This isn't about who should win; there's still plenty of time for me to rant and rave about that. But based on what we know of those wacky, zany voters and their rationalizing, usually wrong-headed tendencies, if the season ended today, who would win? I think it's a tighter field than normal for at least four of the six main awards, so it's an interesting question right now. Here are my guesses:
NL MVP: Albert Pujols, Cardinals.
Might as well start with the easy one, huh? It's impossible to make an argument against Albert, even one of the silly irrational not-at-all-individual-performance-based arguments people often try to make. As I said yesterday, a competing D-Backs team might throw Mark Reynolds into the mix, and a slide out of contention by the Cards might throw just about everybody into the mix, but for now, this is Al's to lose. He leads the league in games played, runs scored, home runs, RBI, OBP, SLG, and OPS, OPS+. He's fourth in batting average--currently 21 points behind Hanley, but a triple crown is about as much in play right now as it's been in 40 years. I don't believe anybody could screw this one up.
AL MVP: Jason Bartlett, Rays.
And then right away it gets interesting. WAR will tell you it's one of Bartlett's teammates, Longoria or Zobrist. But neither has a high batting average--they're just stellar offensive and defensive players, that's all. Longoria does have the high RBI total (2nd in the league), but he'll have to get that average above .280 to have a real shot. Next on the WAR list is Joe Mauer, and note that WAR doesn't give catchers any credit (or demerits) for defense, because of the difficulty measuring it; Mauer is universally hailed as a very good or great defensive catcher, so that would probably have bumped him up to first. But he missed a month, and might win a batting title but won't hit 35 HR or rack up 100 runs or RBI. His teammate Justin Morneau is hitting well over .300, near the top in HR and RBI, and legitimately the second-best hitter in the league after Mauer, so he probably wins if the Twins win the division...but I'm sitting here watching them get blowed up by the Royals, and I don't think that's likely.
So I'm going with Bartlett (actually the fourth Ray in WAR, also behind Carl Crawford). We know the writers love him; he's one of those scrappy little guys, and the Tampa writers voted him Rays MVP last year, when he was just plain terrible. This year he's hitting .340 with a 142 OPS+, 11 homers and 21 steals, and he's perceived as a great defensive shortstop (though UZR thinks that passed him by two years ago). Dustin Pedroia took the award last year with less (superficially) impressive credentials than that. If the Rays fade, I think the Yanks' Mark Teixeira takes it.
NL Cy Young: Tim Lincecum, Giants.
This should be another easy one. Lincecum has a 2.20 ERA and also leads in complete games, shutouts and strikeouts. But Adam Wainwright and Johan Santana both have 13 "wins" to Lincecum's 12, and Wainwright has a pretty ERA too. If one of those two somehow gets to 20 wins and Lincecum is at 16 or 17, they'll steal it from him (which would be a kind of poetic justice if it were Santana, since Colon stole one from him in exactly the same fashion in 2005). Luckily, that's not likely at this point. Lincecum's teammate Matt Cain has a shot to take it, too, but probably only if Lincecum falters or is injured.
AL Cy Young: Josh Beckett, Red Sox.
The league's two best pitchers, Halladay and Greinke, pitch for teams that aren't likely to get a lot of wins from here on out, though they're both very much still in the race for this award, especially Halladay. Beckett already leads with 13 "wins," pitches for a pretty good team, and has a solid ERA. If he picks up 5 more "wins" I think he takes it. It's pretty open, though. Verlander, Buehrle and even Sabathia have outside shots.
NL Rookie of the Year: Dexter Fowler, Rockies.
There are some pitchers who have really strong claims to this award, but it takes a lot for them to give it to a pitcher, and none of those guys has been a full-time starter all year. Fowler has been up all year, and he's played almost all of the Rockies' games. He's got a respectable batting average and OBP, and he's stolen 26 bases, including 5 in one game early in the season. I think he takes it, though pitchers J.A. Happ of the Phillies and Tommy Hanson of Atlanta have solid claims.
AL Rookie of the Year: Jeff Niemann, Rays.
The AL has no Dexter Fowler. No rookie has played enough that they would currently qualify for the batting title, and none of the ones who have played significant time have played particularly well. The White Sox' Chris Getz has a .268 average and 18 steals in 20 tries, but...well, ew. The Rangers' Elvis Andrus has been phenomenal, but it's all defense, and the voters don't know from defense. Niemann walks too many and strikes out too few for a guy who looks so much like Randy Johnson, but he has 10 "wins" and a good 3.73 ERA. He and the Jays' Ricky Romero (also 10 and a 3.66, but I feel better about Niemann for some reason) probably have the best shot.
So really, five of the six are pretty much up in the air right now, or so it looks to me. Tell me what I'm missing...
2 hours ago