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July 15, 1999

BPs Mid-Season Rankings

Best player? Best team? Best rookie? Heres our opinion.

by Greg Spira

The three days of the All-Star break present a rare opportunity for baseball fans to catch their breath. Here at Baseball Prospectus, we're just like the rest of you, looking both back at the three months past, and ahead to see what we can expect over the stretch run.

Over the next week, we'll be running second-half outlooks for each division, beginning with the National League Central, so you can see what we think will happen--and what should happen--in August and September.

And with a chance to look back, eight members of our staff took the time to vote for their top 10 everyday players, top eight pitchers top six rookies and top eight teams of the first half. Following are the results, and the number of ballots the player was mentioned on in parentheses. You can also see the voting and commentary of the individual voters.

Players of the Year

Derek Jeter                    80 (8)
Jeff Bagwell                   67 (8)
Nomar Garciaparra              46 (7)
Ken Griffey Jr.                40 (8)
Chipper Jones                  34 (6)
Sean Casey                     32 (7)
Shawn Green                    32 (7)
Manny Ramirez                26.5 (5)
Larry Walker                   15 (3)
Roberto Alomar               13.5 (4)
Jason Kendall                  12 (4)
Alex Rodriguez                 12 (2)
Tony Fernandez                  7 (1)
Bernie Williams                 5 (3)
Luis Gonzalez                   4 (2)
Mike Lieberthal                 4 (1)
Andruw Jones                    3 (1)
Mike Piazza                     3 (1)
David Nilsson                   2 (1)
Bob Abreu                       1 (1)
Mark McGwire                    1 (1)

The Prospectus staff unanimously recognized Derek Jeter as the best everyday player in the game so far. Jeff Bagwell, meanwhile, was rated as the best National League player on all but one ballot. The two stand head and shoulders above the rest of the field.

There was also little disagreement that Nomar Garciaparra, Chipper Jones, Shawn Green, Sean Casey and Ken Griffey, Jr. belonged on this list. On the other hand, voters split on which Indian, Roberto Alomar or Manny Ramirez, is that team's MVP. Larry Walker appeared on only three of the eight ballots, highlighting disagreements among the staff as to how much Coors Field's effects should be taken into account.

National League catchers, especially the injured Jason Kendall, received a surprising amount of support as a result of their unusually high level of play during the first half. Meanwhile, Alex Rodriguez appeared on only two ballots, but clearly would have ranked higher had he not missed significant time to injury.

Pitchers of the Year

Pedro Martinez                 64 (8)
Randy Johnson                  52 (8)
Curt Schilling                 43 (7)
Jeff Zimmerman                 34 (7)
David Cone                     29 (7)
Jose Rosado                    15 (6)
Kevin Millwood                  8 (3)
Omar Olivares                 7.5 (4)
Mike Hampton                    7 (3)
Mike Sirotka                    7 (2)
Jose Lima                       6 (2)
Omar Daal                       4 (1)
Scott Williamson                4 (1)
Billy Wagner                    3 (2)
Brad Radke                    2.5 (2)
Jeff Suppan                     1 (1)
Mike Mussina                    1 (1)

Pedro Martinez was an easy unanimous pick for the BP staff. Randy Johnson, meanwhile, edged out Curt Schilling as the best National League pitcher in the first half. Texas' great rookie reliever Jeff Zimmerman finished an impressive fourth despite the voters' general skepticism of relievers' value. Zimmerman's off-the-charts statistics and his usage patterns made a very strong impression on the staff.

While David Cone's excellent season has gone mostly unnoticed by the press, his effectiveness earned him strong support from the voters, as did Jose Rosado's strong pitching for the Royals in the face of lackluster run support. Omar Olivares also appeared on half the ballots despite wariness that his effectiveness will continue.

Rookies of the Year

Jeff Zimmerman                 46 (8)
Jeff Weaver                    32 (8)
Carlos Febles                  24 (8)
Ronnie Belliard                21 (7)
John Halama                    16 (7)
Scott Williamson               11 (4)
Warren Morris                  10 (3)
Alex Gonzalez                   4 (2)
Chris Singleton                 3 (2)
Vladimir Nunez                  1 (1)

Despite a deep crop of rookies, the vote for the top rookies in the first half featured surprising unanimity. Jeff Zimmerman's magical first half made him the obvious top choice; he is, after all, the only player on this list who was also voted a top everyday player or pitcher. Jeff Weaver, the Tiger rookie starter who jumped to the majors less than a year after being drafted, impressed the voters with his immediate impact and was the only player besides Zimmerman to receive a first-place vote.

Carlos Febles, the Royals' second baseman, earned raves for his outstanding performance in all aspects of the game and received the largest support of any everyday player. Close behind was Ronnie Belliard, another second baseman who, in only a short time with the Brewers, has established himself as a star.

John Halama, one of the players the Mariners received in the Randy Johnson trade last season, finished a strong fifth, appearing on seven ballots. Scott Williamson, who finished sixth and appeared on half the ballots, received support for being a slightly inferior National League version of Jeff Zimmerman.

Top Eight Teams of the Half

Atlanta Braves                 60 (8)
Cleveland Indians              56 (8)
New York Yankees               48 (8)
Houston Astros                 41 (8)
Boston Red Sox                 23 (7)
Cincinnati Reds                23 (7)
New York Mets                  11 (4)
San Francisco Giants            9 (5)
Arizona Diamondbacks            9 (4)
Texas Rangers                   4 (3)
Toronto Blue Jays               4 (2)

No one should find this list particularly surprising. The four best teams combined for 205 of a possible 208 "top four" points.

The voters clearly do not have much regard for West division teams in either league. Despite Arizona's first half success, the BP staff remains skeptical of the Diamondbacks, but that skepticism doesn't translate into support for the Giants, the D'backs closest division rival. Some voters even think the so-far hapless Dodgers have a chance to right themselves and make a strong showing in that division.

Meanwhile, spotty first halves for the Braves and Astros haven't diminished the group's belief that those two are the teams to beat in the NL. The divisional rivals of the top two NL squads, the Mets and the Reds, look like they'll fight it out for the wild card.

In the American League, the voters seem to think that the Indians and Yankees are still clearly the class teams of their divisions, and that the Red Sox have enough pitching to hold on to the wild card, with the Blue Jays remaining their most likely competition. As for the AL West, Johnny Oates gets credit for keeping a team with little starting pitching at the top, but their 11th-place finish in the poll is a better indication of what kind of team they are.

Individual Ballots and Commentary

Related Content:  The Who,  Rookies Of The Year,  Omar Daal

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