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July Wrap-Up: The Best And Worst So Far

At the end of every month here at Baseball Insider, we recalculate and recalibrate the races for the major individual awards, and rank the top five and bottom five teams in the sport, as things stand now. (We're getting a late start wrapping up July because of the trade deadline and the weekend.) To refresh your memories, here were the updates from April, May and June. And finally, here is how BI readers and staffers saw things all the way back on Opening Day, in our first annual predictions contest.

Now then... July saw some serious upheaval. The Brewers fell from first place to fourth in the NL Central. The Red Sox and Yankees switched places atop the AL East. The Phillies extended their NL East lead from 1 1/2 games at the start of July to six games at the end -- oh, and they also picked up lefty Cliff Lee at the trade deadline. In Washington, of course, Manager Manny Acta lost his job.

And what occurred in the individual award races? Let's take a look...

1. Albert Pujols, Cardinals (last month: 1)
2. Hanley Ramirez, Marlins (last month: NR)
3. Prince Fielder, Brewers (last month: 2)

Pujols's chances of a Triple Crown are slipping, what with Ramirez now leading him by nearly 30 points of batting average. But it's still astounding how much better Pujols is than anyone else in baseball. In what qualifies as a terrible month for him, he went .289/.415/.485 in July. Just give him the award.

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

We're standing pat in this race, as Haren (3-1, 2.18 ERA), Lincecum (3-1, 2.08) and Cain (3-0, 0.94) all pitched well in July. What truly sets Haren apart is his .547 opponents' OPS, which means he basically turns every oppposing hitter into Yuniesky Betancourt.

NL Rookie
1. Casey McGehee, Brewers (last month: 1)
2. J.A. Happ, Phillies (last month: NR)
3. Randy Wells, Cubs (last month: 2)

McGehee continues to put up impressive numbers in Milwaukee (.319/.367/.538), but we're also keeping an eye on late-comers Garrett Jones in Pittsburgh (10 homers in only 106 at-bats) and Jake Fox in Chicago (eight homers in 107 at-bats).

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

While we still give Torre the nod for keeping the Dodgers comfortably on top in the NL West, we're equally impressed with Tracy's 40-19 mark since taking over the Rockies in midseason. Entering Monday, the Rockies are tied for the wild card lead -- after bottoming out at 20-32 on June 3.

1. Joe Mauer, Twins (last month: 1)
2. Justin Morneau, Twins (last month: NR)
3. Jason Bartlett, Rays (last month: 2)

Mauer's lead over the rest of the field is significant -- he leads the AL in both OBP (.426) and SLG (.592), and trails only Ichiro Suzuki in batting average (.364 to .355). Meantime, his teammate, Morneau, leads the league in both homers (28) and RBI (86).

AL Cy Young
1. Zack Greinke, Royals (last month: 1)
2. Roy Halladay, Blue Jays (last month: 2)
3. Felix Hernandez, Mariners (last month: NR)

An 0-3 July will make it appear as if Greinke has lost his stride (and his grip on the hardware), but look at his other stats for the month: 2.53 ERA, .266 OBA, 39 K's in 32 innings. No, Greinke is just fine. But Halladay and Hernandez, among others, are gaining on him.

AL Rookie
1. Jeff Niemann, Rays (last month: NR)
2. Gordon Beckham, White Sox (last month: NR)
3. Ricky Romero, Blue Jays (last month: NR)

A complete turnover in this category. As Nolan Reimold and the others slipped, here came Niemann (3-1, 2.86 ERA since July 1), Romero (5-1, 4.00 ERA since July 1) and Beckham (.343/.388/.556 since July 1).

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

This one stays relatively static -- and we still insist no manager has dealt with more baggage this year than Scioscia -- except that Francona leapfrogs Leyland, owing to the fact Francona's baggage now includes the steroids revelations regarding DH David Ortiz.

Five Best Teams (all MLB)
1. Angels, 63-40 (last month: 3)
2. Yankees, 63-42 (last month: 4)
3. Red Sox, 62-42 (last month: 1)
4. Dodgers, 65-40 (last month: 2)
5. Phillies, 59-44 (last month: NR)

In a tight race at the top, we're taking the Angels, who are 21-8 since the start of July and an impressive 17-9 versus the deeper AL East. The Yankees' impressive record is marred by their 0-9 record against Boston, and we were tempted to rank the Red Sox ahead of them. Could the Dodgers really be the fourth-best team in baseball despite having the best overall record?

Five Worst Teams (all MLB)
1. Nationals, 33-72 (last month: 1)
2. Royals, 41-63 (last month: NR)
3. Padres, 43-63 (last month: 5)
4. Indians, 44-61 (last month: 3)
5. A's, 44-60 (last month: 4)

Look out below! The Royals have actually played worst since July 1 (8-20) than even the Nationals (10-19), and the Nats' lead in the race for the worst record in baseball (also known as The Bryce Harper Sweepstakes) is down to a mere 8 1/2 games.

By Dave Sheinin  |  August 3, 2009; 8:06 AM ET
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8 1/2 games out of 2nd to last? That's something to shoot for. Go Nats!

Posted by: richs91 | August 3, 2009 1:35 PM | Report abuse

Nationals fans need to start rooting for the Padres and against the Royals. If KC (or any team other than the Padres) finish with the next-to-last record, we might have a better shot of signing Strasburg, since he wouldn't be able to skip Washington and go straight to the Padres in next year's draft!

Posted by: Dougmacintyre | August 3, 2009 2:41 PM | Report abuse

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