Plenty of awards remain up for grabs in final two weeks

Thursday September 12th, 2013

Clayton Kershaw has the NL Cy Young locked up and may yet grab the MVP from Pittsburgh's Andrew McCutchen.
Nick Wass/AP

With two weeks left in the regular season, there's a general consensus about who is going to win most of the major player awards -- Miguel Cabrera, Max Scherzer, Andrew McCutchen, Clayton Kershaw and Jose Fernandez -- but for me, the only honors that are completely in the bag are the National League Cy Young (for the Dodgers' Kershaw) and Rookie of the Year (for the Marlins' Fernandez). Cabrera's injury has thrown the American League MVP conversation back open, the NL MVP could still go to Kershaw, Scherzer is not my AL Cy Young leader and the AL Rookie of the Year award doesn't even have a clear frontrunner.

Note: All stats are through Wednesday, Sept. 11. League leaders are in bold, major league leaders in bold and italics. The number in parentheses after a player's name reflects his rank on the previous list. Rookies are players who, prior to the current season, had fewer than 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched in the majors or spent fewer than 45 days on the active roster prior to rosters expanding on Sept. 1.

Most Valuable Player

American League

1. Miguel Cabrera, 3B, Tigers (1)

Season Stats: .349/.442/.657, 43 HR, 133 RBI, 97 R

Since aggravating a lingering abdominal strain on an awkward slide into second base on Aug. 29, Cabrera has played past the sixth inning just five times over a dozen games and gone just 2-for-23 (.130) in that span without an extra-base hit. As a result, his batting average has dropped 10 points and his slugging percentage has fallen 26 points. His hopes of a second Triple Crown are dead with Chris Davis six homers ahead with just 16 games left. In fact, there's a better chance of Davis taking over the RBI lead (he's just five behind Cabrera, who has driven in a mere three runs in Detroit's last 12 games) than of Cabrera catching Davis in home runs.

In fact, if current trends continue, Mike Trout could pass Cabrera for the batting title, leaving Cabrera with a lead in none of the Triple Crown categories. Furthermore, there is a very real chance now that, if he finishes September as poorly as he started it, that abdominal injury could cost Cabrera an MVP award that he appeared to have locked up in August.

2. Mike Trout, CF, Angels (2)

Season Stats: .336/.437/.567, 23 HR, 84 RBI, 101 R, 32 SB

While Cabrera has been hobbled by his abdominal strain, Trout has hit .395/.536/.512 to run his batting line in 259 plate appearances since July 3 to .376/.510/.614. There's a very strong argument to be made that he has already surpassed Cabrera as this season's most valuable player. He now leads the majors in hits (180, tied with Manny Machado) and the American League in walks (93) and runs. He has reached base 292 times this season, more than any other player in baseball. He's second in the majors (to Cabrera) in batting average and on-base percentage and third behind Cabrera and Davis in slugging.

With the gap between his production at the plate and Cabrera's having closed over the past two weeks, the argument can once again be made that Trout's superiority in the field and on the bases more than covers the difference between the two offensively. The wins above replacement stats (according to bWAR, Trout is at 8.6 and Cabrera is at 6.8) certainly suggest that's the case. I'm inclined to agree, but I'm going to give Cabrera one more week before I take him out of the top spot.

3. Chris Davis, 1B, Orioles (3)

Season Stats: .295/.379/.653, 49 HR, 128 RBI, 98 R

Davis leads the majors with 339 total bases and when he hits his next home run, he'll become just the third player ever to have 50 home runs and 40 doubles in the same season. Albert Belle did it in in 1995 (50 HR, 52 2B), and Babe Ruth did it in 1921 (59 HR, 44 2B). It's a testament to Cabrera and Trout that Davis is having the season he is and is merely third on this list. It's easy to see why, though. Cabrera has been across-the-board better, and Trout has a 58-point advantage in on-base percentage even before you factor in defense and baserunning.

National League

1. Andrew McCutchen, CF, Pirates (1)

Season Stats: .326/.405/.519, 19 HR, 79 RBI, 27 SB

McCutchen leads the NL in the park-adjusted OPS+ (161) as well as in bWAR (7.6) among both hitters and pitchers. Since the start of August, he has hit .405/.503/.595, including a .469/.564/.781 line in September. I'm not immune to the excitement of the Pirates' first winning season in 20 years, but McCutchen tops my list because the combination of his hitting, fielding and baserunning -- isolated from the performances of his teammates -- has made him the most valuable player in the league.

2. Clayton Kershaw, LHP, Dodgers (2)

Season Stats: 14-8, 1.92 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, 8.7 K/9 (208 K), 4.16 K/BB, 7.2 IP/GS, 3 CG, 2 SHO, 185 ERA+

Kershaw allowed two runs in seven innings in his last start and his ERA went up. He allowed a combination of seven walks and hits in those seven innings and his WHIP went up. Because he completed "only" seven innings, his innings per start went down. That tells you a little about how good he has been. If McCutchen wasn't such an all-around stud, Kershaw would be an easy pick for MVP and Cy Young and it's not impossible for those two to switch positions in the final two weeks.

3. Matt Carpenter, 2B, Cardinals

Season Stats: .317.387/.482, 10 HR, 70 RBI, 114 R

Carpenter has hit .390/.457/.610 in September, leads the majors in runs scored and the NL in hits (177) and doubles (48). He has played an above-average second base while also filling in when needed at third base and making starts (albeit just one each) at first base and in rightfield. He also plays in a much tougher home park for hitters than Joey Votto, Paul Goldschmidt and Carlos Gomez, his top rivals for this spot, the last of whom has a mere .333 on-base percentage. None of those four, however, has much chance of passing McCutchen or Kershaw in this race.

Cy Young

American League

1. Chris Sale, LHP, White Sox (2)

Season Stats: 11-12, 2.90 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 9.5 K/9 (207 K), 5.05 K/BB, 7.2 IP/GS, 4 CG, 1 SHO, 150 ERA+

2. Max Scherzer, RHP, Tigers (1)

Season Stats: 19-3, 3.01 ERA, 0.96 WHIP, 10.0 K/9 (215 K), 4.48 K/BB, 6.7 IP/GS, 139 ERA+

Scherzer has long led the majors in wins but he finally reached the top spot on this list last week on the strength of the numbers to the right of his win-loss record above. Over his last three starts, though, he has gone 0-2 with a 6.19 ERA to let Sale slip past him. If you cover up their records (and I always do when ranking Cy Young candidates, as wins and losses are a purely vestigial part of the season stats listed above), it's pretty easy to see why I've got Sale above Scherzer.

Sale, who missed two starts in late May, has thrown more total innings than Scherzer and in contrast to Scherzer's slump, Sale has gone 2-0 with a 1.54 ERA over his last three starts. His record isn't great but if he goes 2-0 in his final three starts, he'll have the exact same mark that Felix Hernandez had when he won the Cy Young in 2010 (13-12). Scherzer is still going to win this award, but as of right now, Sale is more deserving of it.

3. Yu Darvish, RHP, Rangers (3)

Season Stats: 12-8, 2.84 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 11.9 K/9 (246 K), 3.67 K/BB, 6.7 IP/GS, 146 ERA+

Darvish is third in the AL in the park-adjusted ERA+ (Anibal Sanchez, who effectively missed a month earlier in the season, leads with a 160 mark) and is putting together one of the great strikeout seasons of all-time as measured by strikeouts per nine innings. Darvish's 11.9 K/9 is the third highest rate by a qualified starting pitcher not named Randy Johnson in major league history (behind Pedro Martinez's 13.2 in 1999 and Kerry Wood's 12.6 in 1998) and ninth-all time with Johnson included. His five games with 14 or more strikeouts is already tied for the sixth-most ever with only Johnson and Nolan Ryan having six or more such games in a season.

Darvish also has a solid chance of running up the highest strikeout total since Johnson struck out 290 in 2004. He needs 24 more to pass Justin Verlander's 2009 total of 269 and will have three more starts, the last of which will come against an Astros team he has thoroughly dominated this year.

National League

1. Clayton Kershaw, LHP, Dodgers (1)

Season Stats: 14-8, 1.92 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, 8.7 K/9 (208 K), 4.16 K/BB, 7.2 IP/GS, 3 CG, 2 SHO, 185 ERA+

The black ink above pretty much says it all. In addition to those bold marks, he leads the majors with 216 innings pitched. The next two men on this list won't reach 180.

2. Matt Harvey, RHP, Mets (2)

Season Stats: 9-5, 2.27 ERA, 0.93 WHIP, 9.6 K/9 (191 K), 6.16 K/BB, 6.9 IP/GS, 1 SHO, 158 ERA+

3. Jose Fernandez, RHP, Marlins (3)

Season Stats: 12-6, 2.19 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, 9.7 K/9 (187 K), 3.22 K/BB, 6.2 IP/GS, 177 ERA+

Harvey and Fernandez are both done for the year, Harvey due to a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament and Fernandez to a team-imposed innings limit. Harvey threw 178 1/3 innings in 26 starts. Fernandez threw 172 2/3 innings in 28 starts. They are not contenders for this award, they are merely runners-up, but they were so dominant that for now they demand inclusion in the top three over a small group of less consistent veterans with higher innings totals.

Rookie of the Year

American League

1. Chris Archer, RHP, Rays (1)

Season Stats: 8-7, 3.19 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 6.3 K/9, 2.26 K/BB, 5.8 IP/GS, 2 SHO, 120 ERA+

It's obviously incorrect to say that nobody wants to win this award, but it's also pretty clear at this point that whoever wins it is going to do so by default. Archer had a great July (4-0, 0.73 ERA, two shutouts), but has gone 4-7 with a 4.44 ERA in his other 14 starts, including giving up seven runs in 7 2/3 innings over his last two, both losses. Normally a rookie who spent the first two months of the season in the minors would have to be more impressive to win this award. Not this year.

2. Jose Iglesias, SS, Tigers

Season Stats: .317/.362/.405, 3 HR, 29 RBI

The average major league shortstop has hit .255/.308/.373 this season. Iglesias has been far more productive at the plate, and above-average in the field as well. That his production is all empty batting average inflated by luck on balls in play is irrelevant to this race. Besides, Iglesias has kept his production above average as a Tiger, hitting .293/.333/.398 since being traded from the Red Sox in the three-way Jake Peavy deal.

If Iglesias manages to win this award, he'd be just the second man ever to win one of the three major player awards in a season in which he was traded, joining 1984 NL Cy Young recipient Rick Sutcliffe who was traded from the Indians to the Cubs on June 13 of that year. Sutcliffe, who went 16-1 for Chicago, had the advantage of leaving a 5.15 ERA behind in the other league. Iglesias would thus be the first player to win one of these awards as a result of his performance for two teams.

3. Martin Perez, LHP, Rangers (3)

Season Stats: 9-4, 3.60 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 5.9 K/9, 2.32 K/BB, 6.3 IP/GS, 1 CG, 115 ERA+

Perez snapped a personal six-game winning streak on Tuesday when he gave up four runs in five innings to the Pirates and took his first loss since July 21. He's still 6-1 with a 2.96 ERA over his last eight starts, Meanwhile, Wil Myers' power outage continues; the Rays outfielder has had only six extra-base hits since Aug. 16.

National League

1. Jose Fernandez, RHP, Marlins (1)

Season Stats: 12-6, 2.19 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, 9.7 K/9 (187 K), 3.22 K/BB, 6.2 IP/GS, 177 ERA+

In his final three starts, Fernandez went 5-for-8 with a triple and a home run to become the only pitcher in the majors this season to have a double a triple and a homer. Thanks to that flurry, he finished the season with a .220/.216/.340 batting line. For context, opponents hit just .182/.257/.265 against him all year.

Fernandez's 6.3 bWAR this season ties former Red Gary Nolan for the fifth-best total by a pitcher 20-years old or younger, behind three Hall of Famers and Dwight Gooden, who did it in his remarkable 1985. Fernandez is second in the majors among all pitchers in ERA and ERA+, third in strikeouts per nine innings and fourth in WHIP. The last pitcher to qualify for the ERA title in his first major league season and post an ERA+ higher than Fernandez's was Cleveland's Vean Gregg in 1911, meaning no one has done it in the liveball era. What Fernandez just completed Wednesday night was one of the greatest rookie seasons of all time. That it ended two weeks early should have no negative impact on his chances of winning this award.

2. Yasiel Puig, RF, Dodgers (2)

Season Stats: .340/.404/.556, 16 HR, 36 RBI, 59 R

Puig has three home runs in eight September starts, which is as many home runs as he hit in all of August or July, but he's batting only .258 in those eight games. Still, his OPS+ of 169 is the highest for any first-year player with at least 350 plate appearances since Frank Fennelly's 182 in 1884.

3. Julio Teheran, RHP, Braves (3)

Season Stats: 12-7, 3.05 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 8.3 K/9 (154 K), 3.42 K/BB, 6.2 IP/GS, 127 ERA+

Teheran is having an excellent season, but not a historic one, which makes him an also-ran despite the fact that he ranks above other strong seasons by Shelby Miller, Hyun-jin Ryu and Tony Cingrani.

SI Apps
We've Got Apps Too
Get expert analysis, unrivaled access, and the award-winning storytelling only SI can provide - from Peter King, Tom Verducci, Lee Jenkins, Seth Davis, and more - delivered straight to you, along with up-to-the-minute news and live scores.