We've now moved past the All-Star game, so it's time to look back on the 1st half of the season.
Most Valuable Player: Osvaldo Johnson, San Juan
Why: Johnson has returned to his MVP form from seasons 1 and 2. He leads the NL in runs, is second in the NL in HRs, RBIs and slugging, and holds the 7th spot in on-base percentage. He's led a San Juan team that currently holds one of the two Wild Card spots in a competitive National League.
Honorable Mention: Monte Duvall, Houston; Sean Simpson, Chicago; David Rushford, Washington; Trever Russell, Chicago; Hal Brinkley, Atlanta; William Bolling, Fargo; Nate Cox, Salem.
Least Valuable Player: Tie, Achilles Paris (Toronto) and Russ Blank (New Orleans)
Why: Hard to pick on two young, inexpensive guys (one a rule 5 guy), but when starting third basemen put up numbers like .232/.298/.315 (Paris) and .265/.305/.368 (Blank), I'm left with little choice. Those numbers would be questionable for a very good defensive shortstop, but when we're discussing two average/below average defensive third basemen (15 errors, .925 fielding for Paris and 21 errors, .894 fielding for Blank), they're putrid. As for the tie, Paris has been slightly more futile at the plate, while Blank has been slightly more incompetent in the field. I originally picked one, then the other, and eventually settled on letting them split the award.
Dishonorable Mention: Phil Nakajima, Trenton; Vladimir Montanez, Cheyenne
Cy Young: Dwight Salmon, Salem
Why: The season 1 co-winner is back in form. He currently leads the league in wins, WHIP, and ERA at 14 (with only 2 losses), 0.93, and 1.94, respectively. The Salem pitching staff has given up the fewest runs in the NL and has the Sacrifices in contention for another playoff spot.
Honorable Mention: Sammy Pierce and Javier Henriquez, Fargo (yes, I know Javy doesn't have the wins, but the rest of his numbers are great. The bullpen has been atrocious in his starts); Dave Dunwoody, Salem; Kelly Downs and Chris Jennings, Vancouver; Babe Broadhurst and Ariel Lee, Norfolk; Matty Eusebio, Atlanta; Hipolito Santana, Toronto.
Cy Yuk: Stan Thompson, Philadelphia
Why: Like Johnson and Salmon, Thompson is reverting back to the form he showed in seasons 1 and 2. Unlike the aforementioned pair, that's not a good thing in Thompson's case. The knuckleballer is 4-10 with an ERA over 6 after respectability as a swingman last season. The ten losses was a difficult feat considering he averages under 6 innings per start, so he gives up runs quickly.
Dishonorable mention: Matty Grimsley, Washington; Willie Williams, Fargo; Cory Schneider, Atlanta; Zach James, Austin.
Note: Normally I would do my surprise team and my disappointing team in this spot, but it's already been done for me. In a leaguewide poll of GMs with 18 voting in each poll, Vancouver won the surprise team award with 10 votes and Fargo won the disappointing team award with 15 votes. Allow me to say that while I did not see Fargo playing to a .500 record (they're still the best in that division and would be a tough out come playoff time), I did see Vancouver coming- go back to my season previews.
Most Valuable Player: King Winn, Nashville
Why: I understand the prevailing theory that in an MVP race, a DH's offensive numbers would have to be so far ahead of everyone else's to offset the fact that he doesn't play defense. Well, I think Winn's numbers fit that description. Winn is at .317-37-100 after 92 games, leading the AL in the last 2 categories. He's second in slugging and third in OPS. The pitching-challenged Sounds will go as far as Winn, Gregg Black, and the rest of the offense takes them, and currently sit 5 games out of a wild card spot.
Honorable Mention: Black; Burt Stevenson, Milwaukee; Ernest Montgomery, Louisville; Wally Harvey, Las Vegas; Tony Escuela, Monterrey.
Least Valuable Player: Tie, Matthew Butler, Colorado Springs and Hunter Ramirez, Buffalo
Why: I normally leave shortstops off this list, but Butler and Ramirez are just so extraordinarily poor that I have to do this. Butler, in 318 at bats, has managed to hit .167 with an on base percentage of .207- these are not his worst numbers. He is slugging a criminally low .187, bringing his OPS below .400- by comparison, Winn's OPS is above 1.000. He's managed to strike out 90 times in 90 games. I'm not sure I could justify those offensive numbers even if his defense was Ozzie Smith-like, but he's not even all that good defensively- he's made 12 errors and only one plus play. Ramirez is slightly less offensive at the plate (.205/.262/.264) with only 74 strikeouts, but has been historically horrible in the field, making a whopping 56 errors in 92 games. So again, we have our choice between a hack at the plate and a butcher in the field. Take your pick-any team is far worse off for having either of them starting at short.
Dishonorable Mention: Ronnie Brown, Las Vegas; Del Domingo, Jackson.
Cy Young: Vin Solano, Milwaukee
Why: This was a close race between Solano and New York's Jason Sprague. Solano has two fewer wins but his ERA is lower by over half a run, has a lower WHIP, and holds batters to a lower average. What makes Solano special is that he rarely gives up a home run- he's yielded only 6 in 99 1/3 innings.
Honorable Mention: Sprague; Clarence Forsch. Charlotte; Ham Bruske, Nashville; Tony Rowan, Syracuse; Carlos Carrasco, St. Louis.
Cy Yuk: Mark DuBose, Little Rock
Why: 4-10 record, 7.06 ERA in 18 starts. Less than 5 innings per start. A WHIP over 2. Shall I continue? OK, will do. He leads the league in walks by far. The league gets on base against him about 43% of the time and slugs at a .542 clip. Between DuBose and Joey Hubbard, are there any questions as to why Little Rock gives up the most runs in the AL? Didn't think so.
Dishonorable Mention: Hubbard; Louie Bolivar, Syracuse (33 HRs allowed); Einar Peron, Anaheim; Steve Clay, Buffalo; Cookie Alvarez, St. Louis.
Surprise Team: tie: St. Louis Silly Nannies, Charlotte Blue Devils
Why: The league was waiting to see if the two wild card teams from last season could sustain last season's success. So far, both have. Charlotte leads the AL East, knocking Louisville from their perch with a 53-39 record. St. Louis isn't far behind at 51-41; they're unlikely to catch Milwaukee, but they should be in the wild card hunt.
Disappointing Team: Anaheim Chiles
Why: My upset pick to win the AL West can't even beat out Seattle at this point. They are 42-50, 11 games back of the Gamblers. They give up the most runs in the division.