Midseason awards; Porcello's plunge

By Ted Cahill

With the All-Star Break arriving this week, fantasy owners can take a break from the daily roster updates and moves to get ready for the stretch run and look back at what’s worked so far.

If you were one of the owners that snatched Zack Greinke or Tim Lincecum in your draft, things are probably looking pretty good. If you put your pitching staff in the hands of Edinson Volquez or Cole Hamels, you might be wondering just went wrong.

But either way, there’s still time to improve and climb up those standings. Here we’ll hand out some first-half accolades.

Best AL Starter: Greinke, Royals
He was unhittable for the first month of the season. We all knew an ERA of 0.50 wasn’t going to last, and he has hit rough patches as the season wore on, but he’s dominant. Maybe someday the Royals will find an offense and he can actually win a pitching Triple Crown.
Runner up: Roy Hallday, Blue Jays

Best NL Starter: Tim Lincecum, Giants
This kid is phenomenal. Leads the league in strikeouts and has 10 wins. While Dan Haren has been great for Arizona, I’ll take Lincecum. Really with any of the four best you can’t go wrong.
Runner up: Haren, Diamondbacks

Best AL Reliever: Joe Nathan, Twins
Nathan just keeps rolling along as an All-Star. All the evidence I need came from the right-hander striking out Albert Pujols, who represented the tying run, and first base open. His 0.73 WHIP doesn’t hurt the cause either.
Runner up: Mariano Rivera, Yankees

Best NL Reliever: Francisco Rodriguez, Mets
This offseason move worked to perfection. K-Rod has 23 saves and a 1.90 ERA. He leads the league in saves and games finished, just what you need out of a closer.
Runner up: Heath Bell, Padres

AL Surprise (in a good way): Edwin Jackson, Tigers
Detroit pulled a fast one this winter, acquiring Jackson from the Rays. He’s become part of one of the best 1-2 punches in baseball, teaming with Justin Verlander. That 2.52 ERA and league-leading 1.06 WHIP make Jackson the real deal.
Runner up: Ricky Romero, Blue Jays

NL Surprise (in a good way): Randy Wells, Cubs
He came out of nowhere and has really picked up the slack for a depleted rotation. He’s made 12 starts and has a 2.72 ERA to go along with 54 strikeouts. During a four-game winning streak, Wells walked just four hitters in 26 2/3 innings pitched.
Runner up: Ryan Franklin, Cardinals

AL Surprise (in a bad way): Fausto Carmona, Indians
He finished fourth in AL Cy Young voting just two years ago. This year he went all the way back to Rookie League and is still trying to work himself back to Cleveland. He was replaced by Tomo Ohka, who hadn’t pitched in the big leagues since 2006.
Runner up: Chien-Ming Wang, Yankees

NL Surprise (in a bad way): Brad Lidge, Phillies
He was perfect last year, now nothing is certain when he takes the mound. He is trying to pitch through pain, but a 7.03 ERA isn’t what the Phillies or fantasy owners had in mind for 2009.
Runner up: Oliver Perez, Mets

Slick Rick:
A couple poor starts in a row led to many fantasy owners becoming skittish about the 20-year old. Porcello hasn’t gotten out of the sixth inning in his last four starts and six of his last seven.

Porcello has great talent, which he displayed in his first nine big league starts, going 6-3 with a 3.48 ERA. The trouble is that he isn’t devastating yet. His sinker is a good pitch, but he lacks a second plus pitch to put big leaguers away.

Since the calendar flipped to June this has become more apparent. Porcello is just 2-3 with a 5.09 ERA. More troubling he has 15 strikeouts to 15 walks in 35 1/3 innings and opponents are hitting .345 against the right-hander.

They’re also teeing off on him. Porcello has allowed at least one home run in five of his last seven starts and teams are slugging .531 off him.

He’s a young pitcher with a bright future, but putting him on your fantasy team in the second half may have more risk than reward. He’s already faced Minnesota and Kansas City twice, two teams that he will likely see again down the stretch. And having already racked up 87 innings, Jim Leyland may run him out a bit less often.