2016 MLB Awards Race Odds Updates with 5 Weeks to Go

Jacob Shafer@@jacobshaferFeatured ColumnistAugust 31, 2016

2016 MLB Awards Race Odds Updates with 5 Weeks to Go

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    With scarcely more than a month remaining in the regular season, MLB's divisional and wild-card tussles are getting real. That's equally true of the various awards races, some of which remain wide, wide open.

    As we update odds for every major prizeComeback Player of the Year, Rookie of the Year and each league's Cy Young and MVP awards—there isn't much movement at the top of the leaderboard. In fact, only the National League Cy Young has a new front-runner.

    Several awards are exceedingly tight and tough to call, however, including the Manager of the Year scrambles and the throw-up-your-hands American League Cy Young chase.

    We're looking at stats, obviously. But we'll also consider past voting trends, team performance (which matters, fair or not) and a dash of old-fashioned gut feeling.

    Feel free to sound off with your own picks in the comments, and proceed when ready.

AL Comeback Player of the Year

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    Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

    The Field

    • Ian Desmond, OF, Texas Rangers: 1-1
    • Rick Porcello, SP, Boston Red Sox: 3-2
    • Robinson Cano, 2B, Seattle Mariners: 9-1

    Ian Desmond remains the favorite, but Rick Porcello is nipping at his heels.

    Desmond's .291/.340/.469 slash line is an eye-opening improvement over the .233/.290/.384 line he produced last season with the Washington Nationals.

    Oh, and he's learned to play center field for the first time in the big leaguesand play it capablymaking the Texas Rangers' one-year, $8 million investment the winter's biggest bargain.

    Porcello, meanwhile, has won his last four decisions to run his record to an MLB-best 18-3. Pitching wins don't carry the statistical weight they once did. But Porcello's ERA sits at a solid 3.26 compared to his 2015 mark of 4.92, and he leads both leagues with a 5.43 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

    Seattle Mariners second baseman Robinson Cano reached the 30-homer plateau for the first time since 2012 with a solo shot Sunday against the Chicago White Sox. But it's harder to sell a comeback from a guy who hit .287 with 21 home runs last year.

    Desmond's OPS has dipped more than 60 points in August. If that trend continues, and if Porcello eclipses 20 wins, this race could tip toward the Boston Red Sox sinkerballer.

NL Comeback Player of the Year

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    The Field

    • Wil Myers, 1B, San Diego Padres: 7-3
    • Tanner Roark, SP, Washington Nationals: 3-1
    • Jean Segura, 2B, Arizona Diamondbacks: 3-1
    • Marcell Ozuna, OF, Miami Marlins: 9-1
    • Julio Teheran, SP, Atlanta Braves: 9-1

    As with the AL Comeback Player of the Year chase, this one is tightening up.

    Wil Myers is a great story. After two injury-depleted seasons, the 2013 AL Rookie of the Year was an All-Star and owns an .800 OPS with 23 home runs and 23 stolen bases for the San Diego Padres. It's a comeback yarn through and through.

    Tanner Roark is authoring a nice tale of his own in the nation's capital. After languishing in the bullpen for most of last season and posting a 4.38 ERA, Roark has made 27 starts for the Nats and lowered his ERA to 2.87.

    Still, he's flying under the radar.

    "It would be fine if people don't notice because maybe he can surprise some people," Nationals manager Dusty Baker said of his 29-year-old right-hander, per Rob Maaddi of the Associated Press (via the Washington Times). "I don't think he really cares. He just wants the victories."

    If Myers' production wanes and Roark remains underappreciated, Jean Segura could slip in. He's toiling on an awful Arizona Diamondbacks team, which doesn't help his profile. But after a couple of so-so seasons, the 2013 All-Star is pacing the NL with 163 hits and has raised his OPS from .616 in 2015 to .836 this year.

AL Manager of the Year

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    The Field

    • Buck Showalter, Baltimore Orioles: 3-1
    • Terry Francona, Cleveland Indians: 3-1
    • Jeff Banister, Texas Rangers: 4-1
    • Brad Ausmus, Detroit Tigers: 6-1
    • John Gibbons, Toronto Blue Jays: 6-1

    The Baltimore Orioles are holding on to one of the AL's wild-card slots despite a ragged starting rotation. That means Buck Showalter is holding on to his status as the nominal front-runner for AL MOY honors.

    He's in a virtual dead heat with the Cleveland Indians' Terry Francona, assuming the Tribe finally deliver on the hype and win the AL Central.

    The Rangers' Jeff Banister has a case out West, as he's kept Texas atop the division despite injuries to key veterans such as Shin-Soo Choo and Prince Fielder. But only one skipper has repeated as Manager of the Year since 1983—the Atlanta Braves' Bobby Cox in 2004 and 2005—meaning Banister could be at a disadvantage after netting the award in 2015.

    Brad Ausmus could enter the fray if the Detroit Tigers—who sit just a game off the wild-card pace—get back to the postseason. John Gibbons will also garner votes if he steers the Toronto Blue Jays to a repeat division title in the noisy AL East.

NL Manager of the Year

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    The Field

    • Dusty Baker, Washington Nationals: 7-3
    • Joe Maddon, Chicago Cubs: 7-3
    • Dave Roberts, Los Angeles Dodgers: 3-1
    • Don Mattingly, Miami Marlins: 6-1

    When the Nationals hired Baker this winter, the glass-half-full take was that he'd restore calm in the clubhouse and atone for last season's acrimonious flameout under ex-skipper Matt Williams.

    Mission accomplished.

    The Nationals are rolling toward a division title, while Baker—whose old-school tendencies have drawn their share of criticism—has been as advertised.

    That said, it's impossible to dismiss reigning NL MOY Joe Maddon, who has the Chicago Cubs on a 100-win, curse-busting pace.

    The qualities of a good baseball manager may never be adequately quantified, but as Deadspin's Tom Ley noted, "no manager is better at making in-game decisions that are noticeably good." He's got that special Maddon flash, in other words, and a knack for looking like the smartest guy on the field.

    Baker and Maddon are the co-favorites, but Dave Roberts is an upstart challenger worth watching. Despite a raft of injuries in his starting rotation—including to Clayton Kershaw, the best pitcher in the game—Roberts has the Los Angeles Dodgers on track to win the NL West.

    If they do, he'll get votes, as will his Dodgers predecessor, Don Mattingly, if the floundering Miami Marlins make a late wild-card push.

AL Rookie of the Year

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    The Field

    • Michael Fulmer, SP, Detroit Tigers: 1-1
    • Tyler Naquin, OF, Cleveland Indians: 7-3
    • Edwin Diaz, RP, Seattle Mariners: 7-1
    • Gary Sanchez, C, New York Yankees: 15-1

    Michael Fulmer has faltered in his last two starts, yielding 15 hits and nine earned runs in 10.2 innings. If that trend continues, his status as the AL ROY favorite could be in jeopardy.

    For now, however, the Tigers right-hander still owns a 2.69 ERA in 130.2 innings.

    His closest competition, Tyler Naquin of the Indians, sports a .303 average and .930 OPS. But he's also a platoon player and a defensive liability in the outfield.

    Flame-throwing Mariners reliever Edwin Diaz has racked up 70 strikeouts in 38.2 innings. The most intriguing dark horse in this race, however, is New York Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez.

    Sanchez has set the league ablaze since his Aug. 3 arrival, cracking 11 home runs and posting a 1.267 OPS in 24 games. If this were the Hottest Rookie of the Year or Most Hyped Rookie of the Year award, it'd be his in a landslide.

    Even if he keeps raking like this through Game 162, however, Sanchez's call-up likely came too late to warrant serious ROY consideration.

NL Rookie of the Year

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    The Field

    • Corey Seager, SS, Los Angeles Dodgers: 1-9
    • Aledmys Diaz, SS, St. Louis Cardinals: 19-1
    • Trevor Story, SS, Colorado Rockies: 19-1

    If there is such a thing as an award that's wrapped up in late August, here it is.

    With the Colorado Rockies' Trevor Story and St. Louis Cardinals' Aledmys Diaz both on the shelf with thumb injuries, this is Corey Seager's prize all the way.

    The young Dodgers star is in the NL MVP conversation as well with a .320/.379/.540 slash line, 23 home runs and a glove that makes him the fifth-best shortstop in baseball, according to the metrics.

    He got a scare Monday after getting hit in the wrist by a pitch against the Rockies. X-rays were negative, per Andy McCullough of the Los Angeles Times, so Dodger nation can collectively exhale.

AL Cy Young Award

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    The Field:

    • Zach Britton, RP, Baltimore Orioles: 3-1
    • Corey Kluber, SP, Cleveland Indians: 7-1
    • Cole Hamels, SP, Texas Rangers: 7-1
    • Rick Porcello, SP, Boston Red Sox: 9-1
    • Justin Verlander, SP, Detroit Tigers: 9-1
    • Chris Sale, SP, Chicago White Sox: 9-1
    • Jose Quintana, SP, Chicago White Sox: 9-1
    • Aaron Sanchez, SP, Toronto Blue Jays: 9-1

    Scan the AL's statistical pitching leaderboard, and you'll see a bunch of starters with solid numbers, but none that leap off the screen.

    Enter Zach Britton. The Orioles closer surrendered an earned run on Aug. 24 against the Nationals, his first run allowed since June 21.

    Still, his ERA sits at a minuscule 0.67. He's fanned 61 in 54 innings. He's a perfect 39-of-39 in save opportunities.

    Add it up, and you've got the makings of MLB's first Cy Young Award-winning reliever since Eric Gagne in 2003.

    If you're a Britton booster looking to make his case, here's a stat to consider: win probability added (WPA). Basically, WPA takes context into consideration and rewards players who excel in important, high-leverage situations. Think an RBI single late in a tie game versus a home run in the midst of a blowout.

    Britton's 4.71 WPA ranks tops among MLB pitchers, ahead of Indians closer Andrew Miller (3.89) and injured Dodgers ace Kershaw (3.72).

    That's an imperfect argument. Then again, this is an imperfect Cy Young field.

NL Cy Young Award

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    The Field

    • Max Scherzer, SP, Washington Nationals: 3-1
    • Kyle Hendricks, SP, Chicago Cubs: 14-3
    • Madison Bumgarner, SP, San Francisco Giants: 14-3
    • Noah Syndergaard, SP, New York Mets: 9-1
    • Jake Arrieta, SP, Chicago Cubs: 9-1
    • Johnny Cueto, SP, San Francisco Giants: 9-1
    • Jose Fernandez, SP, Miami Marlins: 9-1

    The Dodgers' Kershaw has missed two months and counting with a back injury. The San Francisco Giants' Madison Bumgarner has wobbled in August.

    Meet Max Scherzer, your new NL Cy Young Award front-runner.

    Scherzer, who carried a no-hitter into the sixth inning Tuesday against the Philadelphia Phillies, owns a 2.89 ERA and leads the league in innings pitched (190) and strikeouts (238).

    Bumgarner could still storm back into the lead with a few dominant starts. Cubs right-hander Kyle Hendricks is lurking with his MLB-best 2.09 ERA. A gaggle of other pitchers could hurl their way into the frame with a string of shutdown starts.

    In other words: Enjoy it, Scherzer, but don't get comfortable.

AL MVP Award

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    Bob Levey/Getty Images

    The Field:

    • Jose Altuve, 2B, Houston Astros: 7-3
    • Josh Donaldson, 3B, Toronto Blue Jays: 4-1
    • Mike Trout, OF, Los Angeles Angels: 4-1
    • Mookie Betts, OF, Boston Red Sox: 4-1
    • Manny Machado, 3B, Baltimore Orioles: 19-1
    • David Ortiz, DH, Boston Red Sox: 19-1

    If you go by WAR, the AL leaderboard shapes up like this: the Los Angeles Angels' Mike Trout (7.5), the Jays' Josh Donaldson (7.0), the Houston Astros' Jose Altuve (6.7) and the Red Sox's Mookie Betts (6.7).

    MVP awards, however, aren't handed out on WAR alone. Trout loses points because he plays for the woeful Angels.

    Donaldson is right there, but only three players have repeated as MVP in either league since 1995, suggesting voters favor fresh blood.

    That gives an edge to Altuve, the favorite, and Betts, the hard-charging insurgent.

    Altuve leads MLB in hits (183) and batting average (.352). He's clubbed a career-high 22 home runs and stolen 26 bases. It would help his cause if the 'Stros made the playoffs; they currently sit two games out of the second wild-card slot at 70-62.

    Betts, meanwhile, has been coming on strong. He ranks second in hits (178), is hitting .320 and has hit 30 home runs with 21 stolen bases.

    A scalding stretch run that propels the Red Sox to a division title could land Betts the hardware. For now, the diminutive Altuve maintains a shrinking advantage.

NL MVP Award

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    The Field:

    • Kris Bryant, INF/OF, Chicago Cubs: 7-3
    • Daniel Murphy, INF, Washington Nationals: 4-1
    • Nolan Arenado, 3B, Colorado Rockies: 13-3
    • Corey Seager, SS, Los Angeles Dodgers: 13-3
    • Anthony Rizzo, 1B, Chicago Cubs: 7-1

    Kris Bryant is the best hitter on the best team in baseball. That's enough to keep him at the head of the NL MVP pack.

    There are legitimate challengers. The Nats' Daniel Murphy is battling for a batting title and leads the league with a .992 OPS. The Rockies' Nolan Arenado has 112 RBI and picks it like a whiz at third base. Seager belongs in the conversation, as we already outlined.

    Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo—who's on pace for a 30-homer, 100-RBI seasoncould also siphon votes away from his teammate.

    Bryant has stuffed the stat sheet, however, and he's played solid defense all over the diamond. As Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal noted, he could become the only player other than Stan Musial to win an MVP award after starting at least 30 games in the infield and outfield.

    Yet another reason for Cardinals fans to gnash their teeth.

    All statistics current as of Tuesday and courtesy of MLB.com and FanGraphs unless otherwise noted.