He’s part of a crowded, overachieving outfield, and he’s made an enormous fantasy impact despite being waiver wire fodder at the season’s start.

Most unlucky (batter): Dan Uggla

You don’t get much less fortunate than Uggla has been in the first half of the season. He’s hit 12 HRs, but only had 55 hits through 86 games (.173/.241/.327 in 348 ABs), and his BABIP is a lowly .187. He should be able to get the batting average over .200 by season’s end if the second-half BABIP is anywhere near his .290 career BABIP.

Most unlucky (pitcher): Ryan Dempster

Dempster’s 4.99 ERA is inflated by a .321 BABIP and 13.7 HR/FB%. The 5-6 record belies a healthy 3.34 xFIP and solid peripherals (1.18 WHIP, 8.29 K/9. 2.65 K/BB), so I’m banking on a big second half from the veteran starter.

Luckiest pitcher: Jair Jurrjens

There’s almost no way that Jurrjens can repeat his first-half W-L record of 11-3 and 1.89 ERA, especially with a 3.67 xFIP. He’s shown improved control but is striking out fewer batters (5.42 K/9, down from 6.65 in 2010). The .257 BABIP has nowhere to go but up, and the average ground ball rates don’t inspire much confidence moving forward this year.

Biggest surprise arm: Tim Stauffer

Stauffer started seven games last year (he also made 25 relief appearances) for the Padres and pitched quite well (6-5, 1.85 ERA), but as a full-time starter this season, he’s improved dramatically. The walk rate is down, the K/9 is up to 7.47, and his xFIP stands at 3.01 (2.97 ERA). A ground-ball pitcher, Stauffer has been a hard-luck loser on a few occasions, but he seems poised for continued success in the bigs.

Set-up man: Sergio Romo

Romo is tearing through batters this season (12.83 K/9) and has given up just 19 hits and walked only four batters in 26.2 innings. He’s got the best xFIP (1.72) among NL relievers and has brilliant closer Brian Wilson to handle ninth-inning duties. Should anything happen to Wilson, Romo is a more-than-capable replacement.

Top closer: Craig Kimbrel

Kimbrel and fellow reliever Jonny Venters have been an awesome combo this season for the Braves. Kimbrel’s been magnificent in the fireman role, recording 25 saves, a 2.51 ERA and 67 Ks in 43 innings. His 1.46 FIP and 2.16 xFIP only adds to the impressive résumé.

Comeback player (pitcher): Jordan Zimmermann

After undergoing Tommy John surgery in August 2009, Zimmermann rehabbed extensively and saw limited action in 2010. This season, he’s finalized the comeback, throwing several gems en route to a 5-7 record and 2.63 ERA through 16 starts. He’s high up the pitching leaders at 2.8 WAR (eighth best in the NL) and appears to be the real deal.

Comeback player (batter): Carlos Beltran

Beltran’s not done just yet. He had knee surgery in January 1010 and came back a shell of his former self, but 2011 has been a great campaign thus far: .281/.371/.492, 12 HRs, 55 RBI, 2.9 WAR. Hopefully for his fantasy owners, the athletic outfielder’s body can hold up in the second half.

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