We're at the halfway point of the 2009 major league baseball season and what has this season told us thus far? Red Sox knuckleballer Tim Wakefield is an All-Star after a 17-year major league career. The Kansas City Royals showcase the American League's top starter of the first half. Oh, and Albert Pujols has been, well he's been Albert Pujols (32 HR, .337 BA, & 87 RBI). As much as things surprise us, some things stay the same.
Josh Beckett will win the American League Cy Young. I agree it may have only been the Kansas City Royals, but Sunday afternoon Josh Beckett attacked the Royals lineup to the tune of a 94-pitch shutout. For the second time in 23 days Beckett has kept his pitch count under 100 and shut down opposing hitters allowing no more than five hits and zero runs allowed. A night after the Red Sox used 5 of their bullpen horses to dispatch the Royals, Beckett gives everyone a day off. The Red Sox ace is 6-0 this season when pitching the night after a loss. On the eve which Beckett records his 100th career win one thing has become increasingly clear; Josh Beckett is having a season, and it's a great one. The American Leagues leader in wins has really turned it on as of late. Since June 3rd, Beckett has a 1.65 earned run average over eight starts. Five of those eight starts Beckett has managed to not allow even 1 earned run. The quiet leader of the Boston Red Sox pitching staff will more than likely lead his team to a playoff birth and what should result in his winning a Cy Young award as he records 20+ wins. (For you Roy Halladay fans, he'll be playing in Philadelphia and for you Zack Greinke, everyone comes down to earth at some point.)
The aforementioned Albert Pujols should contend for the Triple Crown. Look, no one has captured the elusive Triple Crown since Carl Yastrzemski in 1967. In everyones defense, leading your league in runs batted in, homers, and batting average for an entire season isn't exactly easy. However, after watching Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols tear up the first half of this season, it's possible "this is the year." For a few years now we've known that Albert is the slugger among sluggers, he's the games most dominant and feared hitter, and if he was playing on either coast he would be bigger than Tom Brady. Well this season with 32 homers (8 more than everyone), 87 RBI (9 more than everyone), and hitting .332 (only .017 behind the leader), Albert Pujols is on the cusp and getting closer. For Pujols his biggest obstacle will that batting title. On one side you have him competing against essentially the National Leagues best young hitter in Florida's Hanley Ramirez. On the other the majority of his remaining games will be against fellow National League Central teams, none of which possess the likes of Dan Haren, Tim Lincecum, Johan Santana, or Chad Billingsley. If Albert is looking to continue his onslaught it won't be against the best the N.L. has to offer. Call his homerun total and runs driven in Kentucky and Pimlico, the real test comes at Belmont or in Albert's case, batting average. No question Albert Pujols should contend for a Triple Crown, the first in nearly 42 seasons.
Giants starter & '08 N.L. Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum is that good. He's only twenty-five, isn't over six feet tall, and weighs just under 180 pounds but Tim Lincecum is possibly the best pitcher in major league baseball that you haven't heard about. Okay, so fantasy geeks and baseball "guys" know of Lincecum but to the masses Tim Lincecum is just a long-haired kid playing ball for the San Francisco Giants. The Giants righty and his awkward delivery have stiffled National League hitters all season long. At 10-2 with an earned run average south of 2.40 is on a tear in 2009. With 149 K's, Tim Lincecum has recorded 13 more strikeouts than any other pitcher in the National League. In the top three in strikeouts, wins, and lowest earned run average it's hard to avoid discussing the name Tim Lincecum when we talk about best pitcher in the majors right now. While Diamondbacks starter Dan Haren has an earned run average better than Lincecum's, Lincecum has 20 more strikeouts than Haren. For every starter, Santana, Billingsley, or Josh Johnson, Tim Lincecum beats them and his 10 wins would be even more if not starting for the Giants and their anemic offense (just 62 homers, 14th in the N.L.). The pitcher who is averaging 10 k's per nine innings pitched is the N.L.'s best, when Lincecum gets the ball for Tuesday's All-Star game start, take a look at the games best pitcher and watch as he slices through the American League lineup.
Here come the Los Angeles Angels. As much as I want to discredit Mike Scioscia and the Angels, it's nearly impossible. The tragedy surrounding Angels pitcher Nick Adenhart, the surprise play of the division rival Rangers, the endless list of injuries this ballclub has suffered, and what do you know, the Angels are sitting atop the American League West like nothing ever happened. Sweeping the Yanks as they head into the break the L.A. Angels are showing the entire American League that they can't be counted out, no matter who is on the mend. Three things that stay the same with the Angels every season: (1) That whole manufacturing runs things, seems to work out. Excluding American League East powers, in runs scored the L.A. Angels are second to none. (2) They do more than just slug, they hit for average. The Angels hit a collective .284, which is better than anyone in baseball. (3) They don't shoot themselves in the foot, top five team in fewest errors committed. Now just imagine what would happen if they could just stay healthy? The Rangers are "cute" but the Angels are good.
The New York Mets are baseball's biggest disappointment: Fact. Nearly $136,000,000 in payroll, arguably the most talented collection of players, and somehow the Mets can't get out of their own way. Sitting 6.5 games back of first place in the National League East and 3 games under .500, you've got to be asking yourself one question; What the h@#*?!?!?! For starters, a -33 run differential doesn't help your case. A collective earned run average that places you 18th in all of baseball won't get you far. Finally, going 5-11 from June 26th till yesterday isn't exactly improving your situation. The Mets are a mess plain and simple. General Manager Omar Minaya has been a disaster and deserves to suffer the same fat has his team, o-u-t. After two of the worst September disasters in baseball history each of the last two seasons some people are willing to say they are due; cough, cough, Sports Illustrated. I wasn't that nice, the Phillies, Marlins, and Braves all are better constructed. The Mets are about as dissappointing as it gets and I dare you to tell me different. In a sentence: When 40-year old Gary Sheffield is leading your team in long balls (10), something has to change.
Sidenote: Is the Home Run Derby like the NHL, it's probably better in person and doesn't translate to television. However, not even HD is getting me excited about this thing. (Watching Brandon Inge throw up a donut doesn't help.)
So that's what you can expect from the second half, if the Yanks & Sox heat this thing up we could throw in the defending American League champion Rays and make this real interesting. Until Friday, don't PLAY BALL!