With only about a month-and-a-half to go in the regular season and the playoff chase heating up, we’re going to take a look at some of the leading candidates for MVP and the Cy Young Awards. There have been a lot of surprise teams in both leagues, and they haven’t been led by the usual suspects this year. Here’s a look at who’s been carrying their teams and filling up the box score.
MVP – With heavy hitters Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder moving to the American League in the off-season, and early favorites Matt Kemp and Joey Votto missing time with injuries, the NL MVP has been a wide open race. The team with the best record in the league, the Washington Nationals, are a team that has been carried by their pitching and do not have a standout MVP candidate.
Andrew McCutchen – McCutchen is having a breakout year for the surprising Pittsburgh Pirates. Pittsburgh is looking to make it’s first playoff appearance since 1992, and McCutchen has been at the forefront leading the NL in average, on-base percentage, slugging, and OPS (.356/.422/.598/1.020) He is tied for sixth in the NL with 24 HR and leads the NL in runs scored with 85. McCutchen also plays gold-glove defense and has brought a face to the Pirates franchise.
Matt Holliday/Carlos Beltran -No Pujols, no problem. The St. Louis Cardinals lost their franchise player and a future hall-of-famer, and replaced him with Beltran. Holliday and Beltran have both quietly had solid years and have helped the Cardinals slug their way right into the wildcard race, looking to make a late-season push like they did last year on their way to the World Series.
Holliday is in the top 10 in the NL in average, runs scored, home runs, slugging, OPS, (.306/75/23/.542/.931) and is third with 81 RBI. Beltran is second in home runs with 28 and tied for the league lead in RBI with Ryan Braun with 83.
Buster Posey – The Giants catcher has successfully returned from a brutal ankle injury last year to anchor the San Francisco lineup and have the Giants neck and neck with the Dodgers in the NL West race. Posey is third in the NL in batting average (.333) and OPS (.959) and is tied for fifth in RBI (77). Posey has been on a tear since the All-Star break, leading all MLB with a scorching .439 average, and 34 RBI as well. Posey will need to keep it up if the Giants are to stay in the race after the loss of Melky Cabrera to a drug suspension.
Cy Young Award – The National League is loaded with great pitching, and this is one that is far too early to call.
R.A. Dickey – In the spirit of surprises, there have been none more surprising than Mets knuckleballer R.A. Dickey. Having a breakout season at age 37, Dickey is leading the NL in strikeouts with 175, is tied for second in wins with a 15-4 record, and is 5th with 2.89 ERA. Dickey’s pitching had the Mets in contention earlier in the season, but New York has since fallen out of the playoff picture.
Johnny Cueto – Cueto has been the ace of the NL Central leading Cincinnati Reds. Cueto leads the league with a 16-6 record and his 2.44 ERA is 2nd behind the Nationals Jordan Zimmerman. Cueto has been workhorse for Cincinnati, his 169.2 innings are fourth in the league. With their MVP Joey Votto missing a of time with a knee injury, Cueto’s Cy Young caliber pitching has kept the Reds in first place all season long.
Cole Hamels – The sky is falling in Philadelphia, as the Phillies will miss the playoffs for the first time after five straight division titles. One of the few bright spots for Philly has been the pitching of Cole Hamels. Hamels was rumored to be among the list of Phillies on the trade market this season, but Philly did a 180 and gave Hamels, a San Diego native, a six-year $144 million extension.
His 14 wins are tied for 5th in the NL, he is 2nd in innings pitched (171.1) and 3rd in strikeouts (168). Despite Philly being out of it, Hamels has the most innings pitched since the All-Star break (53.1) with a 2.36 ERA to go along with it.