Awards Watch (cont.)
3) Carlos Gonzalez, OF, Rockies (3)
Season stats: .335/.370/.613, 31 HR, 95 RBI, 21 SB
Given his lead in batting average, Gonzalez might actually have the best shot at the Triple Crown among the three NLers vying for that elusive accomplishment. He trails the slumping Pujols by four homers and Votto by just three RBIs and has been red-hot, hitting .387/.429/.774 with 19 homers since July 1 and .529/.576/1.098 with six homers and 16 RBIs during a still-active 13-game hitting streak. I find it difficult to believe that either Votto or Pujols won't win this award, but if Gonzalez becomes baseball's first Triple Crown winner since 1967 and the first in the NL since 1937, he kind of has to win the MVP, doesn't he?
1) Neftali Feliz, RHP, Rangers (1)
Season stats: 3.26 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, 9.2 K/9, 3.69 K/BB, 34 SV
Feliz is now three saves shy of the rookie record, and while his ERA is less than sparkling for a closer, his save conversion rate of 92 percent is among the best in the majors. Among men with 25 or more saves this season, only Rafael Soriano, Mariano Rivera and Heath Bell have been more reliable in the ninth inning. Turning to the win-expectency-based WXRL, Feliz has been the 10th-most valuable reliever in the majors and the fifth-most in the AL.
2) Austin Jackson, CF, Tigers (2)
Season stats: .306/.361/.416, 3 HR, 32 RBI, 22 SB
The closer we get to the end of the season, the more I'm beginning to think that the voters will favor the above-average every-day player Jackson over the dominant closer Feliz. No matter which total-value metric you use or just how much center field you need an outfielder to play in order to be considered a center fielder, Jackson consistently ranks among the top eight center fielders in baseball, if not better. That's not overwhelming, but for a rookie, it's impressive, despite the mid-season slump and the league-leading strikeouts. Still, I suspect that setting the rookie saves record, and the resulting attention, could tilt things back toward Feliz, which is why Jackson remains number two on this list.
3) John Jaso, C, Rays (3)
Season stats: .281/.390/.403, 5 HR, 43 RBI
With a nod to Twins third baseman Danny Valencia, the third spot remains Jaso's, though he has no chance of catching either of the top two men on this list.
1) Jaime Garcia, LHP, Cardinals (1)
Season stats: 13-6, 2.35 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 7.3 K/9, 2.03 K/BB
So the Cardinals didn't really skip Garcia's last start after all, they just pushed it back a few days. That's nothing new. Garcia has made five of his last seven starts on extra rest, four of them on six-day's rest, which is what he had on Friday. That helps explain why Garcia has looked so fresh while entering uncharted innings territory (3-1, 0.67 ERA over his last four starts). The Cardinals will continue to space out his starts as the month continues, which is good news for Garcia's career and Rookie of the Year hopes, but bad news for the Cardinals quickly fading postseason hopes.
2) Jason Heyward, RF, Braves (3)
Season stats: .281/.389/.473, 16 HR, 65 RBI, 9 SB
Heyward is making a strong late push for both this award and to try to keep his Braves ahead of the Phillies in the NL East, hitting hit .443/.528/.738 with four homers in his last 14 games. No one can hit like that for a month, and he's is already cooling off, but Heyward's going to have to come close to catch Garcia.
3) Buster Posey, C, Giants (2)
Season stats: .328/.374/.506, 11 HR, 55 RBI
Posey will likely pick up some extra votes from those who credit him for the Giants' late push for the postseason, even if the Giants' renewed hopes have more to do with the Padres collapse than anything else. Still, the fact remains that Posey is here on the strength of one monster month (he hit .417/.466/.699 with seven of his 11 homers in July), which just can't compete with Heyward and Garcia, even if that was far and away the Giants' best month of the season (20-8, .714).
Antoine Vermette scores two as the Coyotes beat the Avalanche
Kings score six in shutout of Canadiens