Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw, left, and slugger Matt Kemp are contenders… (Photos by Lawrence K. Ho…)
And the winners are …
One reporter's opinion about how the voting for baseball's most prestigious postseason awards should go (statistics through Thursday's games):
MVP: Curtis Granderson, New York Yankees -- This is a deep field with at least a half-dozen candidates. The Yankees would still be potent without Granderson, but it's hard to ignore his numbers. He has scored 134 runs -- 19 more than anyone else in baseball -- and leads the league with 119 runs batted in, is second with 41 home runs, has 24 stolen bases and played a stellar center field. 2. Adrian Gonzalez, Boston; 3. Jacoby Ellsbury, Boston.
Cy Young: Justin Verlander, Detroit -- This should be a landslide. The right-hander went into Saturday's start leading the AL in each of the Triple Crown categories with 24 wins, 244 strikeouts and a 2.29 earned-run average, and he also leads the league with 244 innings, 28 quality starts and a 0.91 walks plus hits per inning pitched. Oh, and he threw a no-hitter. 2. Jered Weaver, Angels; 3. James Shields, Tampa Bay.
Rookie of the year: Mark Trumbo, Angels -- This race figures to be close. The Yankees' Ivan Nova is 16-4, but his average run support of 8.94 is the highest in baseball. Tampa Bay's Jeremy Hellickson has won 13 games with a 2.90 ERA, but he has a poor strikeout-to-walk ratio. Trumbo has kept the Angels in contention by leading the team with 29 home runs and 87 RBIs. 2. Nova; 3. Eric Hosmer, Kansas City.
Manager of the year: Ron Washington, Texas -- He has never received the credit he deserves for turning around the Rangers, who have put together the most successful three-year stretch since the team moved to Texas in 1972. This year, he worked around several injuries that left him without his preferred lineup in more than two-thirds of Texas' games. 2. Joe Maddon, Tampa Bay; 3. Jim Leyland, Detroit.
MVP: Matt Kemp, Dodgers -- Some voters will no doubt penalize Kemp because he played on a poor team. But with absolutely no protection in the lineup, he still ranks in the NL's top three in the Triple Crown categories. He leads the league with 37 home runs, 110 runs, 119 RBIs, 339 total bases and is second with 40 stolen bases and a slugging percentage of .584. He also led all NL center fielders with 11 assists. 2. Ryan Braun, Milwaukee; 3. Prince Fielder, Milwaukee.
Cy Young: Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers -- Like Kemp, Kershaw's numbers didn't mean much in terms of the pennant race. But how can you ignore his leading the league with a 2.27 ERA, 242 strikeouts and the 20 wins that has him tied for the league lead with Arizona's Ian Kennedy. 2. Kennedy 3. Cliff Lee, Philadelphia
Rookie of the year: Craig Kimbrel, Atlanta -- Without Kimbrel's league-best 46 saves it's unlikely the Braves would still be fighting for a postseason berth. Kimbrel went nearly three months without giving up a run. 2. Vance Worley, Philadelphia; 3. Brandon Beachy, Atlanta.
Manager of the year: Kirk Gibson, Arizona -- Gibson took over the Diamondbacks at midseason last year and watched the team finish last in the NL West with the second-worst record in the league. This year, they're division champions with the third-best record in the league. 2. Ron Roenicke, Milwaukee; 3. Fredi Gonzalez, Atlanta.