May Wrap-Up: The Best and Worst, So Far
How much can change in a month of baseball? At the start of play on May 1, the Kansas City Royals, Seattle Mariners and Florida Marlins were all in first place; "Manny Ramirez" and "steroids" had never (okay, rarely) been used in a sentence together; Alex Rodriguez had not played a game; Clint Hurdle still had a job; and the Washington Nationals had the worst record in baseball.
Well, at least some things never change.
Every month, we are taking stock of where everybody -- players and teams -- stands in regards to the major awards and the quest for October. Here is a look at last month's snapshot.
And here is where things stand now:
1. Albert Pujols, Cardinals (last month: 2)
2. Raul Ibanez, Phillies (last month: NR)
3. Carlos Beltran, Mets (last month: NR)
Chase Utley, our pick at the end of April, fell clear off the list with a .253/.405/.471 May -- nothing to sneeze at, but not MVP-worthy. Pujols, Ibanez and Beltran are all putting up monster numbers for teams at or near the tops of their divisions.
NL Cy Young
1. Johan Santana, Mets (last month: 2)
2. Dan Haren, Diamondbacks (last month: 1)
3. Johnny Cueto, Reds (last month: NR)
Santana is working on a pitching Triple Crown, leading the NL in ERA (1.77) and tied for the lead in wins (7) and strikeouts (86) at the end of May. Haren is right there with him, however, leading the league in WHIP (0.901).
1. Micah Hoffpauir, Cubs (last month: NR)
2. Ronald Belisario, Dodgers (last month: NR)
3. J.A. Happ, Phillies (last month: NR)
Total upheaval in this category, as Brian Barden, Dexter Fowler and Jordan Zimmermann all fall off, and there could be more turnover to come, with Atlanta pitching phenom Tommy Hanson soon to be called up.
1. Joe Torre, Dodgers (last month: NR)
2. Ken Macha, Brewers (last month: NR)
3. Tony La Russa, Cardinals (last month: 3)
Torre sounded all the right notes in the wake of Manny Ramirez's suspension, and his steady hand has ensured the Dodgers haven't lost anyt ground since. Macha and La Russa have their teams battling for the NL Central.
1. Joe Mauer, Twins (last month: NR)
2. Kevin Youkilis, Red Sox (last month: 1)
3. Jason Bartlett, Rays (last month: NR)
The only question about Mauer's candidacy is whether you believe he has had enough plate appearances to qualify. Technically, he hasn't -- but his numbers (.414/.500/.838) are sick. Meantime, Bartlett has morphed from light-hitting glove man to Nomar Garciaparra, ca. 2000.
AL Cy Young
1. Zack Greinke, Royals (last month: 1)
2. Roy Halladay, Blue Jays (last month: NR)
3. Edwin Jackson, Tigers (last month: NR)
Greinke's numbers are nearly as sick as they were a month ago -- and he still hasn't allowed a homer. In the Mere Mortal category, Halladay and Jackson are strong contenders.
1. Rick Porcello, Tigers (last month: NR)
2. Andrew Bailey, Athetics (last month: 3)
3. Elvis Andrus, Rangers (last month: NR)
Here's what Porcello did in May: Five starts, five wins, 1.50 ERA, 1.067 WHIP. And he's only 20 years old.
1. Ron Washington, Rangers (last month: NR)
2. Jim Leyland, Tigers (last month: NR)
3. Joe Girardi, Yankees (last month: NR)
Those are the skippers of your three AL division leaders entering June, ranked roughly in order from most to least surprising.
Five best teams (all MLB)
1. Dodgers, 35-17 (last month: 3)
2. Red Sox, 29-22 (last month: 1)
3. Rangers, 30-20 (last month: NR)
4. Yankees, 29-21 (last month: NR)
5. Brewers, 30-20 (last month: NR)
The Dodgers are easy -- they're four games better than anyone else in baseball entering June. Yes, we realize the Red Sox entered June trailing the Yankees by a half-game, but we're swayed by the head-to-head record (5-0) and the disparity in intradivisional play (Red Sox are 17-8, Yankees are 10-12).
Five worst teams (all MLB)
1. Nationals, 13-36 (last month: 1)
2. Athletics, 19-29 (last month: NR)
3. Rockies, 20-29 (last month: NR)
4. Diamondbacks, 22-29 (last month: 2)
5. Astros, 20-28 (last month: 4)
The Nationals appear poised to go wire-to-wire. But special recognition goes to the Rockies, who got their manager fired, and the D-Backs, who have yet to win a series this year.
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