Josh Hamilton has thrilled baseball fans everywhere with his amazing season.
That's gone by fast.
It seems as though just yesterday was the start of the 2012 MLB Season. Yet we find ourselves in the middle of May at the quarter-mark of the 162-game season wondering, "Where did all that time go?"
That's baseball for you, folks. The next quarter will fly by as quickly as the last, and soon enough, it will be September, in the heat of playoff races. And playoff time means time for awards.
This year has been nothing short of thrilling. This season has seen the explosion of some young players, the resurgences of older players and big-breaks for prospects.
It's time for early predictions for the awards that the MLB will hand out in the fall. All statistics are as accurate as May 22nd, 2012.
The Baltimore Orioles have been one of the biggest surprises of the year, leading the competitive AL East through the first quarter of the season.
The Orioles' record stands at 27-16, which is surprising, considering the fact that they finished 28 games out of first place last year. Time and time again, we underestimate the ingenuity of Buck Showalter.
He's rejuvenated the Orioles squad, which quite frankly, is void of any real superstar talent. Baltimore's roster is a bunch of middle-of-the-road to above-average players who are working together seamlessly.
Closer Jim Johnson has been among the best in the American League. He's part of a bullpen that wasn't looking so good at the start of the season.
Showalter has done nearly everything right in his second full year in Baltimore. He's gotten the team excited about playing baseball, he is developing stars in Matt Wieters and Adam Jones, and best of all, he has the Baltimore Orioles in first place.
The Los Angeles Dodgers are arguably the best team in baseball right now.
Seen as underdogs going into the season, the Dodgers have impressed and surprised fans everywhere. Superstar OF Matt Kemp has been outstanding even though he is currently on the DL. The pitching staff is led by reigning NL Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw. The Dodgers are somehow, against all odds, at the top of the MLB.
Many players are currently on the DL, including Kemp, 3B Juan Uribe, LF Juan Rivera and 2B Mark Ellis. They've had to juggle closers, relievers and deal with one of the most error-prone players in the league in Dee Gordon.
Yet, the Dodgers have the best record in baseball. This is a true testament to one of the best managers in baseball, Don Mattingly.
Yu Darvish made one of the biggest splashes of the offseason when the Texas Rangers acquired him from Japan.
So far he's lived up to expectations.
Darvish has a record of 6-2 and while some of those wins may be a benefit from being on an elite team, Darvish has been very productive in his first year in the MLB.
The 25-year-old pitcher has an ERA just over three and a WHIP of 1.41. He's pitched 56 innings so far, while striking out 63 batters, good for a K/9 of 10.13. Darvish has held opposing batters to a batting average of just .225.
Darvish is looking like he might be a better version of Daisuke Matsuzaka of the Boston Red Sox. He was certainly scouted as one.
The Texas Rangers seem to have gotten their money's worth (so far).
When Chris Carpenter wasn't able to start the season on the St. Louis Cardinals rotation, Lance Lynn was supposed to try to fill the large void. Once Carpenter was back, Lynn would leave the rotation.
But in Carpenter's absence, Lynn has been nothing short of spectacular.
He has a record of 6-1 this year, a winning percentage that ranks second among all National League pitchers. Lynn has an ERA of 2.31 in eight games this year. Lynn's K/9 ratio is just under nine, and his WHIP is at an amazing 1.007.
The young righty burst onto the scene this year, dominating opposing batters in most of his games. He's holding opponents to .198 batting average and has only given up 35 hits on the season.
The Cardinals were very lucky when Lynn broke out this year, and if he continues at this pace, he could in Cy Young contention later in the year. For now, let's stick with Rookie of the Year.
Justin Verlander has easily been the best pitcher in the MLB over the past two years. He has completely and utterly dominated opposing batters.
He leads the league in ERA (2.14), WHIP (0.80), opponents' average (.168), and opponents' OPS (.468). That's just a slice of the pie.
Verlander has taken a no-hitter into the ninth inning this year. He's gone at least six inning in every game he's pitched this year. He has pitched five games where he gave up four hits or less.
What more could you ask from this man?
Justin Verlander has a very good shot at becoming just the fourth repeat-winner of the Cy Young Award.
There were a ton of candidates for this spot—Brandon Beachy, Gio Gonzalez and Clayton Kershaw just to name a few. It's hard to argue against any of them. But Stephen Strasburg is the front-runner for now.
Strasburg has been brilliant at times in his career, but injuries have limited him to only 17 games before this year. He came into the 2012 season after recovering from Tommy John surgery last year. Strasburg has finally lived up to the hype.
He is currently sporting a 2.21 ERA and a 1.02 WHIP. He has been a strikeout artist this year, with a K/9 of 10.87. Strasburg has the potential and talent to go on a hot streak and raise his stock significantly. That is the main reason why he's here, and that is what sets him apart from the other candidates.
Strasburg is finally living up to the hype of being a No. 1 draft pick, and his superior skills will take him far.
Strasburg is also adored by the media, which doesn't hurt in a voting process like this one.
Did you really expect anyone else to be here?
Josh Hamilton has been otherworldly this year.
He leads the league in home runs (18), RBIs (47), total bases (117), WAR (3.6), slugging percentage (.765) and in many, many more stats.
He ranks in the top ten in other categories as well.
Hamilton has taken the league by storm, and right now, no one else deserves to be in the conversation for AL MVP.
Simple as that.
It was incredibly difficult to leave Matt Kemp off of this list, but it had to be done. As of yet, David Wright has been a more deserving player.
Wright has been a stud offensively, sporting a ridiculous .415 batting average. His on-base percentage is .515 and ranks second to just Hamilton in many categories.
Wright gets the nod here mainly because Kemp is out on the DL and was only hitting .212 through May. Had Kemp stayed healthy, this would be his spot, hands down.
Wright has a pretty strong grip on the MVP right now, thanks to a great month, but Kemp could easily catch up to him.
It will be interesting to see how this plays out in the fall, but for now, David Wright holds the advantage.