|Mike Trout's the leader for the AL MVP, but Miguel Cabrera and Robinson Cano certainly have their cases. (US Presswire)|
The pennant races are shaping up as we near the last month of the baseball season, but so too are the major award races. With the candidates rounding out into form, we'll look at each of the race for the four awards handed out by the Baseball Writers Association of America.
Also, Dayn looked at the National League MVP race and so we'll take on the American League version.
1. Mike Trout, Angels
With all due respect to Jim Leyland, the fervor over Trout's MVP candidacy has nothing to do with his story or his newness, it's because he's simply the best player in the game this season. Forget how old he is, where he's been or what he has yet to do, in 2012, no player has been better than Trout. Trout leads the American League with a .340 batting average and is best in the big leagues in runs (88) and stolen bases (36), despite not being called up until after the Angels' first 20 games of the season. There's nothing he's shown that he can't do on the field -- he hits for average and power (21 home runs), he's a demon on the base paths and an excellent defender. The stats back up his MVP candidacy, as he leads baseball in WAR as measured by both Baseball-Reference.com (7.6) and FanGraphs.com (6.9). And if you want to go with the more nebulous definition of "value," his team is 8-15 when he doesn't play and 52-40 when he does. Basically, from here on out, it's the rookie's award to lose.
ALSO IN THE MIX
2. Miguel Cabrera, Tigers
The above duly noted, it seems odd that Cabrera hasn't won an MVP in his career yet. This season he's hit his 300th home run and 1,000th RBI and he's not yet hit his 30th birthday. He has led the league in all three triple crown categories, including a batting title last season and is having another typical Cabrera year at the plate (even if it's not equal to his monster 2011), hitting .324/.387/581 with 29 home runs. A career .317/.344/.558 hitter, he's shown that he may be the best hitter in baseball and this season he's done nothing to disprove that theory. It should also be noted that the preseason prognostications that Cabrera would be an unmitigated disaster at third base were unfounded. He's not Brooks Robinson (or even Hubie Brooks), but it's not been a comedy of errors. His 10 errors are fourth-most of any AL third baseman, but he still has the same fielding percentage (and fewer errors) as Kansas City's Mike Moustakas. It should be noted the advanced fielding stat UZR rates him very low, but his fielding is not the reason the Tigers aren't in first place in the AL Central.
3. Robinson Cano, Yankees
It's hard to be overlooked when you're a Yankee, but on a team with Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez and CC Sabathia, it's easy to forget Cano is the team's best player. He finished last season sixth in the AL MVP race and he's even better this season, hitting .315/.374/.558 with 25 home runs. He's on pace to hit 30 homers for the first time in his career.
4. Josh Reddick, A's
Just as people started doubting Billy Beane and saying he was overrated in the wake of Moneyball, Beane put together perhaps his best offseason as a GM. One of the biggest moves was trading closer Andrew Bailey to Boston for the 25-year-old Reddick. Reddick's .253 average isn't pretty, nor is his .325 on-base percentage, but he's slugging .500 with 25 home runs for the A's, despite playing his home games in a pitcher-friendly ballpark. Reddick is one of the biggest reasons the surprise A's enter Monday in second place in the AL West and a half-game back in the wild card.
DON'T FORGET ABOUT
5. Justin Verlander, Tigers
The 2011 winner isn't having the dominating season he had a year ago, but he's still the best pitcher in the game. Veralnder's 12-7 with a 2.46 ERA and leads baseball in complete games (six), innings pitched (175 2/3) and strikeouts (174).
6. Austin Jackson, Tigers
After his sophomore slump, Jackson's back and better than he was as a rookie in 2010. The Tigers center fielder is hitting .314/.397/.516 with 13 home runs and he's even cut down on his strikeout rate.
7. Chris Sale, White Sox
In his first season as a starter, the 23-year-old left-hander is 14-3 with a 2.60 ERA. Batters are hitting just 218/.268/.333 against him.
8. Josh Hamilton, Rangers
After his otherworldly start, Hamilton crashed to earth, but signs are he's finding his way -- and it's just in time for the Rangers' stretch run. After hitting .202/.288/.399 with eight homers in June and July, he's hitting .319/.373/.596 through 11 games in August and has hits in each of his past 10 games. He has homers in three of his last four, heading into Monday. If Hamilton's last two months are like his first two, he could be right back in the thick of discussion.
9. Adam Jones, Orioles
The Orioles may be surprising people, but Jones shouldn't be a surprise anymore. He's hitting .298/.334/.530 with 24 home runs.
10. A.J. Pierzynski, White Sox
The 35-year-old Pierzynski may be having his best season as a pro -- at least at the plate. He's hitting .299/.350/.560 with a career-high 23 home runs. He had never hit more than 18 homers before this season.