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Major League Baseball midseason report

Cy Young | Roy Halladay, Jays, RHP
An excellent case could be made for Royals right-hander Zack Greinke, who has finally appeared human after a superb start. But Halladay, the likely All-Star starter, is off to another one of his steady seasons, and he is among the AL leaders in wins (10), ERA (2.85) and complete games (three). Two of his three losses came against the Rays, and in both those games he gave up just three earned runs or fewer. "There's very few legitimate No. 1 ace kind of pitchers in the big leagues, period, and (Halladay) is definitely one of those," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "He could even be the No. 1 pitcher on a staff full of No. 1 pitchers."
MVP | Justin Morneau, Twins, 1B
This one is a very tough call. Both Red Sox OF Jason Bay and Yankees 1B Mark Teixeira have had strong seasons (along with Rays SS Jason Bartlett and INF Ben Zobrist), and hot-hitting Twins C Joe Mauer is flirting with .400. But it is the impressively consistent Morneau who quietly helped steady the Twins when Mauer missed the first month. Morneau entered Saturday's play in the top three in the AL in home runs (21), RBIs (70) and slugging percentage (.578). He's also in the top 10 in on-base percentage and runs.
Rookie of the year | Andrew Bailey, A's, RHP
It's hard to ignore the impressive seasons of Jays LHP Ricky Romero and Tigers RHP Rick Porcello (not to mention Rays RHP Jeff Niemann), but Bailey's turnaround has been remarkable. A year ago, he lost his spot in the Double-A Midland rotation with a 1-8 record. Now the reliever is an All-Star, leading AL rookies in ERA (2.03), saves (nine), opponent batting average (.173) and has just nine fewer strikeouts than Romero's 66. "He's a poor man's (Mariano) Rivera," Gil Patterson, the A's roving minor-league pitching coordinator, told the San Francisco Chronicle. "I'm extremely happy for him. What a great story he is."
Biggest surprise
Tigers. After a woeful 2008 season in which they went from predicted World Series contenders to a last-place bust, Detroit is now leading the Central, making seemingly all the right moves. Former Ray RHP Edwin Jackson has been impressive, so has rookie RHP Rick Porcello. Brandon Inge, who was moved to third, is an All-Star. The Rangers and Mariners have a case, too.
Biggest disappointment
Indians. They have been beaten up by injuries, including to key guys such as Grady Sizemore and Travis Hafner, but who would have thought they would be almost 20 games under .500 and in last place in the Central.

There has been no shortage of eye-grabbing story lines throughout the season's first half, with most of the early news coming off the field. There were the bombshells: Alex Rodriguez admitting to using performance-enhancing drugs, Manny Ramirez getting suspended for violating MLB's drug policy and the tragic passing of Angels rookie pitcher Nick Adenhart, who died in a car crash just hours after making his season debut. But on the field in a parity-filled season, there have also been milestones (Randy Johnson's 300th win) and notable performances (Jonathan Sanchez's no-hitter Friday night) leading us to our midseason awards:

Cy Young | Tim Lincecum, Giants, RHP
The reigning Cy Young winner is doing it again, ranking among the NL leaders in ERA (2.33), wins (10) and tied for most complete games (three). Diamondbacks RHP Dan Haren (9-5) has been brilliant but hurt by some rough run support in several starts. Lincecum may have a slightly higher ERA than Haren (2.01), but he has been more dominant. Lincecum has five starts in which he has gone at least seven innings and allowed no earned runs, and he has a large lead in strikeouts (149-129). Lincecum could join Greg Maddux, Randy Johnson and Sandy Koufax as the only NL back-to-back Cy Youngs.
MVP | Albert Pujols, Cardinals, 1B
What hasn't Pujols done? One of the game's best pure hitters, Pujols is putting up Triple Crown-caliber numbers, entering Saturday's play leading the NL in home runs (32), RBIs (85) and ranking third in batting average (.336). Oh yeah, he also leads in runs (71), on-base percentage (.463) and slugging (.739). Whether Pujols becomes the first player since Carl Yastrzemski in 1967 to complete the Triple Crown remains to be seen, but it'll be fun to watch.
Rookie of the year Colby Rasmus, Cardinals, CF
There are a few pitchers who have a case, including the Phillies' J.A. Happ, who has stepped into the rotation nicely and entered Saturday among the NL rookie leaders in wins (five, tied first), strikeouts (57, third), and ERA (3.04, third). But Rasmus has thrived in an everyday role, both in the field and in the two-spot in the order. Rasmus entered Saturday having racked up 11 home runs, 34 RBIs and 20 multihit games, and also leads NL rookies in hits (74), runs (44) and a .488 slugging percentage. Of course, hitting in front of Albert Pujols can't hurt, either.
Biggest surprise
Brewers. Despite losing their top two pitchers in the offseason — CC Sabathia and Ben Sheets — the Brewers have hung in there in the Central, entering Saturday three games back of the Cardinals. Future Hall of Fame closer Trevor Hoffman has been steady, saving 19 in his 21 chances entering Saturday. And OF Ryan Braun and 1B Prince Fielder are both providing their typical pop.
Biggest disappointment
Mets. After a few years of choking away a potential division title, the Mets are still struggling to find their way. They haven't been helped by injuries to Jose Reyes, Carlos Delgado and Carlos Beltran, but entering Saturday in fourth place in the East (61/2 games back) is not exactly the way they thought they would open Citi Field.

Three second-half questions
1. Which big name will get traded (Indians C Victor Martinez, above, A's LF Matt Holliday or maybe even Jays ace Roy Halladay?) 2. How much money will the Nationals' touted No. 1 pick, Stephen Strasburg, sign for? And can he make his major-league debut in 2009? 3. Can Twins C Joe Mauer hit .400?

Major League Baseball midseason report 07/11/09 [Last modified: Saturday, July 11, 2009 9:19pm]
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