2016 MLB Awards Race Odds Updates with 4 Weeks to Go

Rick Weiner@RickWeinerNYFeatured ColumnistSeptember 6, 2016

2016 MLB Awards Race Odds Updates with 4 Weeks to Go

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    With roughly four weeks left in the regular season, we've entered crunch time in the races for not only division crowns and wild-card berths, but individual awards as well.

    There's been some shuffling atop the leaderboards for baseball's biggest individual prizes—Comeback Player of the Year, Manager of the Year, Rookie of the Year and, perhaps the most coveted honor in each league, the Cy Young Award and MVP Award.

    Some of those races are far more exciting than others, with multiple players a hot streak away from overtaking their competition. While we're focused on statistics, the feeling we've got in our guts and past voting trends also factor into the odds you'll find on the pages that follow.

    Let's get this show on the road, shall we?

AL Comeback Player of the Year

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    Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

    The Field

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

    Ian Desmond remains the favorite in the American League, but Rick Porcello promises to make things interesting down the stretch.

    Desmond nearly lost his place atop the field after posting baseball's third-lowest August OPS (.552). However, a strong start to September (5-for-18 with four extra-base hits) keeps him just ahead of Porcello, who picked up his MLB-leading 19th win with seven innings of two-run ball against Oakland on Saturday.

    While a pitcher's win total seems to have become less important in recent years, it still counts where it matters most—in the standings.

    "He's been our stopper," Red Sox manager John Farrell told John Perrotto of Today's Knuckleball. "He's shut down multiple loss situations we've been in. He has been the model of consistency and maintained elite performance for quite some time."

    Porcello's 3.23 ERA and 1.02 WHIP—a substantial improvement over his 4.92 ERA and 1.36 WHIP from a year ago—don't hurt his chances either.

    Robinson Cano deserves a mention thanks to a .889 OPS that's more than 100 points higher than his 2015 mark (.779), but it'll take a massive collapse by the rest of the field for a guy who hit .287 with 21 home runs and 79 RBI last year to have a real chance at victory.

NL Comeback Player of the Year

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    Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

    The Field

    • Wilson Ramos, C, Washington Nationals: 7-3
    • Tanner Roark, SP, Washington Nationals: 3-1
    • Wil Myers, 1B, San Diego Padres: 6-1
    • Jean Segura, 2B, Arizona Diamondbacks: 6-1
    • Julio Teheran, SP, Atlanta Braves: 9-1
    • Marcell Ozuna, CF, Miami Marlins: 12-1

    We've got a new leader in the clubhouse in the National League. Wilson Ramos has overtaken Wil Myers, whose return to prominence after a pair of injury-riddled seasons is certainly worthy of Comeback Player of the Year honors.

    But the 2013 AL Rookie of the Year hasn't been the same since making his first All-Star Game appearance, hitting just .200 with a .625 OPS in the second half. Before the Midsummer Classic arrived, he was hitting .286 with an .873 OPS.

    While Ramos has also fallen off a bit in the second half, he's carrying a respectable .274 batting average and .753 OPS—and is still hitting .309 with an .857 OPS on the season. Last year, his .616 OPS was the lowest among qualified catchers and MLB's third-worst.

    If Myers continues to fade, Ramos' biggest competition in the race might wind up being his teammate, Tanner Roark.

    After pitching to a 4.38 ERA last season, spending most of his time in the bullpen, Roark has seized his opportunity to return to Washington's rotation, going 14-8 with a 2.89 ERA and 1.18 WHIP over 180.1 strong innings of work.

    Jean Segura has as strong a case as anyone for the honor, but Arizona is terrible, and fair or not, how a player's team fares during the season often factors into the voting. That works against Atlanta's Julio Teheran as well.

AL Manager of the Year

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    Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

    The Field

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

    It's a three-skipper race for AL MOY honors, with Cleveland's Terry Francona, Texas' Jeff Banister and Baltimore's Buck Showalter all in the thick of things.

    That's not unlike the situation Showalter and the Orioles find themselves in, seemingly trading places with Boston and Toronto atop the AL East and in the AL wild-card race on a daily basis. But the Orioles have faded just enough, going 28-31 since the start of July, for Francona and Banister to leapfrog Showalter.

    Both Banister and Francona have had to overcome injuries to key players and made do with less than perfect rosters. With things so close between the two, Francona's one edge might be that, unlike Banister, he didn't win the award last season. His last honor came in 2013, his first at the helm in Cleveland.

    Brad Ausmus, John Gibbons and New York's Joe Girardi, who isn't among the field of contenders, all figure to receive votes. But unless Baltimore surges back with a dominant September and both Cleveland and Texas falter, we figure to see a recent winner add some more hardware to his collection.

NL Manager of the Year

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    Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

    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

    While my vote would go to Roberts, who has done a masterful job in his first year as a manager, it's really a two-man race in the Senior Circuit between a pair of three-time winners, Baker and Maddon.

    Baker, who last won the award in 2000 while at the helm in San Francisco, has done exactly what he was hired to do, as Bleacher Report's Jacob Shafer recently noted.

    "After a disastrous, flame-out season under [Matt] Williams, the Nats have stabilized and thrived with Baker," Shafer wrote. "Whatever his faults, real or perceived, his reputation as a player's manager and calming clubhouse presence remains firmly intact."

    That said, the path of destruction that Maddon, who won the award last season, and the Cubs have left in their wake is impressive. They've been baseball's best team since Opening Day and sit as the only lock to crack the 100-win plateau. Such a gaudy win total will only improve his chances.

    Roberts has done a masterful job thus far with the Dodgers, and if he can keep the team atop the NL West the rest of the way, his odds would certainly improve. But it's an even year, and we know all too well that means strange things tend to happen in San Francisco. The Giants are just four games back.

AL Rookie of the Year

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    The Field

    • Michael Fulmer, SP, Detroit Tigers: 1-2
    • Tyler Naquin, OF, Cleveland Indians: 7-1
    • Edwin Diaz, RP, Seattle Mariners: 7-1
    • Gary Sanchez, C, New York Yankees: 12-1

    Michael Fulmer really has no competition for the AL Rookie of the Year Award. Tyler Naquin is a platoon player, Gary Sanchez a small-sample-size stud and Edwin Diaz a dominant reliever on a Seattle club that looks like it's once again going to fall short in its quest for a playoff spot.

    But even if Fulmer did have significant competition, his numbers would be good enough to separate him from the pack. Detroit's 23-year-old right-hander leads the AL with a 2.77 ERA, is fifth in WHIP (1.08) and has been the team's most reliable starter besides Justin Verlander since his late April debut.

    It'd be stunning if Fulmer didn't become the first Tigers player to win the award since Verlander in 2006.

NL Rookie of the Year

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    Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

    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

    Corey Seager had this award wrapped up last month.

    With Colorado's Trevor Story (thumb surgery) likely out for the season and St. Louis' Aledmys Diaz (fractured thumb) sidelined since the end of July, the only way for Seager to lose this award would be if he...yeah, there's no possible way he's going to lose this award.

    Not only has Seager put up numbers worthy of Rookie of the Year recognition, hitting .316 with 24 home runs and a .912 OPS, but the 22-year-old has played his way into the NL MVP conversation as well.

AL Cy Young Award

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    Jason O. Watson/Getty Images

    The Field

    • Zach Britton, RP, Baltimore Orioles: 3-1
    • Corey Kluber, SP, Cleveland Indians: 5-1
    • Rick Porcello, SP, Boston Red Sox: 8-1
    • Justin Verlander, SP, Detroit Tigers: 8-1
    • Chris Sale, SP, Chicago White Sox: 8-1
    • Cole Hamels, SP, Texas Rangers: 11-1
    • Jose Quintana, SP, Chicago White Sox: 11-1
    • Aaron Sanchez, SP, Toronto Blue Jays: 11-1

    There's a distinct possibility that for the first time since CC Sabathia in 2007, the AL Cy Young Award winner will have an ERA over 3.00. That's not an indictment of the field as much a note of the lack of a true standout performance among a slew of starters.

    When it comes to closers, however, Zach Britton stands out above the rest. While his 0.65 ERA, 0.80 WHIP and AL-leading 40 saves are impressive, consider this: He's allowed one earned run since May 1. One. That works out to a 0.20 ERA over the past four-plus months of the season.

    For those uneasy about voting for a closer, there are a slew of quality starters to choose from, as only Cole Hamels and Jose Quintana, who each allowed seven earned runs in their respective first September starts, enter the stretch run on a down note.

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

    Max Scherzer looks to be well on his way to his second Cy Young Award over the past four years, having previously won in the American League while with Detroit in 2013.

    Over his last 22 starts, dating back to his 20-strikeout performance against Detroit on May 11, Scherzer has pitched to a 2.40 ERA and 0.82 WHIP with 197 strikeouts over 154 innings. He leads the majors in strikeouts (243) and sits atop the NL leaderboards in wins (16), innings pitched (197) and WHIP (0.92).

    Admittedly, the field looks odd without Clayton Kershaw, but the Dodgers ace has been out since late June due to a back injury. While he's set to return to action Friday, per the Los Angeles Times' Mike DiGiovanna, there's not enough time left in the season for him to catch the rest of the field.

    The same holds true for Scherzer's stiffest competition, baseball's ERA leader Kyle Hendricks (2.07 ERA), who lacks the gaudy strikeout totals voters tend to look for, and the always dangerous Madison Bumgarner, whose mediocre August and un-Bumgarner-like second-half 3.66 ERA make him look mortal.

AL MVP Award

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    Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

    The Field

    • Jose Altuve, 2B, Houston Astros: 3-1
    • 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: 12-1
    • David Ortiz, DH, Boston Red Sox: 12-1

    There might not be a more hotly contested race among the major awards than the one for AL MVP, where four legitimate candidates sit atop the field.

    Hitting .346 with an MLB-best 187 hits, Jose Altuve is on his way to leading the American League in hits for the third consecutive year and picking up his second AL batting crown since 2014. That he's become a legitimate run producer, with a career-best 22 home runs and 91 RBI, only adds to his appeal.

    But the Astros might find themselves out of the playoffs, which some voters will hold against the diminutive second baseman. The same holds true for the game's best player, Mike Trout, who will undoubtedly lose support because of the sorry state of the Los Angeles Angels.

    Josh Donaldson remains a threat to take home his second consecutive AL MVP Award thanks to his solid all-around play, but with a stacked field of contenders, Toronto's third baseman might find votes harder to come by than they were a season ago.

    All of that could open the door for Mookie Betts. Boston's 23-year-old outfielder is hitting .317 with a .913 OPS and has set career bests in home runs (30) and RBI (100) while leading MLB with 319 total bases.

    If Betts can stay hot in September and help carry the Red Sox to an AL East crown, he could overtake the rest of the field and take home the first major individual award of his career.

NL MVP Award

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    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 hits for average, hits for power, gets on base consistently and provides quality defense at multiple positions. Can you ask for more in an MVP? Not really, and that's why Bryant, the best player on the best team in baseball, heads into the home stretch as the favorite in the NL MVP race.

    That said, a hiccup by Bryant down the stretch could open the door for the rest of the field.

    Daniel Murphy is battling for a batting crown and leads the NL in both slugging percentage (.593) and OPS (.976), while Nolan Arenado is on pace to lead the Senior Circuit in home runs and RBI for the second straight season.

    Seager, the runaway pick as NL Rookie of the Year, has unquestionably been the most consistent bat in Los Angeles and has played a big part in placing the Dodgers atop the NL West standings. Anthony Rizzo, who is on track for his second straight 30-home run, 100-RBI season, could steal votes from his teammate.

    That said, it looks like Bryant is about to become the first player to go from Rookie of the Year to MVP since Boston's Dustin Pedroia accomplished the feat in 2008.

    Unless otherwise noted/linked, all statistics current through Monday's games and courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com, MLB.com and FanGraphs.

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