It's been an interesting start to the season. Some teams have surprised and some have disappointed. Time for a look at the best and worst of the first half of Season 2 in The Bigs.
Most Valuable Player: Sean Simpson, Chicago (2B)
Skinny: This is definitely open for debate. Arizona LF Oswaldo Johnson was my pick at the halfway point last season and is certainly worthy of it again. Houston CF Brian Satou is actually improving on last season's numbers (he hit 45 HRs and drove in 125). But I'll give this one to Simpson by a hair over the two aforementioned stars. He's the centerpiece of Chicago's rebirth and is putting up numbers to back it. His 20 HRs and 75 RBIs aren't bad, but it's only in 74 games- only the superstars are driving in over a run a game. What puts him over the top is that he's 2nd in the league in hitting, 2nd in OBP, and 1st in slugging- he gets on base a lot and does it with power. He's also stolen 13 bases- only Johnson provides the combination of power and speed that Simpson does.
Also considered: Johnson, Satou, Lyle Barber (1B- New Orleans), Leo Miller (3B- Houston)
Least Valuable Player: Enrique Park, Trenton (2B)
Skinny: This award stays in the NL East as the sophomore jinx has hit Park like a sack of hammers. He came up last season about midway through and hit .300 with an OBP of .365 and a SLG of .632. He would have projected out to about a 40 HR and 120 RBI pace last season. This season his average is down to .238- he walks enough to get his on base up to .300. The startling thing is his power has disappeared- his SLG is .379 this season. He hit 19 HRs last season and isn't on pace to match that in a full 162 games. Not often a 1st place team wins this award, but Trenton's offense could be scary good if Park starts hitting like he did last season.
Also Considered: Flip Chapman (RF-Chicago), Andres Calderon (SS-Arizona), Harold Stroud (3B-Cincinnati)
Cy Young: Jim Arnold, Fargo
Skinny: This was a tough choice, as it was last season. You could almost put Arnold, Javier Henriquez, Matty Eusebio, and Dwight Salmon's names in a hat and pick one. I'll give Arnold the slight nod over his teammate Henriquez due to his ERA (1.73) and WHIP (0.94) being better than Javier's and Arnold has only one fewer win (Henriquez leads the league with 13). Eusebio and Salmon are just a step behind and pitching tremendously. All that being said, if Chicago's Stephen Tucker had continued on his pace through his first 13 starts instead of getting injured, he would have taken this award.
Also considered: Henriquez (Fargo), Salmon (Salem), Eusebio (Houston)
Cy Yuck: tie, Terrence Grybowski and Edgard Chavez, Philadelphia
Skinny: Grybowski is 5-11 with a 7.95 ERA. Chavez is 4-12 with a 7.84 ERA. I can't really tell the difference- they have both been awful. They give up almost one home run per start, and give Philadelphia no length- both average less than 4.5 innings per start. The only question is will they lose 20- they're both on pace to do so, but Philadelphia management could bench them or send them back to the minors or the fans could just boo them off the mound. Only problem is Philly would have to replace both, so the odds are pretty good at least one of them will.
Also considered: Jose Merced (Chicago), Donald Sierra (Cincinnati)
Surprise Team: Chicago Cubs
Skinny: Last season they lost 112 games. This season they'd be in the playoffs if they started right now. Yes, they've overhauled the roster but it's rare to see an improvement like this in just half a season. They've been OK since losing Tucker (see above) and even if it doesn't continue, they are headed in the right direction.
Also Considered: Atlanta Bandits, Fargo Thundering Herd
Disappointing Team: Cincinnati Dragons
Skinny: Last season the Dragons and New Orleans Voodoo won 90 games and made the playoffs. This season they're both 37-50 and are better than only Boise and Philadelphia in the NL this season. The tiebreaker? Cincinnati's payroll is over $120 million.
Also Considered: New Orleans
Most Valuable Player: Gregg Black, Nashville (2B)
Skinny: It's a two man race between him and Anaheim slugger Alex Vazquez. So how does Black overcome Vazquez's 36 HRs and 100 RBIs at the 87 game mark? Black does have 28 and 79, good for second in the AL in RBIs and leads the league in batting, on base percentage, and slugging average. Vazquez is on pace to strike out almost 200 times, while Black already has 51 more walks than strikeouts. So although power numbers and angry Anaheim fans would seem to favor Vazquez, I think if you look at all the numbers Black is still the best.
Also Considered: Vazquez (Anaheim-3B)
Least Valuable Player: Tim Harding, Las Vegas
Skinny: This was a close race: Richard Takahashi was a worthy candidate for his huge dropoff from last season. But Harding went from a key component in the deal that sent Bob Malone to Milwaukee to decent (if not good) producer for a division winner to AA. Bonus points for having to clear waivers (and skipping AAA) and for costing the Gamblers $5.4 million this season and next.
Also considered: Takahaski (Vancouver), Anthony Benard (Huntington), Tom Stanley (Colorado Springs), Tomas Martin (Cleveland)
Cy Young: Vin Solano, Milwaukee
Skinny: He's 12-1. That's right: he's started 18 times and has 1 loss. Only Orber Marin of Cleveland has more wins and Solano leads the league in strikeouts (tied with Cleveland's Steven Michaels), ERA, on-base average, and WHIP. He doesn't lose because he keeps runners off base- pure and simple.
Also considered: Carlton Fleming (Cleveland), Marin (Cleveland), Max Jacquez (Monterrey)
Cy Yuck: Sun Chang, Vancouver
Skinny: Chang decided to reverse Solano's record and then lose one more. That's right, he's 1-13. His ERA is 8.72, his WHIP is over 2 (Solano's is less than 1), and the league hits .348 off him. He's another pitcher who on average will not get out of the 5th inning. Like his Vancouver teammates Phil Nakajima and Richard Takahashi, he's from Kobe, Japan. The difference is Nakajima and Takahashi have talent.
Also considered: Lenny Bradley (Durham), Sammy Acquino (Colorado Springs), Alex Brantley (Anaheim), Ralph Washington (Kansas City)
Surprise Team: Anaheim Chiles
Skinny: The AL West was supposed to be Las Vegas and then everyone else. Las Vegas has struggled, but Anaheim is not leading the division simply by default- they are a legitimate threat to take the division. Alex Vazquez, who is having an MVP type year (see above), and ace pitcher Ajax Drabek help make them a real threat to win the west.
Also considered: Toledo Mud Hens
Disappointing Team: Las Vegas Gamblers
Skinny: They won the division by 29 games last season with 103 wins. They're on pace for 74 wins this season. Star LF Denny Moss isn't producing as he did last season and has been on the DL already. Their 2B from last season is in AA (see above). And although they thought they wouldn't, they do miss having Stephen Tucker at the top of the rotation. They may have already dug themselves too big a hole.
Also considered: Vancouver Fighting Moose (yeah, I know they were bad last season, but 17-70?), New York New York