I can't make up my mind on the first-half Most Valuable Oriole.
Two months ago, I would have selected center fielder Adam Jones and assumed that he was the unanimous choice, and he's still a worthy candidate with a .289 average, 19 doubles, two triples, 20 home runs and 44 RBIs. But he didn't bust through the tape at the first-half finish line.
Let's break down his production month-by-month:
April: 23 games, .333/.368/.611, six homers, 12 RBIs
May: 28 games, .298/.362/.623, 10 home runs, 22 RBIs
June: 26 games, .272/.299/.427, three home runs, seven RBIs
July: eight games, .188/.188/.344, one home run, three RBIs
I'm more inclined to choose closer Jim Johnson, who leads the majors with 26 saves and has blown only one opportunity, which he turned into a victory in Boston. He's 1-0 with a 1.21 ERA, nine walks and 22 strikeouts in 37 1/3 innings.
Johnson has shortened the games this season. Late-inning leads are actually safe. When's the last time that's been the case in Baltimore?
The bullpen is the No. 1 reason why the Orioles posted a winning record before the break, why they're holding onto second place in the American League East and why they're talking about being buyers at the non-waiver trade deadline.
Johnson saved seven games in April, nine in May, seven in June and three so far in July. Of course, some things are out of his control. He actually needs a lead in the ninth inning.
Jason Hammel also is a worthy candidate with an 8-5 record, 3.47 ERA and 101 strikeouts in 106 1/3 innings. It's unfortunate that he's lost his last three starts.
So, who would you choose as your first-half Most Valuable Oriole?
The Tigers will be in town this weekend, and Johnson hasn't allowed an earned run against them in 11 career games, spanning 12 innings. He's permitted one unearned run and eight hits, walked four and struck out 10.
Jones is a career .319 hitter in 30 games against the Tigers.
Hammel is 2-0 in six career appearances against the Tigers, but he's posted a 6.20 ERA and 1.82 WHIP in 20 1/3 innings.