But halfway through 2011, a peek at the best of the best shows what has transpired through the first three-plus months of the six-month campaign, and more to the point, it paints a picture of the individuals who have made the biggest marks on the season.
To that end, MLB.com conducted a midseason election, using all 30 club reporters and 10 national reporters to create an electorate for awards that won't come with a trophy -- just recognition as some of the finest performers of 2011 thus far.
Using a 5-3-1 voting process, with each voter naming his or her top three in each category, here are the results of the 2011 MLB.com midseason awards watch:
American League MVP
1. Adrian Gonzalez, Red Sox, 174 points
2. Jose Bautista, Blue Jays, 126
3. Miguel Cabrera, Tigers, 29
Half of the dynamic duo of acquisitions by the Red Sox last winter, Gonzalez has been as advertised, and perhaps a little more. He is tied for the MLB lead with a .354 average and leads everyone with 77 RBIs. After a slow start in the power department, his 17 home runs have him on pace to crank 30-plus long balls for a fifth consecutive season.
But it's impossible to ignore another stellar offensive season by Bautista, who became the first Blue Jays hitter to eclipse 30 homers by the All-Star break, with 31. His .468 on-base percentage and .702 slugging percentage are tops in the Majors.
Cabrera, meanwhile, warrants mention for being at the core of the Tigers' charge to take on the upstart Indians in the AL Central.
National League MVP
1. Jose Reyes, Mets, 115
2. Matt Kemp, Dodgers, 104
3. Prince Fielder, Brewers, 84
Before his hamstring tightened up on him July 2, Reyes was running wild toward MVP status, and there's little reason to believe he'll slow down once he's healthy -- as long as he stays healthy. Despite missing the last week before the All-Star break, Reyes remains the NL's leader in batting (.354), hits (124) and triples (15). His 65 runs are two fewer than Rickie Weeks for the league lead. The speedy shortstop also ranks among the top 10 in steals, on-base percentage and slugging percentage. Simply put, Reyes has been his spectacular self.
But Kemp and Fielder both have stepped fully into the MVP conversation with their performances, as well. Kemp's 22 homers are tied with Fielder for second in the NL, and his 67 RBIs rank behind only Fielder and the Phillies' Ryan Howard, who have 72 apiece. While Kemp has added 27 steals, Fielder has helped push his Brewers into the thick of the NL Central race.
AL Cy Young
1. Justin Verlander, Tigers, 186
2. Jered Weaver, Angels, 104
3. CC Sabathia, Yankees, 29
In a word: Unhittable. Verlander was completely so in Toronto on May 7, when he threw the second no-hitter of his career, and he continues to rack up the kinds of numbers that only an uber-ace can, looking unhittable seemingly every time out.
Verlander shares the Major League lead in strikeouts (147, tied with the Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw) while setting the pace in WHIP (0.87), innings pitched (151) and pitches thrown (116.5 per start). He's not only a horse, but a thoroughbred in the lead, and at 12-4 with a 2.15 ERA at the break, the 2006 AL Rookie of the Year Award winner is in good position to win his first Cy Young.
The thing is, Weaver has been right there with him, starting off with six wins in six starts and a 0.99 ERA before pulling into the break with a Major League-best 1.86 ERA. Sabathia, the Major League leader in wins with 13, barely edged out resurgent Red Sox ace Josh Beckett.
NL Cy Young
1. Roy Halladay, Phillies, 168
2. Jair Jurrjens, Braves, 113
3. Cole Hamels, Phillies, 41
The Phillies haven't disappointed in upping the ante on starting pitching dominance, and Halladay has led the way with his normal performance.
Halladay made the All-Star start for the NL after putting up numbers on course with the ones he posted last year in winning his first NL Cy Young, his 2.45 ERA through 19 starts a single point off his 2.44 mark in 2010, and his 11 wins setting up a potential second straight 20-win season, which would be his fourth overall. The veteran right-hander doesn't lead in any other categories, but his six complete games lead the NL and speak volumes about his value.
Not to be ignored, however, is Jurrjens' NL-leading 1.87 ERA and 12 wins. The right-hander has catapulted the Braves into full battle mode with the Phillies in the NL East race. But the Phillies form a dominant trio around Halladay, with Cole Hamels ranking second in the league in ERA at 2.32. That was enough for him to garner top-three consideration, just ahead of another Phillies arm -- Cliff Lee, whose 5-0 record and 0.21 ERA in June included three shutouts.
AL Rookie of the Year
1. Michael Pineda, Mariners, 175
2. Jeremy Hellickson, Rays, 60
3. Mark Trumbo, Angels, 28
Introducing the latest in Seattle pitching royalty: Prince Michael.
While King Felix Hernandez has done fine in his follow-up to his AL Cy Young Award-winning season in 2010, Pineda has overshadowed him in his debut season. Pineda leads the AL with nine strikeouts per nine innings, and the 6-foot-7, 260-pounder leads all AL rookies in wins (eight), innings (113), strikeouts (113) and opponents' average (.198), with 13 quality starts and just 36 walks.
Hellickson, meanwhile, hasn't disappointed in his much-anticipated rookie year, going 8-7 with a 3.21 ERA. Trumbo leads all rookies with 17 homers. The Royals' Eric Hosmer and Aaron Crow got consideration, as well.
NL Rookie of the Year
1. Craig Kimbrel, Braves, 119
2. Danny Espinosa, Nationals, 117
3. Dillon Gee, Mets, 60
Thrown into the fire in the NL Division Series last year after veteran Billy Wagner was injured, Kimbrel has been strong as the Braves' closer -- just enough to edge out Espinosa, the Nationals' power-hitting second baseman.
Kimbrel's 28 saves, in 33 chances, are the most recorded by a rookie before an All-Star break. Espinosa, meanwhile, slugged 16 homers with 52 RBIs, 45 runs and 12 steals in the first half -- all NL-leading totals among rookies.
Gee's eight wins in 14 starts for the Mets impressed voters, allowing the right-hander to edge out Atlanta first baseman Freddie Freeman, who received two first-place votes.
AL Manager of the Year
1. Manny Acta, Indians, 181
2. Joe Maddon, Rays, 96
3. Jim Leyland, Tigers, 27
Nobody expected the Indians to be in the thick of the race at this point -- except Acta and his Tribe. Acta's leadership, from keeping Cleveland's fast start in perspective to pushing his club to rebound from a June swoon, sets him apart from the rest of the field.
But Maddon's ability to keep the retooled Rays in the tough AL East race cannot be dismissed, either. Leyland, a three-time Manager of the Year, steered the Tigers from a lackluster start to battling Acta's Tribe for the AL Central lead.
NL Manager of the Year
1. Kirk Gibson, D-backs, 120
2. Clint Hurdle, Pirates, 113
3. Bruce Bochy, Giants, 29
Anyone who saw Gibson during Spring Training might have noticed that he doesn't enjoy losing, even when it's an exhibition -- no surprise, based on his ultra-gamer background as a player. But Gibson has led the D-backs into contention in the NL West with a savvy managing acumen that goes beyond his intense presence, pushing him to the top of this list.
Yet Hurdle has been every bit as solid in helping the Pirates rise into contention this late in the season for the first time since 1992, which doubles as the last time the Bucs made the playoffs. Hurdle's NL Central foes Ron Roenicke of the Brewers and Tony La Russa of the Cardinals earned consideration, but Bochy guiding the Giants to a better first half than a year ago -- despite some devastating injuries -- bumped him into the top three.
John Schlegel is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.