The calendar has flipped to September, and that means much is at stake in the world of baseball.
To be sure, it will be a clarifying month, and 30-odd days from now, we’ll know which eight teams will vie for the World Series. We’ll also have a better grasp on which individuals figure to nab the hardware at season’s end.
On that point, let’s take a look at the award candidates and, as things stand now, which players and managers are leading the chase. What follows is more reading the tea leaves than saying who deserves to win. After all, as history has taught us so many times, who wins and who deserves to win aren’t always the same person.
So here’s the awards forecast for this season …
Projected winner: Josh Hamilton, Rangers
Narrowly, Robinson Cano has been the best player in the AL this season, and he’s certainly a strong candidate for MVP hosannas. However, it’s Hamilton, also a worthy candidate, who’s in the lead heading into September. Hamilton has a comfortable lead in the batting title race, and he’s also on pace for 38 homers, 49 doubles and 120 RBI. There’s also the power of his personal narrative, and that’s bound to have some appeal for the voters. He’s the favorite, so long as his ailing knee holds up.
Also in the mix: Miguel Cabrera, Tigers; Robinson Cano, Yankees
Projected winner: Joey Votto, Reds
Votto leads the NL in OPS, and he also has legitimate designs on a Triple Crown. As well, the Reds have roughly a 90 percent chance of making the postseason, and that means Votto will be in position to satisfy those voters who, for reasons sufficient only unto themselves, hold MVP candidates accountable for the performance of their teammates. Still, you can indeed make a compelling case that Votto is the best player in the NL this season, so he’s a worthy — and likely — choice.
Also in the mix: Albert Pujols, Cardinals
AL Cy Young
Projected winner: CC Sabathia, Yankees
As we know, voters are usually drawn to wins, strikeouts and low ERAs, and Sabathia meets all three criteria. Has he been the AL’s best, though? No. If you’re looking for the American League hurler who’s provided the most value this season, then Seattle’s Felix Hernandez is your guy. He leads the AL in innings and strikeouts and ranks second in ERA. Of course, the writers aren’t going to give the Cy to a starter with a .500 record, however nonsensical such a stance may be. Sabathia, it must be said, is having a fine season, and if he remains on target for a 22-6 record, the writers will likely reward him.
Also in the mix: Clay Buchholz, Red Sox; Trevor Cahill, A’s; Felix Hernandez, Mariners; Cliff Lee, Rangers; David Price, Rays; Jered Weaver, Angels
NL Cy Young
Projected winner: Roy Halladay, Phillies
This one figures to be a photo finish. Halladay currently paces the NL in innings, ranks a close third in ERA, and trails Adam Wainwright and Ubaldo Jimenez by only one win. Halladay right now offers the best combination of what voters tend to look for. There’s little separation, though. Halladay’s stiffest competition may come from Tim Hudson.
Also in the mix: Tim Hudson, Braves; Ubaldo Jimenez, Rockies; Josh Johnson, Marlins; Mat Latos, Padres; Adam Wainwright, Cardinals
AL Rookie of the Year
Projected winner: Austin Jackson, Tigers
Jackson is batting over .300, and he steals bases and plays a nifty center field. He’s also recovered from a midseason slump, and it’s also worth noting the AL crop of rookies this season isn’t especially impressive.
Also in the mix: Daniel Bard, Red Sox
NL Rookie of the Year
Projected winner: Jaime Garcia, Cardinals
Garcia will log a qualifying number of innings this season, perhaps finish in the top five in ERA and might win 15 games. That’s impressive for a rookie, and that’s why he leads a fairly crowded field. He deserves it, too. Of course, if the Cardinals drift further from contention, they may yield to Garcia’s injury history and shut him down as a precautionary measure. That would perhaps make Jason Heyward the new favorite. For now, though, give Garcia the slight edge.
Also in the mix: Starlin Castro, Cubs; Jason Heyward, Braves; Jon Niese, Mets, Buster Posey, Giants; Gaby Sanchez, Marlins
AL Manager of the Year
Projected winner: Ron Washington, Rangers
There’s certainly nothing wrong with giving the award to Washington, who has been a steady hand in Arlington this season, but when it comes to defying expectations, no one can match the job Cito Gaston has done with the Blue Jays. Despite the trade of Roy Halladay and a brutal schedule, Toronto is on target for a winning season, and that reflects quite well on Gaston.
Also in the mix: Cito Gaston, Blue Jays; Joe Maddon, Rays
NL Manager of the Year
Projected winner: Bud Black, Padres
This is not a difficult call. None but the most starry-eyed of Padre homers foresaw such a season. The Padres have been the surprise team of 2010, and that means Black is the logical and correct choice for the award. So long as the current losing streak ends, of course …