The All-Star Break is upon us, and until game action starts up again on Friday, we're going to do a brief season in review of the 2012 MLB season thusfar. Our staff has voted on a variety of awards, and we're going to roll them out over the next four days.
Today, we're going to go with "unofficial" awards, and first, we're going to look at the most surprising players in the league this year.
Most Surprising Player
Carlos Ruiz (three votes)
RA Dickey (two votes)
Chris Davis, Jason Hammel, Austin Jackson (one vote)
Phillies catcher Carlos Ruiz has been the biggest surprise of this year's season, and I don't think anyone would really argue that they saw his 2012 seaon coming. In 78 games this season, the NL All-Star has already set a career high in homers with 13 (his previous high was nine), and is fast approaching career best marks in RBI (currently 46, high is 54) and runs scored (currently 41, high is 49). He's currently hitting .350, the fourth best mark in the National League and a career best by nearly 50 points. Ruiz has also already racked up 4.3 fWAR, which is just 0.1 off from his career best of 4.4 set in 2010. At age 33, this is a season that has completely come out of left field for one of the few bright spots for a disappointing Phililes team.
RA Dickey has been unreal this year. There were flashes of brilliance with the Mets over the last two years, with Dickey posting low strikeout rates along with low ERAs and looking like a solid number three starter. But something happened this year: Dickey got awesome. He's averaging seven innings per start, and has a dazzling 12-1 record. Dickey is also striking out more than a batter per inning, and has walked less than two hitters per nine innings. Dickey also threw two straight one hitters in June, and went on a stretch where he allowed just one unearned run over five starts and 41 2/3 innings. It's just unbelievable.
Chris Davis and Jason Hammel have been bright spots for the surprising Orioles this year. While Davis is still walking and striking out at the same rates as he has for his career, he's finally harnessing his power and smashing the hell out of the ball with some regularity. Hammel on the other hand, was acquired from the Rockies this winter with Matt Lindstrom in exchange for Jeremy Guthrie. Guthrie has been awful and Hammel has been awesome. The main reasons for Hammel's success this year is an increased strikeout rate, and a groundball rate that has gone through the roof. Here we are, with Hammel finally tapping into his potential and thriving in the tough AL East. Austin Jackson was touted as a future star in his years as a Yankee prospect, but was dealt to the Tigers a few winters ago in the Curtis Granderson-Ian Kennedy trade. And here we are now, with Jackson as one of the best center fielders in the game, tallying a four win season in just 64 games this year. Jackson is one homer from a career high (already), is hitting for a high average, and is smacking the ball in gaps all across the league. Jackson is also a fantastic defender, and at just age 25, he'll be one of the bright, young pieces for the Tigers for years to come.