After a 19-9 stretch from June 1 to July 1, the Texas Rangers have held off the injury bug and gained ground on a streaking Los Angeles Angels team in the AL West.
And when the Rangers finish their game Tuesday against the Chicago White Sox, they'll be half way through the regular season and either be 51-30 or 50-31.
With that being said, let's take a look at the Rangers at the midpoint of the 2012 season as they are trying to defend their back-to-back American League pennants and maybe finally break through to win it all this year.
Most Valuable Player — Say what you want about him, and I've had my fair share of good and bad, but there is no doubt who this honor belongs to, at least at this point. Josh Hamilton, despite his god-awful June, is hitting .314 with 25 home runs and leads humanity with 73 RBIs. You can speculate all you want on whether Hamilton will be in a Rangers uniform in 2013, but for now, just enjoy the fact you're watching one of the greatest players of this generation do his thing. Honorable mention: Adrian Beltre.
Biggest disappointment — There's a couple of legitimate candidates for this, and everyone has their own cases to make, but the biggest one so far has to be Mike Napoli. Yes, the same Mike Napoli who was voted in by the fans to start the All-Star Game for the American League next week. Napoli is hitting .235 and has already hit his 2011 strikeout total. He's been pretty awful with the exception of a week-and-a-half stretch back in May. It's no surprise that he isn't matching last year's insane totals, but it is surprising to see him be this bad. The Rangers need him to bounce back in the second half, which is what he did in 2011. So that's promising. Honorable mention: Michael Young, Nelson Cruz.
Most pleasant surprise — There's also a few candidates for this, but the slam dunk is Joe Nathan. The 37-year-old closer is headed to the All-Star Game next week and has been one of the most efficient, dominant closers in the game this year after being two years removed from Tommy John surgery. Nathan is 18 of 19 on save opportunities and has a 1.87 ERA. He has an unfair 42 strikeouts and just four walks with a 0.89 WHIP. As much as a slam dunk as Joe Nathan is for this, something has to be said for .... Honorable mention: Robbie Ross.
Breakout player of the year — Matt Harrison is headed to the All-Star Game to play for his manager, Ron Washington. And it's got nothing to do with the fact that Washington is the guy choosing the pitching staff. Harrison has been absolutely stellar this season, and he's gone about it quietly, pitching in the shadow of the hype machine (albeit deserved) that is Yu Darvish. Harrison leads the AL in wins with 11. He's pitched 105.1 innings so far and has a nice, crisp 3.16 ERA. Honorable mention: Elvis Andrus, Yu Darvish.
Moment of the year — No doubt about it, May 8 in Baltimore. Josh Hamilton, who hit a home run in his final at-bat on May 7 in Baltimore, proceeded to hit four more bombs in the game on the 8th, and worked in a double to finish with 5-for-5 with eight RBIs and an American League record 18 total bases. We heard all about it in the wake of the game, the four-home run game is more rare than the no-hitter or even the perfect game. It was essentially a "perfect game" for a hitter. And it'll be tough to top this one in the second half. Honorable mention: Yu Darvish debut.