The best and the worst of the American League East 60 percent of the way through the season
Welcome back, Major League Baseball. After a brief hiatus for the All-Star Game, we’re back to games that actually count. Despite being baseball’s unofficial halfway point, at 95 or so games in, we’re actually about 60% through the season. That means we’re going to start seeing some serious playoff pushes, some big trades, and plenty of drama. It also means it’s time for my third installment of the American League East Awards. After handing out these awards at the 20% and 40% points in the season, it’s once again time to look at who the best of the best (and the worst of the worst) in the American League East have been.
American League East Cy Young
Previously: Mark Buehrle (20%); Masahiro Tanaka (40%)
While Tanaka has been excellent all season, and would probably be deserving enough to retain his hold on this award, the fact that he won’t pitch again for two months doesn’t help his cause. Mark Buehrle has lost just a bit of steam, but overall has also been excellent all season. That said, this one is going to neither. Instead, Jon Lester is your winner right now. Despite his pedestrian 9-7 record, Lester’s 2.65 ERA is 6th in the American League and only .01 higher than Buehrle. He beats Buehrle in WHIP (1.14 to 1.27), strikeouts (134 to 73), walks (29 to 32), and hits allowed (118 to 129). As he heads into free agency, Lester is showing teams he’s worth the big bucks.
American League East Most Valuable Player
Previously: Melky Cabrera (20%); Nelson Cruz (40%)
Not really sure how Cabrera snuck in there over Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion, but hey things happen. There are plenty of worthy names to chose from. Bautista and Encarnacion are solid choices; both are helping the Blue Jays stay in contention in the AL East. Baltimore’s Adam Jones is another fine selection, helping Baltimore reach the top of the AL East. I’d even consider Boston’s Brock Holt, if only because he is the only reason the Red Sox aren’t 0-95 this season. That said…none of them get it. Instead, it’s staying right where it is. Nelson Cruz has been a one-man wrecking ball for the Orioles, propelling them into first place with his 28 home runs and 74 RBI, both 2nd in the American League. He’s clearly hitting for power, he’s hitting for average, he’s getting on base. Nelson Cruz is the driving force behind the Orioles offensive attack; right now, he may drive them right into a division title.
American League East Rookie of the Year
Previously: Masahiro Tanaka (20%); Xander Bogaerts (40%)
Once again, I could just hand this over to Tanaka and call it a day, but I won’t. Bogaerts’ 2-run home run last night was his first in over a month; he’s not winning this again. Jackie Bradley is improving dramatically, but he’s still at .225 for the season, so no. Whatever, it’s going to the Yankees pitcher. No, no, not that Yankees pitcher. Dellin Betances, step right up! Yes, you’re a middle-reliever with only one save on the season, but that’s alright. Your 1.42 ERA is best amongst all AL rookies with a minimum of 50 IP. Those 87 strikeouts are best among rookie relievers. I like to make fun of non-starter, non-closer pitchers, but the fact is they all have a job to do, and Betances is doing his better than just about anyone else, rookie or otherwise. For that, he deserves some recognition.
American League East Least Valuable Player
Previously: Clay Buchholz (20%); Jose Molina (40%)
Lotta options here. The easy one would be AJ Pierzynski, and trust me I’d like to, but he isn’t quite the least valuable. I could go with someone injured, like CC Sabathia or Shane Victorino, but that isn’t quite fair. No, instead I’m going with someone who was healthy enough to play, just not good enough. Welcome to our second Yankee of the night, Alfonso Soriano. To be fair, I suppose he isn’t technically a Yankee anymore, but you get the idea. Before his release from the Yankees, Soriano, a career .270 hitter, was batting .221 with an OBP of only .319. When I say “least valuable,” I mean it – he had the lowest WAR in the division at -1.5, thanks to his 21 extra-base hits and 71 strikeouts. He was terrible, so the Yankees put him out of his misery. Welcome to the LVP club, Alfonso.
That’s it for now. Check back later this season to see where we stand at the 80% mark. A lot can change between mid-July and late August, so it should be a fun ride.