Handing out my midseason awards
1. Lance Berkman, Houston
Bottom line: Houston doesn't qualify as a legitimate contender, so Berkman's spot on the top of the list speaks to the elite quality of his season. He has a shot at becoming the first switch hitter with 400 total bases, and the first hitter to do so since steroid testing. Utley, though, remains the most likely to win the award, especially if he winds up breaking the home-run record for second basemen (43), and does so for a division champion.
1. Carlos Quentin, Chicago
Bottom line: Don't be surprised if A-Rod winds up winning again, but he will have to pick up his awful numbers with runners in scoring position (.243, with more strikeouts than hits, including .207 with two outs). Quentin has been a beast for the Sox with runners in scoring position (.368, including .348 with two outs). The three Rangers candidates all have the Ballpark in Arlington effect working against them; Hamilton (+92), Kinsler (+97) and Bradley (+96) all have hit for much higher averages at home than on the road.
NL Cy Young Award
1. Tim Lincecum, San Francisco
Bottom line: A very close race to call between the strikeout leader (Lincecum) and the ERA leader (Volquez). How amazing is Lincecum? Since his debut on May 6, 2007, he has won 73 percent of his decisions (16-6) while all other Giants pitchers have won 39 percent (75-118).
AL Cy Young Award
1. Cliff Lee, Cleveland
Bottom line: Lee (11-1, 2.34) is second in ERA, third in WHIP and first in strikeout-to-walk ratio. Duchscherer has a sub-2 ERA in AL, something only Pedro Martinez, Roger Clemens and Ron Guidry have done in the DH-era over a full season. But look out for Rivera if they stumble, because he's having an Eckersley-kind of season, with more saves than baserunners allowed.
NL Rookie of the Year Award
1. Geovany Soto, Chicago
Bottom line: Jurrjens is having a strong season, but it's too hard to overlook a catcher who leads all rookies in OPS -- for a first-place team.
AL Rookie of the Year Award
1. Evan Longoria, Tampa Bay
Bottom line: The Yankees are being rewarded for using Chamberlain carefully and smartly to wind up with the most valuable commodity in baseball: a power-throwing ace. Longoria, though, has the edge to this point because of the way Chamberlain's innings were managed.
NL Manager of the Year Award
1. Fredi Gonzalez, Florida
Bottom line: Somehow the Marlins have a winning record despite having the third-worst ERA in the league. Their style of play -- they hit home runs to cover their shortcomings on defense and pitching --- is high risk, and not one for the long haul, but give them credit for making it work thus far.
AL Manager of the Year Award
1. Joe Maddon, Tampa Bay
Bottom line: Maddon could be on the verge of something historic here, so he gets the edge in a strong field.