Beckett, Red Sox: Despite a fresh face (Daisuke Matsuzaka) and a cured arm (Curt Schilling), the cognoscenti tabbed Beckett as the key man on Boston's staff -- and he has delivered splendidly, also delivering on his potential. For the fourth consecutive season, Beckett has raised his victory total and has become a smart pitcher, not just a hothead thrower. Leading evidence of that is having more than halved both his walks (74 to 36) and homer yields (36 to 14). But he doesn't stand out on his staff as Wang does on his; not even close.Sabathia, Indians: Finishing strong to give Cleveland its first 20-game winner since Gaylord Perry (1974) could sway the voting in the big left-hander's behalf. He is certainly worthy, with an amazing strikeouts-to-walks ratio (185-to-33) for a tall lefty -- historically the mold for wildness. Has already posted career highs in innings and strikeouts while matching his single-season high of 17 wins. Eight of his wins have followed Tribe losses. DARK HORSES Lackey, Angels: A rocky four-start stretch beginning in mid-August probably ejected the right-hander from possibly even the favorite's seat. He surrendered 26 hits and 13 runs in 17 2/3 innings around his clutch Aug. 27 shutout in Seattle. But remember that word "clutch," as well as "workhorse"; he has gone seven-plus innings in 13 of his last 23 starts. And his 8-1 record against the other AL West teams is a big reason for the Angels pulling away from the division. Escobar, Angels: Many consider the one-time reliever and swing starter the Angels' best money pitcher, who has really flourished once given a permanent place in the rotation. And he could very well end up leading the league in ERA -- on the 30th anniversary of the last time an Angels hurler did so, Frank Tanana in 1977. But he and Lackey are essentially the same pitcher, with virtually identical numbers. HONORABLE MENTION
Fausto Carmona, Indians; Erik Bedard, Orioles; J.J. Putz, Mariners; Joe Borowski, Indians; Jonathan Papelbon, Red Sox; Santana, Twins; Verlander, Tigers
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.