I would like to once again thank everyone who participated in the survey. We had 62 responses in just under 24 hours while people were distracted with the all-star game followed by one of two calendar days in the year in which none of the four major sports are in action. I felt the results of the survey were predictable in some areas and quite surprising in others and some of the discussion on Twitter today echoed that.
FreeZorilla wrote a nice piece today about evaluating the first half MVP selections of the two major newspapers in the market. You all made Crawford your MVP pick as I did because of his amazing all-around play. Not to mention, most of us have short-term memories and Crawford has been on an incredible tear over the past few weeks particularly in the power department. Many of the ties mentioned had Crawford as one of the players listed. The least valuable player was not a terrible surprise given how polarizing B.J. Upton is in this area, but the WAR score shows he is far from the last valuable player on this roster. As far as everyday player goes, Jason Bartlett has been a replacement level player. As Jonah Keri told me via IM, that category could go any direction such as most disappointing or most underperforming, but I figured Upton would have won it either way.
I was surprised with how easily John Jaso won the most surprising player, especially since Joaquin Benoit was the winner in the best reliever area. Were that many people expecting Benoit to be this good after signing a minor league contract this off-season? I know I liked him, but I don’t think anyone not named R.J. Anderson thought he would be this good. The biggest disappointment shook out about how I thought it would except I figured Bartlett would finish in the top three. Steve Slowinski of DRaysBay wrote a piece on the power of expectations and what he had to say certainly came into play with the results of the biggest disappointment. Personally, I am most disappointed in how Shields has performed in stretches this season and how he still seems to be unable to put the small stuff behind him and avoid the big inning. His last loss against Cleveland highlighted that problem when he put two on, then balked, and threw a wild pitch to score a run as he got flustered by that series of events.
The best starting pitcher category was not even a contest but I was glad to see Jeff Niemann get a few votes. I have said it all year that I feel calm when Niemann is pitching because rarely does he get his brains bashed in or get himself into trouble. He doesn’t have the best stuff on the team but he certainly has the best mix of stuff and location this season and can go to just about any pitch any time he wants to do so. He has made tremendous strides since his first two months of 2009. The best reliever vote was the biggest surprise for me because both pitchers have been incredible but the closer usually wins out in these battles. Both are equally deserving and the Rays are very fortunate to have two guys like them at the back end of ballgame along with Grant Balfour in front of them. Despite the offensive struggles of this team this season, the bullpen has been incredibly consistent.
The one word to describe the B.J. Upton question: predictable. He is the most polarizing player on this roster so it was no surprise that the top two terms were complete polar opposites. I will freely admit that I am an Upton apologist and maintain he is the type of guy that will not be truly appreciated until he is playing somewhere else and coming back to Tropicana Field to kick the Rays’ ass. I hope he can meet and exceed the expectations of others as he has with my expectations of him. I still feel his best baseball is ahead of him and that he will get there.
@Ramedy made a solid observation in the comments section of the results post in that the seven most disappointing names were batters and Hellickson is the player everyone predicts will be called up first. That would mean either Wade Davis has fallen apart, the bullpen needs help, or Davis has been traded for the bat the club sorely needs in the middle of the line-up. Many of you were willing to trade Davis for that bat, but very few of you were willing to deal Hellickson for that bat. Needless to say, the next two weeks are going to be very interesting as the Rays finish cooking on the hot stove.
The shortstop battle vote is more split than the actual playing time as Bartlett has continued to see a majority of the bats, even against righties while Brignac has seen his playing time curtailed. It would not surprise me if Brignac went back down to AAA until September to ensure everyday playing time because this bench role has not worked out very well for him and his offense has visibly suffered. The man responsible for choosing who plays in that platoon received a solid grade as 82% of you all gave him at least an 8/10 vote. Given how he is berated on talk radio that I listen two in the Tampa Bay area as I random sample 620, 1010, 1040, and 1490, I thought the vote would be a bit lower. If I spent most of my time listening to The Swarm show on 1040, I would have given Maddon a 4/10 vote myself rather than the 8/10 vote that I gave him. I would like to see the shortstop situation handled differently and I have not been thrilled with some of the extra time Maddon has given some starters to hang themselves unnecessarily in the seventh inning but it is not due to all of the shifting lineup cards he has turned in because I am all for a manager trying to find the best statistical mix of players each game.
The second half kicks off tomorrow and let’s hope the Rays pick up right where they left off as they head into what will be a very emotional situation in Yankee Stadium as the Yankee fanbase mourns the loss of its literal and proverbial voice as the team tries to cement its foothold on the first place standing in baseball’s toughest division.