A bit late on this thanks to realizing that my new place has neither Internet nor cable.
MVP: Brad Penny
While Russell Martin was briefly considered for the award, you have to give this thing to Penny. Sure, Russ has been great at this point, but from a results standpoint, Penny has been the best pitcher in baseball. His 2.00 ERA leads all starting pitchers, and his 45.2 VORP marks him as the fourth most valuable player in baseball up to this point, behind only A-Rod, Magglio Ordonez, and Ichiro. With only three of the most dominant hitters in the game surpassing Penny's performance, you have to hand the MVP award to him.
Most Likely To Decline In The Second Half: Brad Penny
Sadly, Penny is due for a massive regression to the mean. His strikeout rate is down from his career norms, and his walk rates are up. While he has increased his groundball rates to a career high, a lot of Penny's success right now is driven by his massively low outfield fly to home run ratio, a stat that pitchers have little to no control over. The same exact warning sign for Penny cropped up last year, and predictably, his home run rate shot up in the second half, sending his ERA into the stratosphere.
I'm interested to see how Dodger fans react if Penny finishes poorly. If he ends the year with a 3.50 ERA, which would have pleased any of us at the start of the season, do we boo him for having a five ERA in the second half?
Biggest Surprise: Luis Gonzalez
I think my hatred of Luis Gonzalez at the start of the season was justified. He had seen a decline in his numbers for five straight years and was moving from a very hitter friendly environment to Dodger Stadium. 81 games later, Gonzalez leads the team in on base percentage, OPS, and is only one point away from the slugging percentage title. With the terrible first halves by Juan Pierre, and Nomar Garciaparra, combined with Rafael Furcal, Jeff Kent, and Andre Ethier failing to meet expectations, Gonzalez's offensive contributions could have kept the Dodgers afloat in the first half. His warning signs were so huge that I wouldn't be surprised if Gonzalez fell off the face of the planet in the second half, but for now, he's been the very definition of pleasant surprise.
LVP: Nomar Garciaparra
I figured Juan Pierre would be a shoo in for this, but, Nomar managed to find a very special way to stink in the first half. .310 on base percentage? Puts him only ahead of Juan Pierre amongst Dodger regulars, and 18th amongst qualifying first basemen. .334 slugging percentage? Trails the second to last first baseman by 48 points. .644 OPS puts him 54 points behind Aubrey Huff. Nomar has not only managed to be worse than every other player who plays his position, he's significantly worse. Comparing him to third baseman would look just as bad if the Twins came to their senses and stopped thinking Nick Punto was a useful player. When you consider Nomar's declining defense, it's not that far fetched to say that Nomar was the worst player in baseball in a Kendalless world. It's very difficult to be a worse player than a Juan Pierre that had a disappointing first half, but Nomar managed to pull it off.
Most Likely To Improve: Rafael Furcal
Now, there's no true basis for this. There's nothing that suggests that Rafael Furcal is just tremendously unlucky and that he'll easily bounce back in the second half. In fact, balls in play data suggests that Furcal has been a little lucky in that department in the first half. The only thing that's making me make this suggestion is this: this is the best first half that Furcal has had in three years. After June 30th, Furcal's OPS stood at .685, on June 30th 2006, it was .676? June 30th 2005? .652. For some reason, the first half of the season for Rafael Furcal is a complete wash, and then he becomes one of the best players in baseball in the second half. Look for his speed to return as his ankle heals, and then look for the rest of his numbers to return due to some magical presence that only Furcal understands.
Second Biggest Surprise: Takashi Saito
I figured that by this point in the year, Jonathan Broxton would be the closer, and Saito would be pitching middle relief, or worse. As I've said so many times before, this man was a middle reliever in Japan, he can't keep dominating big league players. Nope. Saito is quite possibly the best closer in baseball right now, and you could argue that he's just as effective as Eric Gagne was during his prime. I'm done trying to understand how he does it; I'm just going to enjoy it.
Scapegoat Award: Juan Pierre
Sure, Juan Pierre isn't responsible for all the Dodgers troubles, but it sure is fun to blame him, isn't it?