The 2011 Midseason Report Card

Our annual look at the best, worst and most unexpected during the first half of the 2011 major league season.

By Eric Gouldsberry, This Great Game
Posted June 30, 2011

This Great Game Opinion.

It’s been an interesting first three months of baseball’s 2011 regular season, with pitching taking a stronger stranglehold of the hitters, the rise of the typically downtrodden (Cleveland, Washington, Pittsburgh), the fall of the once-mighty (Los Angeles, New York Mets) and, for the first time in three years, no Cliff Lee trade rumors.

So it’s time now for Ed and I to take a good hard look at the half-season that’s been and give our comprehensive look at who’s the best, worst, most surprising and most disappointing players thus far. As always, we start with our mid-season award picks, which in a sense is too bad because we have no awards to give. But hey, someone at least can pass the honors on through the players’ Wiki pages. (Note: All statistics are based on those accumulated at the end of play on June 29, 2011.)

AL East
AL Central
AL West
NL East
NL Central
NL West

Mid-Season Honors

MVP
Ed’s pick: AL, Adrian Gonzalez; NL, Matt Kemp
Eric’s pick: AL, Adrian Gonzalez; NL, Prince Fielder

We’re both in sync for our AL choice of Gonzalez, who’s every bit the threat we predicted now that he’s escaped Petco Park. We differ with our NL picks; Ed sides with Kemp while I select Fielder because, without him, the Brewers aren’t in first place—while with Kemp, the Dodgers are still bankrup.

Cy Young Winner (Best Pitcher)
Ed’s pick: AL, Justin Verlander; NL, Roy Halladay
Eric’s pick: AL, Justin Verlander; NL, Jair Jurrjens

Verlander has emerged as the most dominant pitcher so far this season, even if a handful of other starters have lower ERAs; trust us, most players not wearing a Tiger uniform would rather see Josh Beckett or James Shields on the mound right now. As for the NL, Ed goes with what I’m sure would be most everyone else’s choice in Halladay; for me, Jurrjens has earned his stripes win ten wins and a lower ERA.

Rookie of the First Half
Ed’s pick: AL, Michael Pineda; NL, Craig Kimbrel
Eric’s pick: AL, Michael Pineda; NL, Danny Espinosa

Again, Ed and I agree on the AL side as Pineda has quickly emerged as a strong complement to Felix Hernandez in Seattle; On the NL side, Ed likes Atlanta closer Kimbrel (20 saves), while I opt for Espinosa, who’s on track for 30 homers and 100 RBIs.

Manager of the First Half
Ed’s pick: AL, Manny Acta; NL, Kirk Gibson
Eric’s pick: AL, Joe Maddon; NL, Clint Hurdle

After suffering from bad teams and hard luck, Acta is finally getting his due overseeing an unexpectedly competitive Cleveland side; I still marvel, however, at the way Maddon continually gets his low-to-mid-market collection of players to overachieve within a difficult division at Tampa Bay. We differ on the NL side as well, with Ed going with the fighter attitude of Arizona pilot Gibson while I give thumbs-up to Hurdle for the (so far) winning job he’s done at Pittsburgh.

Biggest Surprise (Team)
Ed’s pick: AL, Cleveland; NL, Arizona
Eric’s pick: AL, Cleveland; NL, Washington

There’s little debate over the Indians’ sudden rise, even as they’ve floated back down towards .500; Ed is impressed at how the Diamondbacks’ are hanging tough with the champion Giants, while I’m surprised as to how the Nationals—who were expected to be lying low while Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper warmed up for 2012—have suddenly climbed to .500.

Biggest Disappointment (Team)
Ed’s pick: AL, Minnesota; NL, Florida
Eric’s pick: AL, Minnesota; NL, Florida
Pure agreement here. The Twins got off to an awful start—we mean, really awful—and have since careened from one mood swing to the other, following up long winning streaks with even longer losing skids. As for the Marlins, this is the team I expected to see sneak up from behind and make a serious run at the postseason. Instead, they’ve fallen down the proverbial manhole with a June swoon for the ages.

AL East

Baltimore Orioles
What Jumps Out: Jeremy Guthrie (3-9) has a better ERA (3.93) than Jake Arrieta (9-4, 4.50).

In the Spotlight: Justin Duchscherer. The oft-injured pitcher was signed by the Orioles this past winter and lauded by the team as if he was going to be the answer to all of the Orioles’ pitching troubles. But he hasn’t thrown a single pitch because of continuing hip problems—he’s only appeared in five games since August 2008—and the Orioles’ team ERA is the AL’s second worst.

Best of Show: Rookie southpaw Zack Britton is giving the Orioles’ rotation the sign of healthy, productive life that Duchscherer couldn’t. Though wins have been tough in coming of late, Britton (6-6) still maintains a respectable 3.38 ERA.

Messed of Show: Derrek Lee appears to be going down the slip’n’slide of baseball life, as the 35-year old first baseman has struggled to a .242 average and a hardly intimidating six homers and 22 RBIs.

Boston Red Sox
What Jumps Out: Four players are on pace for 40 or more doubles.

In the Spotlight: Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford. The Red Sox’ two heavyweight signings have led to mixed results. Crawford has disappointed from Opening Day and is currently out of action, nursing a bad hamstring; Gonzalez, on the other hand, is in the driver’s seat for the AL MVP.

Best of Show: We said Gonzalez would put up frightening numbers by not playing half of his games at San Diego’s Petco Park, and here’s the proof: He’s hitting .357 with 16 homers and 71 RBIs through his first 78 games.

Messed of Show: Crawford can thank John Lackey for not having all the Fenway boobirds solely focused on him this spring. Lackey has been a walking crash scene so far, producing an ugly 6.81 ERA with a serious lack of control (he’s hit nine batters); that he has five wins is a true sign that he’s been the benefactor of some the majors’ most generous run support this season.

New York Yankees
What Jumps Out: The ageless Mariano Rivera, 41, is still pitching like he’s 21; he has a 1.72 ERA and 21 saves.

In the Spotlight: Rafael Soriano traded in the glory of closing for the glory of wearing pinstripes and setting up for Rivera. Bad deal, so far. Prior to reaching the disabled list with a bad elbow in mid-May, he was wild and put up a 5.40 ERA in 16 appearances.

Best of Show: It took him a year, but Curtis Granderson is thriving in the Yankees’ all-star lineup and doing all the things we expected him to do last year when he first hooked on with the Bronx Bombers. He’s on pace for over 40 home runs and 110 RBIs, both of which would easily be career bests.

Messed of Show: After sporting one of the luckier 18-8 records in history last season thanks to massive run support, Phil Hughes got unlucky to start the year when his arm went dead after three starts and a 13.94 ERA. He’s due to return in July, and the Yankees will be holding their breath.

Tampa Bay Rays
What Jumps Out: Journeyman first baseman Casey Kotchman, considered no threat to the point that even the hitting-starved Seattle Mariners let him go, is hitting a surprising .338 in 66 games for the Rays.

In the Spotlight: With the Tampa Bay bullpen depleted by player defection this past winter, Kyle Farnsworth—with 27 saves over his previous 12 years—was tagged as the man to save it all in the ninth inning. He’s done well, converting 16 of 18 save opportunities while sporting a 2.20 ERA.

Best of Show: Look out, Roy Halladay, here comes James Shields to outdo you in the long-distance competition. Shields is having a dynamite year for the Rays, with an 8-5 record, 2.44 ERA and six complete games—including three shutouts.

Messed of Show: The shortstop platoon of Reid Brignac and Sean Rodriguez is hitting a combined .200 with 81 strikeouts.

Toronto Blue Jays
What Jumps Out: The Jays hit .294 on Thursdays—and .245 for the rest of the week.

In the Spotlight: J.P. Arencibia was given the starting catcher spot with all of 35 career major league at-bats (and only five career hits) to vouch for. He’s provided some sock with 11 homers, but his .226 average needs work.

Best of Show: Jose Bautista is having a more complete year than last year’s breakout season when he clobbered 54 homers. He’s on pace for roughly another 50 this year, but with a much stronger (.329) batting average.

Messed of Show: Aaron Hill is hitting somewhat better than last year’s atrocious .205 showing, but the home runs have yet to return; he’s got only three midway through the year after hitting 62 over his last two seasons.

AL Central

Chicago White Sox
What Jumps Out: The White Sox have stolen 31 bases—and been caught 30 times.

In the Spotlight: Matt Thornton was given the closer’s reins to start the season—and blew his first four save opportunities. He’s worked the ERA back down below 4.00, but as a set-up man for star-on-the-rise Sergio Santos.

Best of Show:Paul Konerko is quietly having an outstanding (if not a career) year, among the AL batting leaders and on pace for some 45 homers and 120 RBIs..

Messed of Show: Adam Dunn and the American League are not looking to be a good match. After ten years of power-laden consistency in the National League, Dunn has been clobbered by a season-long slump that includes a hideous .173 average and just seven homers (with 100 strikeouts) in 67 games. Ouch.

Cleveland Indians
What Jumps Out: The Indians are hitting .455 with the bases loaded.

In the Spotlight: Before a broken leg ended his season last year, rookie Carlos Santana gave the Indians hope for a bright future, but the results are still a bit dim. He’s been patient (52 walks) and he has power (ten homers), but the .231 average is hardly ideal.

Best of Show: Asdrubal Cabrera has been the rock of the team and a signature emblem of the Indians’ surprising run. Combine his (already) career-high 13 homers, .296 average and defensive wizardry, and Cabrera should be the starting shortstop for the AL All-Star team.

Messed of Show: Shin-Soo Choo’s productivity has taken a dive on the field, he failed a sobriety test on the road and, adding injury to insult, just got his thumb broken.

Detroit Tigers
What Jumps Out: The Tigers have a major league-high .287 average when batting left-handed.

In the Spotlight: Would an ugly, highly publicized DUI arrest at spring training derail Miguel Cabrera’s season? Apparently not. Just an average half-season by his standards: A .336 average, 17 homers and 56 RBIs.

Best of Show: With an impressive run, Justin Verlander has arguably become the majors’ most dominant pitcher at the moment.

Messed of Show: Ryan Raburn looked to be a possible star on the rise in the Detroit outfield. But he’s stumbled badly this season, struggling to keep his average above .200.

Kansas City Royals
What Jumps Out: The Royals’ three starting outfielders—Alex Gordon, Jeff Francoeur and Melky Cabrera—have already combined for 31 assists.

In the Spotlight: Gordon had a great exhibition campaign and Royal fans were finally hoping he’d break through after years of high expectations. So far, he’s making good progress, hitting close to .300 while on pace for 20 homers and 90 RBIs.

Best of Show: A toss-up between the three outfielders and Billy Butler, but we’ll give it to Gordon.

Messed of Show: How much longer will the Royals tolerate starting pitcher Kyle Davies (1-6, 7.46 ERA before a bum shoulder placed him on the DL)? Answer: Probably until someone better comes along.

Minnesota Twins
What Jumps Out: Seven different streaks of four wins (or losses) in a row.

In the Spotlight: All eyes were on closer Joe Nathan after he missed all of last season with reconstructive surgery. Now those eyes are looking away in pain at the 36-year old’s 7.27 ERA, as he’s long since been removed from ninth-inning duties.

Best of Show: Michael Cuddyer, almost by default. He hasn’t been magnificent, but he also hasn’t slumped, underperformed or gotten hurt—like most everyone else on the roster.

Messed of Show: After knocking in 112 runs last year, Delmon Young has brought home only 20 so far, to go with just two home runs.

AL West

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
What Jumps Out: Reliever Jason Bulger has a 0.96 ERA even though he’s allowed ten walks and six hits in 9.1 innings.

In the Spotlight: Fans in Anaheim wondered what to expect from the notoriously hot-and-cold Vernon Wells, traded from Toronto. Unfortunately for them, they’ve gotten the latter temperature, as Wells has displayed limited power and has been fighting to stay above .200 all year.

Best of Show: Fifteen of Jered Weaver’s 17 starts are classified as “quality,” meaning six or more innings allowing three or less runs. The only two that didn’t qualify: He pitched six innings and allowed four runs.

Messed of Show: Between the Angels and their Triple-A affiliate in Salt Lake City, Scott Kazmir was 0-5 with an 18.00 ERA. He’s been released.

Oakland A's
What Jumps Out: No everyday player is hitting anywhere near .300.

In the Spotlight: The health of the starting rotation, a major problem over the years in Oakland. As of this writing, five starters are on the shelf: Brett Anderson, Tyson Ross, Brandon McCarthy, Rich Harden and Dallas Braden—who’s out for the year.

Best of Show: A split decision between Trevor Cahill and Gio Gonzalez, the two Oakland starting pitchers who have avoided the pain so far this year and performed admirably.

Messed of Show: Daric Barton had been the epitome of Moneyball: Decent average plus lots of walks adding to a high on-base percentage. The walks have been coming this year, but the hits (.212 average) haven’t; Barton is currently trying to hit his way back to the A’s from Triple-A Sacramento.

Seattle Mariners
What Jumps Out: Seattle’s designated hitters are a combined .218 with just four home runs.

In the Spotlight: The Mariners are hoping this would be the year Justin Smoak rises to prominence, and although his .243 average isn’t much to crow about, he is among the team leaders in homers and RBIs.

Best of Show: Hey, Felix Hernandez: You’ve got company. Dominican rookie Michael Pineda has one of the league’s best ERAs (2.65) and opponents are hitting just .198 against him.

Messed of Show: Mariner fans were disappointed with Chone Figgins’ miserable Seattle debut last year. This year, it’s worse; he’s hitting just .186, is drawing far fewer walks and stealing far fewer bases. If it wasn’t for that contract, he could be gone.

Texas Rangers
What Jumps Out: The Rangers are hitting .274 with the bases empty—and .222 with two outs and runners in scoring position.

In the Spotlight: Many were curious as to how Michael Young would react on the field to the wintertime musical chairs routine that prompted him to demand a trade. That deal hasn’t taken place and may not now that Young appears settled in at the DH spot with a solid .318 average.

Best of Show: After spending last year in the bullpen, second-year pitcher Alexi Ogando was given a spot in the rotation and has impressed with a 7-3 record, 2.87 ERA and a sparkling 1.03 WHIP (walks and hits allowed per inning).

Messed of Show: Outfielder David Murphy isn’t taking advantage of the numerous injuries that’s allowed him to play more than he had expected to; he’s hitting just .233 with four homers in 60 games.

NL East

Atlanta Braves
What Jumps Out: The Braves’ right-handed hitters are batting only .215.

In the Spotlight: Rookie first baseman Freddie Freeman, 21, is holding his own with decent if not overpowering average (.272) and strength (nine home runs).

Best of Show: Jair Jurrjens is arguably the NL’s best pitcher over the first half of the season, with league highs in wins (ten) and ERA (2.07). He might have a few more victories if not for missing the first half of April with injuries.

Messed of Show: Former Marlin and first-year Brave Dan Uggla is trying hard to avoid becoming one of the highest-priced minor leaguers, but who knows how long the Braves will be able to tolerate his awful .178 average.

Florida Marlins
What Jumps Out: A 4-23 record in June.

In the Spotlight: After his second frustrating tour of duty with the Yankees, Javier Vazquez was hoping to recapture his longstanding NL success. He still hasn’t found what he’s looking for; he’s 4-8 with a 5.83 ERA.

Best of Show: Anibal Sanchez has assumed the role of ace from the shelved Josh Johnson and lost only once in 16 starts (given the Marlins’ losing ways of late, that’s pretty impressive) while sporting a nice 2.82 ERA; twice this year, he’s flirted with no-hitters.

Messed of Show: Hanley Ramirez is hitting 100 points below his career average, exhibiting a troublesome lack of power (five homers) and continuing to be a pain in the clubhouse, somehow justifying Jeffrey Loria’s reluctance for giving out pricey long-term contracts.

New York Mets
What Jumps Out: Jose Reyes has more triples by himself than 14 other teams, including the rest of the Mets.

In the Spotlight: Fred Wilpon, the owner. All he can say is, thank God for Frank McCourt.

Best of Show: Reyes must be smelling that new contract, which is getting bigger with every day he gets better. He’s the NL leader in batting average, runs, hits, triples and is second in doubles and steals.

Messed of Show: When Wilpon went on a rant in a magazine article over his players, we’re wondering how he failed to mention high-priced Jason Bay (.236-4-21), who continues to badly underperform to his super-sized pact.

Philadelphia Phillies
What Jumps Out: The Phillies are the only team on track for 100 wins.

In the Spotlight: The Big Four—Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels—have combined for a 32-18 record and a 2.72 ERA, and that’s with Oswalt enduring season-long back problems. Overall, you gotta like it if you’re a Phillies fan.

Best of Show: We’ve already given love to the rotation, so let’s give a sleeper vote to Ryan Madson, whose 15 saves (in 16 opportunities) and 2.03 ERA gets major thumbs-up from a team handicapped by the absence of closer Brad Lidge.

Messed of Show: Age finally seems to be escorting 39-year-old Raul Ibanez (.238, nine homers and 34 RBIs) to the downside of baseball life.

Washington Nationals
What Jumps Out: Pinch-hit king Matt Stairs has 61 plate appearances on the season—and one RBI.

In the Spotlight: Bryce Harper, even if he’s not slated to play a down for the Nationals this season. The 18-year-old phenom is hitting .322 with 14 homers, 45 RBIs and 13 steals at Class-A Hagerstown.

Best of Show: After years of looking so brilliant in spring training only to vanish after Opening Day when the games actually count, Mike Morse finally seems to be have passed the test—on course for a possible .300-30-100 year.

Messed of Show: Adam LaRoche had his usual awful April—but contrary to past years, it only got worse afterward, hitting .172 with just three homers through late May before being shelved by season-ending shoulder surgery.

NL Central

Chicago Cubs
What Jumps Out: The Cubs are hitting .275 with no runners on base—and .237 when they’re in scoring position.

In the Spotlight: After hitting .198 for Tampa Bay last year, is Carlos Pena really worth the $10 million the Cubs are paying him this season? He’s “improved” the average to .226, but he does lead the team with 17 homers and 44 RBIs.

Best of Show: Starlin Castro’s glovework at short still needs some work, but the 21-year old is the real deal at the plate; he’s hitting well over .300 and is on track for over 200 hits, 40 doubles and ten triples.

Messed of Show: Tyler Colvin looked to be right there with Castro last year as a possible star on the rise, but while Castro has moved full speed ahead, Colvin has performed an accidental u-turn to Triple-A Iowa. Why? He hit just .105 in 38 games for the Cubs before being demoted.

Cincinnati Reds
What Jumps Out: The Reds’ 24 wins against NL Central opponents are the most by any team against their own division.

In the Spotlight: Aroldis Chapman was being built up as the closer of the future (if not darn near the present) for the Reds, but he channeled Steve Blass in May and started walking everyone in sight. A stay on the disabled list has settled him down, but that future looks shaky at the moment.

Best of Show: Joey Votto has picked up where he left off from his 2010 MVP effort, remaining the main threat in the Cincinnati lineup.

Messed of Show: Chapman (see above).

Houston Astros
What Jumps Out: First in batting average from the seventh inning on with a .283 mark—but last during those same frames with a 5.16 ERA. (The Astros have been given 27 save opportunities. They’ve blown 17 of them.)

In the Spotlight: After a terrific rookie effort last year, Astro fans were hoping that third baseman Chris Johnson would further emerge and ease the loss of Lance Berkman. But Johnson has slipped so far, hitting just .244 and, with just nine walks in 266 at-bats, he has a .283 on-base percentage.

Best of Show: Hunter Pence has emerged as the most reliable hitter in the Houston lineup, and that’s the good news for Astro fans; the bad news is that he’s been so reliable, they’re wondering how long it’ll be before he’s sent packing to a contending team.

Messed of Show: Brandon Lyon was forced to put baseball surgery king Dr. James Andrews on speed dial after being forced out for the season in mid-June with bicep/shoulder issues. Until being shelved, Lyon had an 11.48 ERA and four blown saves in 15 appearances; opponents were hitting .409 against him.

Milwaukee Brewers
What Jumps Out: Zack Greinke is 7-3—with a 5.63 ERA.

In the Spotlight: Can closer John Axford keep it going after giving the Brewers an unexpectedly smooth transition from Trevor Hoffman in the bullpen last season? Yes he can. He’s saved 20 of 22 opps and has a 2.55 ERA.

Best of Show: Who else? The dynamic duo of Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun, who’ve combined for a .310 average, 37 home runs and 129 RBIs.

Messed of Show: Casey McGehee, who looked ready to expand the dynamic duo into a terrific trio, has regressed badly, hitting just .227 with four homers.

Pittsburgh Pirates
What Jumps Out: It’s almost the Fourth of July, and the Pirates are above .500.

In the Spotlight: Charlie Morton is having a turnaround campaign, owner of a 7-4 record and 3.77 ERA after flirting much of last season with a 10.00 mark.

Best of Show: Joel Hanrahan has converted all 23 of his save opportunities and wields an outstanding 1.21 ERA.

Messed of Show: Pedro Alvarez, one of the Pirates’ bright young hopes for 2011, was having a miserable time of it (.208 average, two homers in 36 games) before being shelved with tightness in his right quad.

St. Louis Cardinals
What Jumps Out: Is that Albert Pujols on the disabled list?

In the Spotlight: Would Lance Berkman continue his big fade out of baseball or rebound to prime form? Much to many people’s surprise, it’s been the latter with an All-Star-caliber campaign that includes a .294 average, 18 home runs and 55 RBIs.

Best of Show: When healthy, Matt Holliday has delivered—hitting .327 with ten homers, 15 doubles and 40 RBIs in 56 games.

Messed of Show: After blowing two saves for all of last year, Ryan Franklin blew four in this season’s first 18 days. Removing the stress and demoting the 38-year old did him little good as his ERA stayed over 8.00; he just received a pink slip.

NL West

Arizona Diamondbacks
What Jumps Out: The Diamondbacks are third in the NL in runs scored—but ninth in hitting.

In the Spotlight: J.J. Putz is still not at the level he was four years ago when he briefly ruled as the AL’s dominant closer, but given the Diamondbacks’ bullpen disaster of last season, they’ll take even a mild version of him—and that’s what they’ve gotten, as Putz has 21 saves in 25 opps.

Best of Show: Justin Upton continues to be the most threatening element of the Arizona offense, leading the team with a .304 average while adding 21 doubles, 13 homers and 14 steals.

Messed of Show: Kelly Johnson had a fast start last season—and a rotten one so far this year, batting only .210 with Mark Reynolds-like strikeout numbers (94 in 76 games).

Colorado Rockies
What Jumps Out: Now that someone’s minding the humidor, it’s interesting to see that the Rockies are hitting just .218 from the eighth inning on.

In the Spotlight: Jhoulys Chacin has followed through on the Rockies’ hopes that he would emerge as a solid complement to Ubaldo Jimenez, with an 8-5 record and 3.10 ERA; that figure surprisingly dips to 2.47 when he’s throwing at mile-high Coors Field.

Best of Show: Todd Helton (.306, nine homers) is having a mild renaissance and has picked up the slack for slow starts by Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez.

Messed of Show: Dexter Fowler can’t hit, can’t steal and can’t keep his job; he’s currently trying to get it all back at Triple-A Colorado Springs.

Los Angeles Dodgers
What Jumps Out: All those empty seats at Dodger Stadium.

In the Spotlight: All eyes are on embattled owner Frank McCourt to see just how long he’ll last as Vilified Lord of the (now bankrupt) Dodgers. It really isn’t a matter of if, but when, he’ll go.

Best of Show: Rihanna is gone, and Matt Kemp is back, having a MVP-caliber campaign—hitting .331 and on pace for a 40-40 year.

Messed of Show:Besides McCourt? Try Juan Uribe (.206, four homers), who’s not showing the panache that helped the Giants win a World Series last year.

San Diego Padres
What Jumps Out: There’s an A. Gonzalez on the roster, but that’s A as in Alberto—not Adrian, who’s leading the majors in batting average and RBIs at Boston. Alberto’s hitting .213 with one homer in 48 games.

In the Spotlight: Ryan Ludwick was hoped to assume the power throne left vacant by Gonzalez, and he’s done well to hit ten homers with 51 RBIs through the midway point. The question now is how long he’ll remain a Padre.

Best of Show: Closer Heath Bell, with a 2.38 ERA and 23 saves in 24 opportunities. It’s a shame that he, too, is an endangered species in a Padre uniform.

Messed of Show:Jorge Cantu couldn’t for the Padres, hitting .194 with scant power before being given his release from the club.

San Francisco Giants
What Jumps Out: The Giants have yet to score more than six runs in any home game.

In the Spotlight: After a highly disappointing sophomore season, Pablo Sandoval got serious in the offseason and lost 30 pounds—and outside of fracturing a bone in his hand that’s cost him six weeks, he’s done well, hitting .292 with five homers in 39 games.

Best of Show: Ryan Vogelsong, who the Giants traded away ages ago to get Jason Schmidt (yes, that long ago), returned to San Francisco after a four-year absence from the majors and is evoking Roy Hobbs on the mound; he’s likely one start away from qualifying for the NL ERA race—and when he does, he’ll be close to the top.

Messed of Show: Miguel Tejada was practically the only warm body available at shortstop after Juan Uribe split for the Dodgers, but he’s been cold at the plate; the Giants were so desperate to sit him, they reached all the way down to Class-A San Jose to replace him with defensively gifted Brandon Crawford.


All Things Being Equal: Our Picks for 2011 This Great Game's fearless forecasters look through soothsaying eyes and deliver their best guesses for baseball's 2011 regular season.


Fun Facts About Your All-Time Hit Leaders So you think you're smarter than the next trivia buff when it comes to major leaguers at the top of numerous hit lists? Here's 22 questions for you to prove it.


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Other Opinions from TGG


All Things Being Equal: Our Picks for 2011
This Great Game's fearless forecasters look through soothsaying eyes and deliver their best guesses for baseball's 2011 regular season.


Fun Facts About Your All-Time Hit Leaders
So you think you're smarter than the next trivia buff when it comes to major leaguers at the top of numerous hit lists? Here's 22 questions for you to prove it.