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Roberts: MLB First Half Rankings And Awards

  1. Philadelphia Phillies (1) 57-34

The Phillies finished the 1st half of the season by finally breaking out offensively.  They assaulted the Braves bullpen for 10 runs in 2 innings on Sunday to put an exclamation point on the series victory of Atlanta.  The scary thing about the Phillies is they will only get better.  Yes, Halladay and Hamels are legit Cy Young candidates, and Cliff Lee for the most part has been pretty solid, but with this team getting healthy in the pen and Chase Utley probably primed for a big second half, the Phillies could make a run at 105 + wins.

  1. New York Yankees (2) 53-35

This was looking like a pretty bad week for the Yankees.  After Mariano Rivera blew a 2 out nobody on save to the Mets, the Yanks lost 2 of 3 to the Indians, lost the opener to Tampa Bay and A-Rod was facing knee surgery.  Yes, Alex has opted for knee surgery that will keep him out 4-6 weeks, but the Yanks finished the 1st half like only the Yankees can.  Not only did they bounce back with 2 wins against Tampa, but Derek Jeter had his storybook 3,000 hit day and CC Sabathia put an exclamation point on a great 1st half with a CG shutout.  As far as A-Rod is concerned, if there is a team best equipped to live without their cleanup hitter…it's the Yankees.

  1. Boston Red Sox (3) 55-35

The Red Sox are red hot as they've won 8 of 9 since they lost the first 2 games to the Phillies.  The Sox despite injuries to the rotation have gotten fat on bad teams as 6 of those wins have come against Houston and Baltimore.  But as they begin the 2nd half of the season against Tampa Bay, they will need some of their arms to step up.  Jon Lester is now on the DL, and who knows when Clay Buchholz will be back, so its imperative for John Lackey to be the guy who pitched 6 2/3 scoreless innings on Saturday.  The good news for Boston is besides Tampa right after the break, the play 10 games in a row against Baltimore, Seattle and Kansas City.

  1. Atlanta Braves (4) 54-38

Braves fans!  Now you know what the 1997 Marlins, 1999-2000 Mets, and a host of other teams over the years who have shared your division must've felt like.  You're a really, really good team, but you happen to reside in a division with a team that you just aren't quite as good as.  It's the life of the 2011 Atlanta Braves.  The Braves had been as hot as anybody and actually got within 2 ½ games of the Phillies, until this past weekend came along.  The Phillies won 2 of 3 and sent quite the message with the 14-1 walloping on Sunday.  With that said they finished the 1st half 16 games over .500 and don't play Philadelphia until September.  By that time, there is a really good chance they will have a substantial lead over the wild card and can play Philadelphia for little more than home field advantage.

  1. San Francisco Giants (6) 52-40

I get Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain being great.  I'll even give you a lot of the arms in Giants pen being really solid.  But now its getting absurd with how everyone pitches incredibly well for the 2011 Giants.  Ryan Vogelsong was incredible enough, as he earned an All- Star bid after being a journeyman pitcher for years.  But now after Jonathan Sanchez went down, Barry Freakin Zito?  1-12 there is no better pitching staff than the San Francisco Giants…now if only they could score some runs.

  1. Tampa Bay Rays (5) 49-41

The Rays are feisty little SOB's, but Sunday's 1st half finale was a brutal loss no matter what their payroll is.  An airmailed throw by BJ Upton was bad enough but James Shields trying to pick off Cano on 3rd base with 2 out was the kicker.  Bottom line for Tampa is this…they may well be the 3rd best team in the AL (and according to these rankings they are) but to beat out the Sox and Yankees they will have to avoid the idiotic mistakes that cost them a series against the Yankees.  With that said the Rays will go as far as Shields, Price and the rest of the rotation take them.

  1. Texas Rangers (NR)51-41

Josh Hamilton, the Rangers family and most specifically the family of Shannon Stone had an extremely sad week.  Words can't describe how badly we all feel for Shannon's family and his six year old son.  I don't think it makes the Rangers feel much better but around the horrific tragedy they have played their best baseball of the season.  Hamilton has been on fire at the plate and even hit a 2 out down a run game winning home run against Andrew Bailey on Saturday night.  One problem for Texas is that the Angels have been matching them step for step.

  1. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (NR) 50-42

After a rocky start that had them 4 games under the .500 as late as June 18th the Angels have gotten scary hot.  This shouldn't come as a shock…when you have a rotation that features the likes of Jered Weaver and Dan Haren anchoring it you can't be kept down for long.  The Angels haven't lose 2 in a row in over a month and after a series with Oakland right out of the break they will get their crack at the 1st place Rangers.

  1. Pittsburgh Pirates (NR) 47-43

You are not reading that wrong…at the All-Star break the Pittsburgh Pirates are in my top 10….and why the heck not!?  Are the Cardinals/Brewers/Tigers/Indians/D-Backs really better at this point?  The Pirates success has occurred for a long enough period of time that we and the NL Central better start taking them serious.  The rotation has been surprisingly good with the likes of Paul Maholm, Kevin Correia, Jeff Karstens and Charlie Morton having solid years.  Andrew McCutchen is blossoming into a super star and the pen has been very solid.  1 game back…congratulations Pittsburgh!

  1. Detroit Tigers (NR) 49-43

Thanks to a bizarre decision by rookie Eric Hosmer trying to steal 3rd down a run in the 9th the Tigers won 3 of 4 against Kansas City and finished the 1st half in 1st place.  They feature one of the best pitchers in baseball and one of the most feared hitters in baseball yet they can't shake those pesky Indians.  An impressive stat about Detroit…despite being 6 games over .500 they have been outscored by opponents this year.

My 1st Half Awards

National League

MVP: Lance Berkman: He does lead the league in home runs but Berkman gets the nod from me because of how important is he to a good team.  Reyes and Kemp have the numbers but their teams aren't good enough.  Yes, Ernie Banks, Andre Dawson and A-Rod have won the award on sub par teams, but Berkman has some pretty darn good numbers and with injuries to Holliday and Pujols he has been a constant in a sometimes depleted lineup.

Cy Young: Roy Halladay: You can very, very easily say Jair Jurrjens deserves this award especially with that impressive 1.87 ERA.  But why I legitimately say Halladay is for his #'s and not his name.  Every voter has a few stats that they look at closer than others.  To me I'm a big Innings Pitched and CG guy.  Jair has made 3 fewer starts and has thrown 33 fewer innings than Doc.  Roy has completed 6 games compared to Jair's 2, and Doc has walked a microscopic 17 guys compared to Jair's 25.  Doc also has struck out DOUBLE the hitters than has Jurrjens.

Manager of the Year: Clint Hurdle: Kudos to Kirk Gibson, Terry Collins, Tony LaRussa and some of the other viable candidates.  But we are talking about the Pittsburgh freakin Pirates.  He has this team over achieving and in a legit pennant race.

Rookie of the Year: Craig Kimbrel: Craig may be one of the best closers in the NL, his strikeout numbers are insane and has been really coming into his own as of late.

American League

MVP: Adrian Gonzalez: Youkilis, Pedroia, Crawford have all had down years, and it has been David Ortiz and Adrian Gonzalez carrying this lineup.  What makes this really difficult is what Jose Bautista is doing.  Statistically speaking Jose has had a better year than even Gonzo, but again I'm going back to the valuable to a good team argument.  The Blue Jays are a sub .500 team and the Sox are battling for the AL East title.

Cy Young: Justin Verlander: As close as the NL is the AL race as of now may be even closer.  Verlanders and Weaver are neck and neck in just about every major category.  But Verlander has pitched 11 more innings, has a lower WHIP, and has a no hitter on his resume this year to boot.  CC Sabathia has made a surge as of late and will certainly put a big win total, but right now its Justin and Jered neck and neck.

Manager of the Year: Manny Acta: Some how, some way the Indians are hanging in there.  As long as they do Manny will be the leader because of what he's done with these overachievers.

Rookie of the Year: Michael Pinieda: How good has this guy been for Seattle.  He has an ERA of 3.03 and has won 8 games for the light hitting Mariners.  With that said, this is not a run away.  Keep an eye on Jordan Walden, Mark Trumbo and Eric Hosmer as guys with a chance to steal this award in the 2nd half.

Agree? Doubtful. Disagree? Probably. Either way leave your comments below. And don't forget to follow Evan on twitter @JoeandEvan

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