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August Wrap-Up: The Best and Worst So Far

Was it just us, or did August feel like a very static month? Which is to say, nothing much changed in the overall order of things. Oh, sure, a bunch of fairly significant players got traded, and a certain collegiate right-handed pitcher signed the largest contract ever given to a draftee.

But from the morning of August 1 through this Monday morning, none of the six division races changed hands, nor did either of the wild card leads. In fact, on the morning of August 1, the Giants and Rockies were tied for the NL wild card lead -- and Monday morning, they were still tied (thanks to the Giants' three-game sweep this weekend).

As for the individual award races -- which we have been recalculating and recalibrating in this space each month -- well, let's take a look:

NL MVP
1. Albert Pujols, Cardinals (last month: 1)
2. Hanley Ramirez, Marlins (last month: 2)
3. Chase Utley, Phillies (last month: NR)

We've been declaring this race all but over since around mid-June, and the most we'll acknowledge now is that Ramirez (.409/.463/.564 in August) is making it feel a little closer. But Pujols still has a 128-point lead in OPS and is the best player in the league any way you measure it. (Note to Jim Riggleman: If you're fortunate enough to get the Nationals' full-time manager's job for next season, please stop pitching to Pujols with the game on the line.)

NL Cy Young
1. Tim Lincecum, Giants (last month: 2)
2. Chris Carpenter, Cardinals (last month: NR)
3. Adam Wainwright, Cardinals (last month: NR)

Arizona's Dan Haren had been our leader all summer, until a 3-2, 4.95 ERA August sent him tumbling out of the top three. Lincecum (13-4, 2.33) and Carpenter (14-3, 2.20) are now in a virtual tie, in our book, with Lincecum getting the edge by virtue of those 40 additional innings he has pitched.

NL Rookie
1. J.A. Happ, Phillies (last month: 2)
2. Randy Wells, Cubs (last month: 3)
3. Garrett Jones, Pirates (last month: NR)

Happ (10-3, 2.65) has a virtually unassailable lead in this one, although a pitcher who got nosed out of our top three this month -- Atlanta's Tommy Hanson (9-3, 3.15) -- may be the player best-equipped to catch him down the stretch.

NL Manager
1. Joe Torre, Dodgers (last month: 1)
2. Jim Tracy, Rockies (last month: 2)
3. Tony La Russa, Cardinals (last month: 3)

We were tempted to make this the month we finally moved Tracy (54-31 since taking over for Clint Hurdle) past Torre for the top spot, but the Rockies' three-game sweep at the hands of the Giants this weekend made us reconsider.

AL MVP
1. Joe Mauer, Twins (last month: 1)
2. Derek Jeter, Yankees (last month: NR)
3. Miguel Cabrera, Tigers (last month: NR)

Lots of buzz on the Internets the past month about a Mauer-vs.-Mark-Teixeira debate for MVP. Maybe there's something I don't see. Teixeira ranks sixth in the AL in OPS, 19th in VORP (on baseballprospectus.com) and 14th in WAR (on fangraphs.com). Methinks folks are looking at the wrong Yankee in this debate. Not that it's a real debate. Mauer is the best hitter in the league, plays tremendous defense at a premium position and has kept the Twins at the fringes of the playoff race,

AL Cy Young
1. Zack Greinke, Royals (last month: 1)
2. Felix Hernandez, Mariners (last month: 3)
3. Justin Verlander, Tigers (last month: NR)

This is another slam dunk, as Greinke (13-8, 2.32) has been the most dominant pitcher in the league since the first week of the season, and he's coming off a 15-strikeout performance and a one-hitter in back-to-back starts.

AL Rookie
1. Andrew Bailey, Athletics (last month: NR)
2. Jeff Niemann, Rays (last month: 1)
3. Nolan Reimold, Orioles (last month: NR)

Consider for a moment how untouchable Bailey has been this season. Opposing batters have gone just .172/.237/.252 against him. For comparison's sake -- league-wide, No. 9 batters (including pitchers) have hit .211/.271/.299.

AL Manager
1. Mike Scioscia, Angels (last month: 1)
2. Ron Washington, Rangers (last month: NR)
3. Jim Leyland, Tigers (last month: 3)

We've probably been remiss in not getting Washington on this list sooner. He has the Rangers within striking distance of both the AL West and the wild card leaders. But we still have to give the nod to Scioscia, for our money the best manager in the game.

Five Best Teams (all MLB)
1. Yankees, 82-48 (last month: 2)
2. Angels, 77-52 (last month: 1)
3. Cardinals, 77-55 (last month: NR)
4. Dodgers, 78-53 (last month: 4)
5. Red Sox, 76-54 (last month: 3)

The Cardinals are the hottest team in baseball, surging to a 20-6 record this month -- but that's just a half-game better than the Yankees (20-7), who now appear to be the best team in the game by a wide margin.

Five Worst Teams (all MLB)
1. Nationals, 46-85 (last month: 1)
2. Royals, 50-80 (last month: 2)
3. Orioles, 54-77 (last month: NR)
4. Pirates, 53-75 (last month: NR)
5. Padres, 56-76 (last month: 3)

Don't look now, but a win Monday night in San Diego would give the Nationals their first winning month in two years, which is how their lead in the quest for the worst record in baseball (otherwise known as The Bryce Harper Sweepstakes) has been cut from 8 1/2 games to 4 1/2. Well, that and the Royals' 10-18 record in August.

By Dave Sheinin  |  August 31, 2009; 11:48 AM ET
 | Tags: Dave Sheinin, monthly wrap-up  
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Comments

NL MVP - Pujols by any way you measure it, except WAR. That has him behind Utley, with Hanley and a certain guy whose name I recognize from his Natinals uniform in a respectable 4th, 1/2 win back.
http://www.fangraphs.com/leaders.aspx?pos=all&stats=bat&lg=all&qual=y&type=6&season=2009&month=0

AL MVP - Mauer is the man, but Ben Zobrist > Derek Jeter. Especially when you consider his position flexiblity. Just because he's in Tampa Bay does not mean he doesn't deserve a lot of love.

Chone Figgins has had a great year too. Why is it runs get less credit in MVP consideration than RBI? Runs are Paul Simon, RBIs are strictly Art Garfunkel.

Finally, in an observational way, Kevin Youkilis's position flexibility deserves a consideration, although Zobrist has him beat, I/M/O.

Posted by: jca-CrystalCity | September 1, 2009 9:16 AM | Report abuse

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