With all 30 teams now passed the 108 games-played mark, the point marking two thirds of a completed season, it's time for an updated look at the frontrunners for Most Valuable Player, Cy Young, Rookie, and Manager of the Year awards. Starting in the National League:
MVP: Matt Kemp, Center field, Los Angeles Dodgers:
People can call me crazy, or whatever they please, for picking Kemp over someone such as Lance Berkman, Ryan Braun or Joey Votto, someone from a team currently in contention, and not nine games under .500 and 9.5 games back in their own division.
But one cannot deny what Kemp has meant to the Dodgers this season. He's sixth in the league in batting average, second in home runs, second in RBIs, fourth in OPS, first in total bases, and third in stolen bases. He has been the complete player offensively. His WAR (wins above replacement, which measures the number of wins the player adds to the team vs. any average replacement player) is first in the league for not only position players, but pitchers as well. If Kemp closes out the season the same way he has started it, he could join Andre Dawson and Alex Rodriguez as just one of three men who have won MVP Awards while playing for last-place teams.
Cy Young: Roy Halladay, Philadelphia Phillies
Halladay is currently in a tight race with his own teammate Cole Hamels, as well as Los Angeles Dodgers starter Clayton Kershaw, but holds important advantages over both men. Halladay has the highest WAR for any pitcher in the NL. He's first in wins, second in winning percentage, second in earned run average, second in WHIP (walks + hits allowed per inning), first in fewest walks per 9 innings, fourth in strikeouts, and first in complete games.
It's a very close race right now, so close that each of the three aforementioned men have serious claims as to why they should win, but Halladay, by a nose, has the best credentials of them all right now.
Rookie of the Year: Freddie Freeman, First Baseman, Atlanta Braves
Much like last year, a Braves rookie was one of the most touted prospects heading into the season, and, much like last year, the player lived up to the hype. Last year, it was Jason Heyward, who finished a close second to Buster Posey of the San Francisco Giants.
This year, it has been all Freddie Freeman. Freeman leads all NL position player rookies in hits, RBIs, batting average and OPS, and has played spectacular defense at first base, sporting a .994 fielding percentage for the Braves. Freeman and Heyward should make a solid starting core for Atlanta for the next decade.
Manager of the Year: Kirk Gibson, Arizona Diamondbacks
Worst to first. That is what Kirk Gibson has the Arizona Diamondbacks on the verge of doing. A year after taking over a team midway through what would be a 65-97 campaign, Gibson has led the D-Backs to a 61-52 record (as of August 6th), a half game back of the defending World Champion San Francisco Giants. If the D-Backs are able to stay in contention for the rest of the season, Gibson should win his first Manager of the Year Award
On to the American League:
A seven-year, $154 million contract brings a lot of hype. Doing what Adrian Gonzalez has done this season is how one lives up to all of it. Gonzalez is currently first in batting average, first in RBIs, second in OPS, and first in total bases. Jose Bautista may have similar, if not better stats, but with or without Bautista, the Blue Jays are not a playoff team. With Adrian Gonzalez, the Red Sox are a World Series contender. Without him, they might not even be a playoff team.
Cy Young: Justin Verlander, Detroit Tigers
Justin Verlander has been nothing short of remarkable for the Tigers this season. He's first in WHIP, second in wins, third in ERA, first in strikeouts, first in innings pitched and has the second-highest WAR for pitchers. In addition, he's thrown a no-hitter and in three other games, taken no- hitters into the sixth inning. Verlander will get solid competition from Jered Weaver of the Los Angels Angels and CC Sabathia of the New York Yankees, but Verlander has the award for now.
Rookie of the Year: Too close to call
Right now, the American League Rookie of the Year is a three-horse race that includes pitcher Jeremy Hellickson of the Tampa Bay Rays, first baseman/designated hitter Eric Hosmer of the Kansas City Royals and first baseman Mark Trumbo of the Los Angeles Angels. Currently, Hellickson boasts a respectable 10-7 record with a 3.15 ERA and 79 strikeouts in 122 innings pitched. Hosmer and Trumbo are engaged in a very close battle for the best offensive rookie. Hosmer has a better batting average, more walks and fewer strikeouts. But Trumbo has more home runs, RBIs and a better OPS. Right now, if I had to pick a winner out of these three, I'd go with Trumbo as home runs and RBIs are the "glory stats" that tend to appeal to the voters.
Manager of the Year: Jim Leyland, Detroit Tigers
Last year, the Tigers finished at .500, 81-81 on the year, good for third place in the AL Central, 13 games behind the division-winning Minnesota Twins. This year, Leyland has led Detroit to a 61-52 record (as of August 6th) and a 4.5-game lead over the Cleveland Indians. Leyland is no stranger to the Manager of the Year Award as he won it in 1990 and 1992 while managing the Pittsburgh Pirates, and in 2006, his first year with the Tigers, when he led them to the American League pennant.
With a solid 50 games still to go, anything can happen, but if things continue on like they started, every one of the men listed above should be getting some new hardware early next season.
Let the debate begin.
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