The major postseason awards typically are won in the second half, when pennant race games are considered to be "more important" and voters more easily recall big hits in September than the ones in April and May.
When I made my midseason picks last season, for instance, eventual winners Alex Rodriguez (American League MVP), Roy Halladay (AL Cy Young), Angel Berroa (AL Rookie) and Eric Gagne (National League Cy Young) were not even on my ballot. Don't think of this year's version of the midseason awards as predictions. Rather, following the ballot the Baseball Writers Association of America uses, I've picked the major awards based only on first-half performance. I guarantee they won't all end up this way.
1. Barry Bonds, LF, Giants 2. Scott Rolen, 3B, Cardinals 3. Jim Thome, 1B, Phillies 4. Sean Casey, 1B, Reds 5. Albert Pujols, 1B, Cardinals 6. Lance Berkman, OF, Astros 7. Mike Lowell, 3B, Marlins 8. Bobby Abreu, RF, Phillies 9. J.D. Drew, RF, Braves 10. Adrian Beltre, 3B, Dodgers
Putting up a great season for a contending team in the NL these days is a bit like playing your best golf during Tiger Woods' run of victories in majors or, as John Stockton and Karl Malone can attest to, playing great basketball during the Chicago Bulls' dynasty. It's just too darn hard to win as long as Bonds continues to be the most feared hitter in baseball history.
Rolen has been spectacular at the plate, in the field and on the bases for the first-place Cardinals. But like last year, when teammate Pujols had 34 more RBIs than Bonds and still finished second in the MVP voting, Rolen likely won't be named MVP as long as the Giants are a postseason team. Bonds wins games by himself. And the unprecedented respect other managers show for him is proof that he is most valuable.
NL Cy Young Award
1. Roger Clemens, Astros 2. Jason Schmidt, Giants 3. Randy Johnson, Diamondbacks
This is a such a great race that three pitchers not even on the ballot -- Ben Sheets (Brewers), Carl Pavano (Marlins)andCarlos Zambrano (Cubs) -- could still win the award. Clemens and Schmidt are a coin flip, with Clemens' consistency from the start of the season getting the slightest of edges.
NL Rookie of the Year
1. Jason Bay, Pirates 2. Ryan Madson, Phillies 3. Akinori Otsuka, Padres
Bay entered this week with only 136 at-bats, having missed the first five weeks of the season while recovering from offseason shoulder surgery. But he's been more productive than rookies with significantly more playing time such as Kaz Matsui of the Mets and Matt Holliday of the Rockies.
NL Manager of the Year
1. Ned Yost, Brewers 2. Bruce Bochy, Padres 3. Tony La Russa, Cardinals
Milwaukee is 63-57 since last Aug. 17, a tribute to the job Yost has done getting the most out of a scrappy bunch. Give credit, too, to Brewers GM Doug Melvin, who made the Richie Sexson deal with Arizona look like the Lyle Overbay deal, and to pitching coach Mike Maddux, who has turned Ben Sheets and Danny Kolb into All-Stars and has kept the Brewers near the top of the NL in pitching.
American League MVP
Tom Verducci will answer select questions from SI.com users in his Baseball Mailbag.
1. Vladimir Guerrero, Angels 2. Manny Ramirez, Red Sox 3. Hank Blalock, Rangers 4. Victor Martinez, Indians 5. Michael Young, Rangers 6. David Ortiz, Red Sox 7. Paul Konerko, White Sox 8. Ivan Rodriguez, Tigers 9. Mariano Rivera, Yankees 10. Carl Crawford, Devil Rays
Guerrero and Ramirez are two of the best pure hitters in the game, and each lurk near the top of the Triple Crown categories. Give Guerrero the nod because of his edge on defense. Blalock, who seems to have a knack for the big hit, deserves serious consideration.
AL Cy Young Award
1. Mark Mulder, LHP, Athletics 2. Kenny Rogers, LHP, Rangers 3. Curt Schilling, RHP, Red Sox
The most talented of Oakland's Big Three, Mulder may join teammate Barry Zito as a Cy Young winner --- with Tim Hudson's strong candidacy derailed by an abdominal injury. Mulder is off to a remarkable 75-36 start to his career.
AL Rookie of the Year
1. Bobby Crosby, SS, Athletics 2. Nate Robertson, LHP, Tigers 3. Joe Mauer, C, Twins
Crosby bounced back from a slow start with a strong June that earned him Rookie of the Month honors. Mauer's knee injury slowed his candidacy -- he has only 15 RBIs -- but don't be surprised if he surpasses Crosby in the second half.
Tampa Bay became the first team in history to come from 18 games under .500 to a winning record in the same season -- and it took the Devil Rays less than two months. Piniella extracts the most out of a very thin roster. Likewise, Showalter has done an outstanding job guiding the Rangers into first place despite several injuries to his pitching staff.
Sports Illustrated senior writer Tom Verducci covers baseball for the magazine and is a regular contributor to SI.com.