With about a month left in the regular season, a list of who are likely to be the winners of baseball’s top awards (statistics through Sept. 4):
1. Justin Upton, Arizona Diamondbacks. A five-tool star who has carried a team that has zoomed from worst to first this season in the NL West. Upton leads the Diamondbacks in every major offensive category and has emerged as a pretty good right fielder.
2. Ryan Braun, Milwaukee Brewers. The Hebrew Hammer will likely split a lot of the votes with teammate Prince Fielder. But the left fielder deserves the nod because he has emerged as a more well-rounded player, hitting for average and power. He has also stolen 31 bases, a career high.
3. Shane Victorino, Philadelphia Phillies. The Phillies have an abundance of MVP candidates but Victorino, as the best position player on baseball’s best team, has been the most consistent performer. Now 30, the power numbers have started to fill out for the speedy centre fielder.
1. Roy Halladay, Philadelphia Phillies. The stoic right-hander is likely to win his second consecutive Cy Young in what will be a tight race. His stats compare favourably to last season and his winning percentage (16-5 overall) is the best it’s been in years. Halladay leads in complete games (seven) and his earned-run average (2.49) is third best overall.
2. Ian Kennedy, Arizona Diamondbacks. Kennedy has shot into contention with a dominating season and is leading the NL with 18 wins. And if strong finishes mean anything Kennedy is headed in the right direction, going 5-1 with a 2.31 ERA in August. None too shabby pitching under the intense pressure of a pennant race.
3. Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers. Okay, he’s playing for a losing team. But the award tends to be handed out more on individual merit and Kershaw’s season is up there with the best of them – 17-5 including an 11-2 burst over his past 14 starts with a 1.68 ERA.
Rookie of the year
1. Craig Kimbrel, Atlanta Braves. There’s no other option. Case closed. A microscopic 1.57 ERA and a major leagues-leading 42 saves on the team with the best bullpen in baseball should render this a one-horse race. Need more evidence? How about the fact that the right-handed reliever hasn’t allowed a run since June 11.
2. Vance Worley, Philadelphia Phillies. It can be hard to make an impact on a rotation loaded with aces, but Worley has done just that. As a starter, the 23-year-old is 10-1 with a 2.85 ERA. Now that Roy Oswalt has returned to the lineup the debate in Philly is, who is the team’s fourth starter heading into the playoffs?
3. Freddie Freeman, Atlanta Braves. Freeman ranks first among NL rookies with his batting average, .291, and in hits, 142. He’s No. 2 with 18 home runs. A 20-game consecutive hitting streak earlier this season, in which he hit .402 with an on-base percentage of .444, helped put the 21-year-old on the map.
1. Curtis Granderson , New York Yankees. How can you not like a guy who is leading the majors in runs batted in (107), runs scored (125), extra-base hits (68) and is second in total bases (291)? And don’t forget the 38 home runs. The .271 batting average could scare off some voters.
2. Jose Bautista, Toronto Blue Jays. Unless he can put together a monster finish, the Blue Jays’ right fielder – despite leading the league in five major offensive categories, including home runs with 40 – will not get the nod. Only two players in the past 20 years in the AL have won the MVP playing for non-playoff teams.
3. Jacoby Ellsbury, Boston Red Sox. His biggest hurdle could be winning the vote from some of his own teammates. Ellsbury has bounced back from a forgettable 2010 season with solid numbers across the board, including home runs (24), batting average (.312), and 36 stolen bases.
1. Justin Verlander, Detroit Tigers. Verlander leads the AL in wins (21), innings pitched (223), strikeouts (224) and opponents’ batting average (.192), most of the categories considered for Cy Young candidacy. He could even wind up as MVP.
2. CC Sabathia, New York Yankees. In other years Sabathia’s numbers would be good enough to win. His 19 wins rank second to Verlander and his 211 strikeouts is the AL’s second-highest total. Pitching in the competitive AL East is one argument in his favour until you note that Sabathia has gone 1-4 against Boston this year.
3. Jered Weaver, Los Angeles Angels. Weaver was in the running earlier in the month when his ERA was a minuscule 1.78. But Weaver blowed up real good in an 11-2 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays and his ERA is currently 2.49 – second to only Verlander but not good enough to sway the majority of the vote.
Rookie of the year
1. Mark Trumbo, Los Angeles Angels. The first baseman leads all AL rookies in home runs (25) and RBIs (77) and is second in batting average (.255). When you consider that Trumbo will make $441,000 (U.S.) this year and his offensive numbers dwarf those of teammate Vernon Wells (19, 53, .221), who will make $23-million, he deserves the award on that alone.
2. Jeremy Hellickson, Tampa Bay Rays. The right-hander is 12-10, which leads all major-league rookies. A solid 2.90 ERA also doesn’t hurt.
3. J.P. Arencibia, Toronto Blue Jays. His strikeout totals and puny batting average aren’t great. But there’s no question that the 25-year-old catcher has excelled in his first season playing the game’s most difficult position. His 20 home runs and 66 RBIs rank him top four among all major-league catchers.