At two-month mark, time to take stock of favorites for MVP, Cy and Manager
By Mike Bauman
It's time for the two-month awards. Maybe they'll hold up until the next four months are in the books. Maybe they won't.
Still, in any race, you have to notice who takes the early lead.
American League Most Valuable Player Award: Nelson Cruz, Mariners
There were those who thought that Cruz's power numbers would drop when he made the move from cozy Oriole Park at Camden Yards to Seattle's more spacious Safeco Field. But no. After 54 games, Cruz leads the AL in slugging percentage with a truly impressive .619 and ranks second with a .997 OPS.
Cruz's candidacy would be considerably helped if the Mariners were to qualify for the postseason. But many of the other candidates are in the same situation with their team. This is not the most outstanding player award. In recent years, the voters have been giving greater weight to those candidates whose teams win something, as in postseason berths.
But there's plenty of competition, even this early. Hardy perennials, Miguel Cabrera and Mike Trout, must be considered. On the comeback trail, Texas' Prince Fielder is doing the best work of his career as a hitter for average. And Toronto's Josh Donaldson and Oakland's Stephen Vogt are on their way to very large campaigns.
AL Cy Young Award: Sonny Gray, A's
It's close between Gray and Houston's Dallas Keuchel, but Gray has the statistical edge; a 1.65 ERA, a WHIP of 0.91 and a 7-2 record after 12 starts make Gray the choice.
Watch for a challenge from the 2010 AL Cy Young Award winner, Seattle's King Felix Hernandez. And don't rule out Tampa Bay's Chris Archer, whose stuff puts him solidly in this elite company.
If the voters want to branch out into relief pitchers -- and some of them don't -- Minnesota's Glen Perkins and the Yankees' Andrew Miller have been spotless in save opportunities.
AL Manager of the Year Award: Paul Molitor, Twins
Yes, there are other viable candidates. But before the season, the Twins were picked to finish in the International League. Now, they're leading baseball's most competitive division.
If the Astros continue to win well ahead of schedule, A.J. Hinch will be an obvious and meritorious AL Manager of the Year Award candidate. This award is often a combination of achievement and exceeding expectations. Both of these managers have excelled in both categories so far.
National League Most Valuable Player Award: Bryce Harper, Nationals
Harper's performance, at the risk of understatement, has been overwhelming. And yet, here's the difficulty. Arizona's Paul Goldschmidt is just a tick behind Harper.
Harper plays for the better team, and obviously, even at age 22, has had the much more publicized career. But Harper and Goldschmidt are close in terms of achievement in the young 2015 season.
After Thursday's games, Goldschmidt led in batting average (.349 to .328) and in on-base percentage (.470 to .467). Harper led in slugging percentage (.706 to .667) and in OPS (1.173 to 1.147).
The Dodgers' Adrian Gonzalez and the Cubs' Anthony Rizzo, for instance, are off to fine starts, and the power and talent of the Marlins' Giancarlo Stanton could push him into the midst of the race. But it's Harper No. 1 and Goldschmidt 1-A at this juncture.
NL Cy Young Award: Max Scherzer, Nationals
Scherzer has the early lead, but the competition is absolutely fierce. And it doesn't promise to go away.
Gerrit Cole of the Pirates is turning his talent into a superior season. His veteran teammate, A.J. Burnett, is having one of baseball's best springs. Michael Wacha of the Cardinals and Shelby Miller of the Braves are young pitchers who are already accomplished and are still getting better. Zack Greinke of the Dodgers is worthy of consideration and eventually his three-time NL Cy Young Award winning teammate, Clayton Kershaw, will -- if recent history is any guide -- also be in the discussion. And what if the Giants' Madison Bumgarner becomes the same kind of pitcher he already is in October, during the summer?
Another pitcher who is periodically overshadowed but has consistently been one of the best in the game over the past three seasons is another National, Jordan Zimmermann. Scherzer has the early advantage, but the wealth of pitching in the game today is indicated in the group just off the pace.
NL Manager of the Year Award: Bruce Bochy, Giants
This is a choice that you could make every year; or at least every even-numbered year. The Giants were written off, again, this winter, but here they are, solidly in contention. Bochy gets the best out of his roster on a regular basis. The championship in an odd-numbered year is the one thing that has eluded San Francisco.
But the only guys completely out of the NL Manager of the Year Award race are the ones who have already been fired in Milwaukee and Miami. Outside of Bochy, it might be time to recognize that Mike Matheny gets the Redbirds into the postseason every year he is employed in St. Louis.
Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.