David Lennon is an award-winning columnist and author who has been a staff writer at Newsday since 1991.
The playoff races may still need another week to sort themselves out, but as we wait on that tangled mess, let's get a jump on the individual award winners for this season -- or at least the ones determined by the Baseball Writers Association of America. Usually, I have to abstain from one of these categories, in order to keep my own ballot a secret until the awards officially are announced in early November. But with the BBWAA assignments rotating every year, it's my turn to be skipped this season, which leaves me free and clear to give all of my picks.
Just to make it more fun, I've also included the player or manager I forecast to win the award back at the All-Star break. These are only predictions, of course. The BBWAA ballots aren't due until Sept. 30, but the results are not revealed until the first two weeks of November. Anyway, cue the drum roll and on with the debates:
(Stats entering Friday's games)
American League MVP
Miguel Cabrera (Cabrera): Can't say that I've missed the old-school/new-school rock-fight that developed last year when Cabrera's Triple Crown was considered obsolete in comparison to the WAR-trumpeted champion, Mike Trout. Both are MVP-caliber players, and Trout again leads the AL with a 10.2 WAR, or wins above replacement rating. Start the name-calling if you must, but we'll go with Cabrera, who again was the force for the first-place Tigers with 44 homers, 134 RBIs and 101 runs. His .347/.444/.651 is pretty fearsome, too.
Honorable Mentions: In addition to Trout, Chris Davis' 1.013 OPS to go with his MLB-leading 51 homers has powered the Orioles' playoff hopes and Josh Donaldson (.304/.385./504) is earning some late attention for the surging A's. A case could be made for Robinson Cano (.899 OPS) as the lone offensive threat to prop up the depleted Yankees from wire-to-wire.
National League MVP
Paul Goldschmidt (Goldschmidt): It takes a special year for a team to finish out of the playoffs and still boast of the MVP, but that's what Goldschmidt has done for the Diamondbacks, who got cannonballed by the Dodgers in the second half. Not only is he the NL's OPS leader (.961), Goldschmidt is tops in homers (34), RBIs (119) and third in runs. When you consider that Arizona is fourth in the NL in runs (647) and didn't have another player in the same area code as Goldschmidt offensively, it rustles up some votes.
Honorable Mentions: Tough break for Andrew McCutchen, the NL's WAR leader (8.0) who has done everything but record a cover of "We Are Family" in getting the Pirates their first winning season since 1992. Got to figure Yadier Molina is another favorite for runner-up and how bout that Carlos Gomez? Remember him?
American League Cy Coung
Max Scherzer (Felix Hernandez): Now that pitcher wins are right up there with A-Rod and rainouts as the most hated things in baseball, some will punch holes in Scherzer's candidacy based on the relative importance of the ol' 20-win chestnut. Well, we still think it's cool, along with his 200-plus innings, 2.95 ERA and 227 strikeouts.
Honorable mentions: The BBWAA already has shown its forward thinking by making King Felix the runway winner in 2010 despite a 13-12 record. So this year, there's Yu Darvish (13-9), the AL leader with 260 strikeouts and BAA (.192). Scherzer's teammate, Anibal Sanchez, is a threat to him as well.
National League Cy Young
Clayton Kershaw (Kershaw): At this rate, the trophy might be up for a name change in another few years. Kershaw is on pace for his second Cy in three years, after a second-place finish in 2012 to R.A. Dickey, and perhaps the most stunning thing about his season is how the heck he's only 14-9 for a team like the Dodgers. With 223 innings pitched, 214 strikeouts, and a 1.94 ERA, he remains a steamroller.
Honorable Mentions: How great would it have been for Matt Harvey to win and then dedicate it to Qualcomm? With his season getting cut short, we'll never know. The closest contenders to Kershaw -- and it's not THAT close -- are super-rook Jose Fernandez and Adam Wainwright.
American League Rookie of the Year
Wil Myers (Leonys Martin): When you're traded for James Shields, there's got to be some big upside, and Myers has played as advertised since the Rays promoted him on June 18. He leads AL rookies with 13 homers and 49 RBIs, and is second with a .300 batting average, trailing Jose Iglesias (.310). Only four players in the last 50 years have led all rookies in those three categories: Trout (2012), Nomar Garciaparra (1997), Curt Blefary ('65) and Tony Oliva ('64).
Honorable Mentions: Iglesias already was on everyone's radar while in Boston, but now he's shining for another World Series contender in Detroit. A slick defender at shortstop, Iglesias has developed faster than expected at the plate with a .751 OPS. Myers' teammate, Chris Archer, has a 3.02 ERA in 21 starts.
National League Rookie of the Year
Jose Fernandez (Shelby Miller): We figured Puig-mania would cool some, and it did, for a variety of reasons. But it's not like Fernandez backed into this award, either. Take away Kershaw, and there's a good chance he'd be going home with a pair of trophies this November. Fernandez went 12-6 with 187 strikeouts in 172 2/3 innings and opponents batted .180 against him.
Honorable Mentions: Puig will challenge Fernandez, and with a slash line of .332/.401/.546, as well as 17 homers, he's by far the biggest offensive threat. But don't sleep on Shelby Miller (9.04 K/9, 3.01 ERA), Julio Teheran or Hyun-Jin Ryu.
American League Manager of the Year
Joe Girardi (John Farrell): You like symmetry? When Girardi won the MOY in 2006, he did it with a Marlins team that was so bad on paper the voters were blown away he got them to finish six games below .500 (78-84). Girardi again deserves big props for his work with a (likely) non-playoff club because most of its $200-million payroll barely played. He also dealt with the A-Rod drama and got what he could from a rotating roster that used 55 players.
Honorable Mentions: There was only so much credit we could give Farrell when his primary job was not to be Bobby Valentine. Bob Melvin has a shot to repeat, but that only happened in 2004-05 (Bobby Cox).
National League Manager of the Year
Clint Hurdle (Hurdle): What else is there to say about what's going on in Pittsburgh? Shaking off a collapse can be one of the hardest things to do in team sports, and Hurdle kept the Pirates on track not only for their first winning record in 20 seasons, but an almost certain playoff berth as well in the ultracompetitive NL Central.
Honorable Mentions: Don Mattingly was a dead manager walking in late June, when the $216-million Dodgers had sunk to 31-42 and were 9 1/2 games in back of Arizona. But after clinching the division this week, Mattingly has the Dodgers positioned to deliver LA's first title since 1988 -- and incredibly, to earn his first World Series ring.