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June Wrap-Up: The Best and Worst, So Far

When last we checked in on the races for baseball's individual awards and team superlatives, a month ago, the Yankees and Rangers led their respective divisions, the Mets were comfortably above .500, the Rockies were uncomfortably below .500, and Joel Hanrahan's ERA was only 5.40. diti

Indeed, much has changed in June, and much has occurred. Mark DeRosa was traded. The previously dead-in-the-water Rockies won 11 in a row. Another former player was revealed to have tested positive for steroids in 2003. Manny Ramirez's only action came for the Albuquerque Isotopes. Manny Acta was fired -- sort of -- then not fired and given a vote of confidence. Sort of.

And the following players and teams moved a month closer to gripping some hardware at season's end:

NL MVP
1. Albert Pujols, Cardinals (last month: 1)
2. Prince Fielder, Brewers (last month: NR)
3. Raul Ibanez, Phillies (last month: 2)

This one is not even close. Pujols's month-by-month OPS figures: 1.132 in April, 1.160 in May, 1.220 in June. And he's a 5-for-5 game away from leading the NL in all three Triple Crown categories. Barring injury, can we go ahead and engrave his name on the award?

NL Cy Young
1. Dan Haren, Diamondbacks (last month: 2)
2. Tim Lincecum, Giants (last month: NR)
3. Matt Cain, Giants (last month: NR)

While end-of-May leader Johan Santana was imploding (2-3, 5.93 ERA in June), Haren was almost literally unhittable. His WHIP of .815 to this point would be the third-best in the last 50 years (behind Pedro Martinez in 2000 and Greg Maddux in 1995). Meantime, Lincecum went 4-1 with a 1.48 ERA and three complete games in June.

NL Rookie
1. Casey McGehee, Brewers (last month: NR)
2. Randy Wells, Cubs (last month: NR)
3. Ronald Belisario, Dodgers (last month: 2)

McGehee didn't become a regular until late May, but look at this batting line so far: .336/.400/.564. Wells, despite a modest 2-3 record, went 2-1 with a 3.19 ERA in June, pitching into the seventh while allowing two or fewer earned runs in all but one of his five starts. (Watch out below: Braves phenom Tommy Hanson is coming on fast.)

NL Manager
1. Joe Torre, Dodgers (last month: 1)
2. Ken Macha, Brewers (last month: 2)
3. Tony La Russa, Cardinals (last month: 3)

With only a few more days to go until Manny Ramirez's return, Torre's Dodgers have managed to weather the 50-game absence of their best player, while barely losing any of their NL West lead.

AL MVP
1. Joe Mauer, Twins (last month: 1)
2. Jason Bartlett, Rays (last month: 3)
3. Torii Hunter, Angels (last month: NR)

Mauer's stats have sunk below the Ridiculous level, but he is still flirting with .400 (.386) and still leading the league in OPS (1.129). Bartlett remains the surprise entry on this list, though teammates Evan Longoria and Ben Zobrist are also in contention. Boston's Kevin Youkilis fell out of the top three with an un-MVP-like .224/.377/.412 month.

AL Cy Young
1. Zack Greinke, Royals (last month: 1)
2. Roy Halladay, Blue Jays (last month: 2)
3. Edwin Jackson, Tigers (last month: 3)

No change here, as our three top contenders continued their strong first halves (with Halladay slowed briefly by a 15-day trip to the DL). Greinke's adjusted ERA+ of 219 has been bested in the past 20 years by only Greg Maddux (1994, 1995), Martinez (1997, 1999, 2000) and Roger Clemens (1997, 2005).

AL Rookie
1. Nolan Reimold, Orioles (last month: NR)
2. Andrew Bailey, A's (last month: 2)
3. Rick Porcello, Tigers (last month: 1)

Reimold has gone an impressive .285/.367/.531 since being called up in mid-May, including a .300/.410/.514 clip in June. Bailey has been almost as impressive, converting eight of 12 save opportunities while posting a 2.14 ERA and holding opposing hitters to a .176 batting average.

AL Manager
1. Mike Scioscia, Angels (last month: NR)
2. Jim Leyland, Tigers (last month: 2)
3. Terry Francona, Red Sox (last month: NR)

Scioscia gets the nod so far for steering the Angels into first place despite a season marked by tragedy and too many pitching injuries to count. Francona cracks the top three this month for his deft handling of the delicate David Ortiz situation, as well as keeping the Sox comfortably in first.

Five best teams (all MLB)
1. Red Sox, 47-29 (last month: 2)
2. Dodgers, 49-28 (last month: 1)
3. Angels, 42-32 (last month: NR)
4. Yankees, 43-32 (last month: 4)
5. Tigers, 42-34 (last month: NR)

Despite the Dodgers' 1 1/2-game lead over the Red Sox, we give Boston the nod because the latest round of interleague play once again showed the AL's clear superiority (137-114).

Five worst teams (all MLB)
1. Nationals, 22-52 (last month: 1)
2. Diamondbacks, 30-46 (last month: 4)
3. Indians, 31-47 (last month: NR)
4. A's, 32-43 (last month: 2)
5. Padres, 33-42 (last month: NR)

Will no one challenge the Nationals for this honor? They are trying to let the rest of the pack into this race, showing a barely perceptible improvement -- they were 5-16 in April, 8-20 (with a suspended game) in May and 9-16 so far in June.

By Dave Sheinin  |  June 30, 2009; 10:44 AM ET
 
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Next: Moment of Levity: The Big Picture

Comments

First.

Posted by: SkinsDiesel | June 30, 2009 1:06 PM | Report abuse

Interesting that all three AL MVP candidates all played for the Twins together a couple of years ago. Toss in Santana and the Twins had a pretty good team.

Posted by: cp54 | June 30, 2009 1:39 PM | Report abuse

"and the Twins had a pretty good team."

Apparently not a good team because they did nothing with all of those guys. Good players, yes. But not a good team.

Posted by: Alvin_Walton | June 30, 2009 3:43 PM | Report abuse

actually jason bartlett was not this good when he was with the twins. and yes, they were a good TEAM. how else do you explain them winning the division so often?

Posted by: adampschroeder | June 30, 2009 8:13 PM | Report abuse

Zobrist is a great story. For all those "let's hang on to Nick with the expiring contract" and "don't bother with trading for minor league middling prospects," TB scooped him and Mitch Talbott (very good AAA pticher) for Aubrey Huff 3 years ago. Great scouting and some luck. May you do so well, Mr. Rizzo.

Love to see a "when did it all click" for Zobrist. Scooped him for $5 in my fantasy draft. Easily my best auction grab (although Luke Scott for $14 was not bad).

Posted by: jca-CrystalCity | July 1, 2009 2:57 PM | Report abuse

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