Last season’s tightest major award vote in baseball was for the American League Cy Young, with Cleveland’s Corey Kluber edging Seattle’s Felix Hernandez by only 10 points.
Now it’s the National League that looks like it could have a compelling race among its top pitchers. After Washington’s Max Scherzer set the pace with a sensational stretch in June, Zack Greinke of the Los Angeles Dodgers has been making his own bid. Greinke hasn’t allowed a run since June 13 and enters the All-Star break with a 1.39 ERA.
Scherzer has 150 strikeouts and hasn’t walked a batter since June 14, but he also has four starts with at least four runs allowed. Greinke has only one.
Those two look like the Cy Young favorites at this point, although it would be foolish to count out Greinke’s teammate, Clayton Kershaw, who has won the award three times in the last four years.
Here’s a look at how the other award races are shaping up:
AL CY YOUNG: Kluber is following up his honor last year with another fine season — his 4-10 record is largely due to atrocious run support — but division rival Chris Sale of the Chicago White Sox may be the favorite. Houston’s Dallas Keuchel is also in the mix but lacks Sale’s flashy strikeout numbers.
NL MVP: Bryce Harper of the Nationals is the clear favorite here, and although Paul Goldschmidt is putting up comparable numbers, his Arizona Diamondbacks are well off the pace in the NL West. Harper’s team is in first place, and that’s the type of thing that often matters to voters.
AL MVP: Mike Trout is certainly a candidate to win his second MVP in a row, but this race still looks wide open. Josh Donaldson has given Toronto a lift, and Baltimore’s Manny Machado could have a case with a big second half.
NL ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: Jacob deGrom of the New York Mets took this award last year on the strength of an impressive finish in August and September, but don’t expect any late darkhorses to emerge this time. Kris Bryant of the Chicago Cubs and Joc Pederson of the Dodgers are well ahead of the rest of the field.
AL ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: The AL honor, on the other hand, is still very much up in the air. Devon Travis of the Blue Jays has been impressive, but star prospect Carlos Correa of the Astros has already matched Travis’ total of seven homers — and Correa has only played in 32 games.
Here are a few more developments from around the majors:
Pittsburgh stormed into the break with 13 wins in its last 16 games, pulling within 2 1/2 games of St. Louis atop the NL Central. Andrew McCutchen rebounded from a rough April, and the rotation is anchored by the impressive trio of Gerrit Cole, Francisco Liriano and A.J. Burnett.
Pittsburgh lost its first six extra-inning games this year but has now won six of its last seven.
After going the entire month of June without giving up a run, San Francisco closer Santiago Casilla has allowed five in 2 2/3 innings over five appearances in July. The Giants have another experienced closer in their bullpen in Sergio Romo — although he’s been ineffective as well lately — along with hard-throwing right-hander Hunter Strickland. It’s a situation worth watching in the first few games after the break.
LINE OF THE WEEK
Kirk Nieuwenhuis was 7 for 66 on the season with no home runs before going deep three times for the Mets in their 5-3 win over Arizona on Sunday. He’s now hitting .146 this year. Nieuwenhuis was traded by the Mets to the Los Angeles Angels in late May, then designated for assignment by the Angels a couple weeks later, at which point New York plucked him back off waivers. The three-homer game brought his career total to 16.