We've made it halfway through another baseball season. Judging by the fact that the Orioles lost seven of their final eight games before the All-Star break, it looks like they might be headed for another losing year. How many consecutive seasons will that be?
There's really no point in keeping track any longer. Just be happy when the team finally develops into a contender. The losing seasons will easily be forgotten when that happens.
It's probably a little bit harsh to write them off at the All-Star break. There is still plenty of baseball to be played. It'll be interesting to see if they make any trades between now and the non-waiver deadline on July 31. I think that's going to be the best way to judge if this season is successful or not.
Even if they finish below .500 again, it will be considered a positive season if they're able to continue building for the future. And they may not trade anyone. Maybe the best way to shape the organization for the future is by signing the core players – namely Brian Roberts and Nick Markakis – to long-term deals. It will be interesting to watch the development of the organization in the second half of the season regardless of what happens on the field.
Enough about the Orioles, let's get to the midseason awards. Who do you think has been the hottest player in each league? How about the biggest surprises?
Sun columnist Childs Walker recently shared his thoughts on the first half of the season. Do you have any comments on the players he selected? I think he did a pretty good job of breaking everything down, but you'll see that we don't agree on every award.
To keep things simple, I decided to keep my awards similar to those given to players in real life – Most Valuable Player, Cy Young, Best Rookie and Biggest Surprise.
Most Valuable Player – Josh Hamilton, Texas Rangers
It's definitely plausible that Hamilton's teammate – second baseman Ian Kinsler – could be the choice here because of his ability to fill multiple fantasy categories. But I'm going to pick Hamilton because of his 95 RBIs. He'll likely have 150-170 RBIs by the end of the season. That's not bad for a player who wasn't drafted until the middle rounds of most fantasy drafts. And that's at the earliest. His record 28-home run performance in the first round of the Home Run Derby also added to his remarkable comeback story. Hamilton may not have the ability to be among the leaders in every fantasy category, but he'll certainly help your team with his home runs and RBIs.
Cy Young – Roy Halladay, Toronto Blue Jays
This may come as a surprise to a lot of people, but Halladay is my choice for the top pitcher in the AL for the first half of the season. Although he has six losses, Halladay has seven complete games. No other pitcher in the majors has more than three. I know most fantasy leagues don't count complete games as a statistic, but a pitcher is going to be getting more wins and strikeouts when he has the ability to throw that many innings. Halladay is fourth in the AL with 121 strikeouts and he's tied for second with 11 wins.
Best Rookie – Evan Longoria, Tampa Bay Rays
Is there any other choice in the AL for this honor? There was plenty of hype as the Rays third baseman made his trek through the minor leagues, and so far he's shown that he has the ability to deliver in a big way. Longoria has 16 home runs and 53 RBIs in 84 games this season. It'd be nice if he could bring his batting average (.275) up a little bit, but he's still the best rookie in the league. He could be one of the top third basemen in the major leagues if he's able to continue the same offensive output in the second half.
Biggest Surprise – J.D. Drew, Boston Red Sox
For me, Drew was the obvious choice for biggest surprise in the AL. He was probably drafted in the later rounds of your fantasy draft. There's a good chance that he wasn't selected in some leagues. He's hitting .302 with 17 home runs, 55 RBIs and 63 runs scored this season. A lot of these statistics came in June – .337 with 12 home runs and 27 RBIs – but it doesn't matter when the production occurs. Drew could top his career highs in batting average (.323), home runs (31) and RBIs (100) before the season ends. Even if he's not able to reach those marks, Drew will make plenty of fantasy owners happy with his surprising numbers.
Most Valuable Player – Lance Berkman, Houston Astros
While an argument can be made for Philadelphia Phillies second baseman Chase Utley, there is no way that anyone can be picked over Berkman at this point in the season. He ranks near the top of the NL in batting average (third – .347), home runs (eighth – 22), RBIs (third – 73) and runs scored (second – 79). Although the Astros haven't lived up to team expectations so far in 2008, Berkman has been one of the best players in the majors. The Astros (44-51) will rely on Berkman if they hope to avoid the NL Central cellar. Berkman is already worthy of being the NL MVP and he'll likely continue to be among the leaders in all of the fantasy categories.
Cy Young – Brandon Webb, Arizona Diamondbacks
The popular pick by most people would likely be Edinson Volquez of the Cincinnati Reds. There are a couple reasons why Webb gets the edge over the dominating rookie. First, Webb has the experience and he's already won a Cy Young Award in his career. Also, he jumped out to a tremendous start by winning his first nine games of the season. Webb hasn't been nearly as successful recently, but he also hasn't received much offensive support from his teammates. Volquez definitely has more notable numbers at this point in the season, but I'd chose Webb if I had to pick between the two of them. He's likely to continue pitching well for the rest of the year and I'll predict now that he'll win the NL Cy Young at the end of the season.
Best Rookie – Edinson Volquez, Cincinnati Reds
Volquez is a solid choice for top pitcher in the NL, so it's fairly easy to choose him as the best rookie in the league so far in 2008. Volquez ranks near the top of the NL in all three of the primary pitching categories. He has 12 wins (second), 126 strikeouts (third) and a 2.29 ERA (first). Volquez gets extra points for the award because he wasn't even considered as a logical fantasy option before the season started. Did anyone think the minor offseason trade between the Rangers and Reds would involve two All-Stars (Hamilton and Volquez) switching teams? In his analysis of the trade at the time, ESPN.com's Tristan Cockcroft discusses the minimal impact that the two players would have on the fantasy world. That prediction doesn't look too good now, but most of us would have echoed Cockcroft if asked to predict the trade's fantasy impact in the offseason.
Biggest Surprise – Pat Burrell, Philadelphia Phillies
I went to a few games at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia last season and the fans sure loved to let Burrell know that they weren't too happy with his performance. Maybe it's just me, but I never quite understood why the Phillies fans gave him such a hard time. He had 30 home runs and 97 RBIs last year. I know he has a low career batting average (.259) and a lot of strikeouts, but he still gets a lot of home runs and RBIs. If there are any Phillies fans reading this post, please let me know why you guys were so critical of him. He consistently has 20-30 home runs and at least 90 RBIs per season. Burrell already has 23 home runs and 57 RBIs in 2008. Do the fans in Philadelphia still boo him this season or have they started to accept that he's a pretty good baseball player?