During the final weeks of the regular season, MLB award candidates will heavily influence the wide-open pennant races while trying to bolster their candidacies.
In these updated predictions, I explain how certain players have been able to distinguish themselves from the competition.
Though the preseason favorites haven't met expectations, several dark horses are enjoying career years and leading their teams toward the postseason (or at least sparing them from last-place embarrassment).
Amazing accomplishments from previously unheralded players have made the summer of 2012 a memorable one.
If you would be so kind as to click through my picks and share your thoughts, I'd be happy to engage in great debates.
Outfielder Mike Trout would be "American League Rookie of the Century" if such an award existed. His immediate success is pretty much unprecedented.
He continues to excel in every aspect of the game at the tender age of 21.
It isn't fair to compare "Wonderboy" to his first-year brethren. His overall value of 10.3 WAR (via Baseball-Reference.com) nearly quadruples that of any other AL candidate.
In the discussion: Yoenis Cespedes, Oakland Athletics; Yu Darvish, Texas Rangers; Matt Moore, Tampa Bay Rays.
The National League race is much tougher to call. Ultimately, I expect Wade Miley to take home the honor.
For most pitchers, Chase Field is considered a hellish venue, though Miley has hardly been affected. In fact, his on-base percentage against and earned run average are lower in the desert.
The right-hander's success can be attributed to pinpoint location. He attacks the lower regions of the strike zone and edges of home plate. It's no wonder he surrenders so few home runs (13 HRs in 29 GS).
Miley leads all NL rookies in innings pitched and WHIP.
The sub-.500 Arizona Diamondbacks are 15-11 in his starts this season.
In the discussion: Norichika Aoki, Milwaukee Brewers; Todd Frazier, Cincinnati Reds; Bryce Harper, Washington Nationals.
The current MLB saves leader was fortunate to sign a major league contract for the 2012 season.
He had been consistent over the previous five years, but not in a good way. Between 2007 and 2011, he had an earned run average north of 4.00 and struggled to throw strikes.
Though Rodney's pitch selection hasn't changed much during his career, the movement on his changeup certainly has. He's missing more bats and getting more called strikes to get ahead in the count.
Compared to last summer when he was with the Los Angeles Angels, the right-hander has logged twice as many innings and cut his walk total in half. In the words of ESPN.com's Jayson Stark, "un-be-friggin'-lievable!"
Aside from ranking first among American League closers in games, he leads them in ERA and WAR.
In the discussion: Adam Dunn and Jake Peavy, Chicago White Sox; Phil Hughes, New York Yankees; Justin Morneau, Minnesota Twins.
Kris Medlen was a valued member of the Atlanta Braves pitching staff before tearing his ulnar collateral ligament in August 2010. The ensuing Tommy John surgery limited him to two MLB appearances a year ago.
The 26-year-old looked great from the onset of the 2012 campaign, though there would be a bump in the road.
Three straight poor performances around Memorial Day led to a demotion to Triple-A. He spent several less-than-stellar weeks in the minors.
Atlanta recalled him, regardless, and the right-hander is assuring us all that the correct decision was made.
Medlen accepted starting responsibilities on July 31 and has since gone undefeated. In nine games as a rotation member, he sports a 0.86 ERA and 8.25 SO/BB ratio.
In the discussion: Pedro Alvarez, Pittsburgh Pirates; Buster Posey, San Francisco Giants; Adam LaRoche and Stephen Strasburg, Washington Nationals.
Bob Melvin is in 2007 form.
For those who need reminding, the retired MLB catcher was named NL Manager of the Year for guiding the Arizona Diamondbacks to an unlikely postseason berth. With great motivational skills and a cool demeanor, he maximizes a roster's talent.
The small-market Oakland Athletics haven't given him much to work with.
Offseason trades depleted the pitching staff, and GM Billy Beane could only provide Melvin with rookie replacements. Position players Jonny Gomes and Brandon Moss were pretty much plucked from the scrapheap.
The A's have overcome those obstacles, however, and outperformed star-laden clubs like the Detroit Tigers and New York Yankees.
What more needs to be said?
In the discussion: Buck Showalter, Baltimore Orioles; Robin Ventura, Chicago White Sox; Ron Washington, Texas Rangers.
Mismanagement was largely to blame for the collapse of the Atlanta Braves last September.
Kudos to Fredi Gonzalez for making the appropriate adjustments.
In 2011, late-inning relievers Craig Kimbrel and Jonny Venters had exhausted their bullets prior to the team's most pivotal matchups. Pitching every other day for six months tends to manifest itself in such ways.
I commend him for resisting temptation and lightening their workloads.
Gonzalez has kept soon-to-be retiree Chipper Jones fresh with frequent days off, but there's considerable research involved in his decision-making. He rests Jones—and knowingly downgrades the Braves lineup—when other factors suggest that the team can prevail.
Atlanta has comparable winning percentages whether the future Hall of Famer appears or sits (.576 and .553, respectively).
Between demoting Jair Jurrjens and expanding Kris Medlen's role, Gonzalez is pushing all the right buttons.
In the discussion: Dusty Baker, Cincinnati Reds; Bruce Bochy, San Francisco Giants; Davey Johnson, Washington Nationals; Don Mattingly, Los Angeles Dodgers.
The 2010 American League Cy Young runner-up won't be deprived again.
David Price is No. 1 in wins and earned run average. He only trails Chris Sale and Justin Verlander in WAR, and they both pitch in the unimposing AL Central.
Having silenced powerful AL East lineups on more occasions will work in Price's favor.
It also helps that he has caught fire down the stretch.
The southpaw has gone seven-plus innings in 13 of his past 15 starts. His record against divisional opponents in that span is 4-0.
Still not on the bandwagon? Check out his month-by-month consistency on Baseball-Reference.com.
In the discussion: Felix Hernandez, Seattle Mariners; Hiroki Kuroda, New York Yankees; Fernando Rodney, Tampa Bay Rays; Chris Sale, Chicago White Sox; Justin Verlander, Detroit Tigers; Jered Weaver, Los Angeles Angels.
R.A. Dickey is utterly indispensable.
His five complete games—three of which were shutouts—kept the New York Mets afloat for half the season despite an inept bullpen.
The 37-year-old has exceptional command of the knuckleball and ways of intimidating would-be base-stealers. Just six thefts have been attempted against him.
Thanks to Clayton Kershaw's nagging hip injury, Dickey is poised to finish atop the National League in innings pitched and strikeouts.
In the discussion: Matt Cain, San Francisco Giants; Johnny Cueto, Cincinnati Reds; Gio Gonzalez, Washington Nationals; Cole Hamels, Philadelphia Phillies; Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers; Craig Kimbrel, Atlanta Braves; Kyle Lohse, St. Louis Cardinals.
There's no one playing on Mike Trout's level. Even in professional baseball's illustrious history, we have only a few examples of such superiority.
Cy Young. Walter Johnson. Babe Ruth. Bob Gibson. Barry Bonds. That's the sort of company he keeps these days.
None of the other 2012 AL MVP candidates combine power-hitting ability, base-stealing volume and efficiency and heroic defense like Trout.
Then there's that "turnaround" stat everybody loves to use.
Before Trout joined the Los Angeles Angels, their record was 6-14. Since then, the team is 73-53.
In the discussion: Adrian Beltre and Josh Hamilton, Texas Rangers; Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers; Robinson Cano, New York Yankees; Edwin Encarnacion, Toronto Blue Jays.
Bleacher Report's large San Francisco readership clamors for Buster Posey to win Comeback Player of the Year too, but don't get greedy. National League MVP honors will suffice for the third-year catcher.
Players at his position rarely emerge as elite run producers. Squatting takes quite a physical toll.
Posey's top-five OPS and offensive WAR are otherworldly when you factor in the 898 innings he has logged behind the plate. And after all that game-calling, he has allowed only one passed ball.
The NL's top individual is swinging the stick particularly well in the season's second half. He has a triple-slash line of .390/.464/.663 since the All-Star break. Over that span, the Giants have separated from the Los Angeles Dodgers in the standings and practically wrapped up the division title.
In the discussion: Ryan Braun, Milwaukee Brewers; Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh Pirates; Yadier Molina, St. Louis Cardinals; David Wright, New York Mets.