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MLB Awards Watch - Third Quarter

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We have reached the home stretch of the major league baseball season. With just six weeks left in the season - a scant 40 games or so - the contenders have begun to separate themselves from the pretenders in MLB's assorted awards races.

And so I am once again revisiting my choices for MVP, Cy Young and Rookie in the Year in both leagues. My picks from the season's halfway mark will also be included so that we might see how much I've gotten right (a bit) and what I've gotten wrong (rather more).

American League

MVP - Jacoby Ellsbury, Boston Red Sox

This might look like a homer pick, especially since an argument could be made that Ellsbury isn't even the best center fielder in his division (New York's Curtis Granderson is having a monster year), but hear me out. The truth is that there might not be a more dynamic player than Ellsbury in the entire league. Look at the numbers; Ellsbury is in the top-10 in batting average, doubles and steals. He's also got 20 home runs and plays what most rating systems consider some of the best outfield defense in the league. It's a tenuous pick - Granderson, Dustin Pedroia or midseason pick Jose Bautista would all be solid choices. Still, I've got a hunch on this one.

(Midseason pick - Jose Bautista, Toronto Blue Jays)

Cy Young - Justin Verlander, Detroit Tigers

While this one looked like a bit of a slugfest at midseason, a pair of contenders has separated themselves from the pack. Angels pitcher Jered Weaver has been dominant - he leads the league in ERA - but Justin Verlander will not be denied. Not only does he lead the league in wins with 17, but he's putting up elite peripheral numbers as well. He leads the league with 196 strikeouts and a phenomenal WHIP of 0.87, while sporting an ERA of 2.35 that sits second only to Weaver. Throw in his no-hitter from earlier this season and it looks like, barring a complete meltdown, Justin Verlander will cruise to the 2011 Cy Young.

(Midseason pick - Verlander)

Rookie of the Year - Jeremy Hellickson, Tampa Bay Rays

This might be a bit of a reach, but it looks like Seattle's Michael Pineda, my year-long favorite for the award, might be getting shut down a bit early by the team. If that happens, look for Hellickson to leapfrog Pineda for the win. While Hellickson's strikeout numbers pale in comparison to Pineda's, his ERA is better and since he pitches for a better team, he has a better shot at grabbing another couple of wins. He's got 10 now - if he gets to 13 or 14, the voters will likely reward him.

(Midseason pick - Michael Pineda, Seattle Mariners)

National League

MVP - Ryan Braun, Milwaukee Brewers

While Matt Kemp of the Dodgers might be putting up the most impressive numbers in the league, the team is sinking fast and mired hopelessly out of contention. Braun's numbers are almost as strong - 22 homers, 22 steals, a batting average of .326 - along with the bonus of being a vital part of a playoff contender and defense that, while not spectacular, is head and shoulders above Kemp's ham-fisted efforts. His production and leadership are a large part of the team's success, giving him the edge over Kemp and other big producers such as Cincinnati's Joey Votto and the currently-injured Jose Reyes of the Mets.

(Midseason pick - Matt Kemp, Los Angeles Dodgers)

Cy Young Award - Roy Halladay, Philadelphia Phillies

There are a couple of pitchers who have seasons approximating what Halladay has done thus far - LA pitcher Clayton Kershaw, Halladay's teammates Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee - but at the end of the day, it's hard to beat Halladay's hand. He leads the league in wins and sits third in ERA. He's also fourth in strikeouts. Combine all of that with his extremely solid (and deserved) reputation and his position as ace of the team with the best record in the National League and you've got a no-brainer. There's no one out there who brings the combination of skill, stamina and determination to the mound that Halladay brings.

(Midseason pick - Halladay)

Rookie of the Year - Craig Kimbrel, Atlanta Braves

With apologies to Kimbrel's teammate Freddie Freeman, with his 16 homers and .295 average, it seems unlikely that anyone other than Kimbrel takes this one home. With a league-leading 36 saves, a sub-2 ERA and over 90 strikeouts in less than 60 innings, Kimbrel is as dominating a closer as there is in the league right now and a significant part of Atlanta's playoff hopes. One thing is for certain - the Rookie of the Year award is heading to Atlanta this season.

(Midseason pick - Kimbrel)

Last modified on Wednesday, 14 December 2011 14:27

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