A look at the front-runners and darkhorses for the major postseason awards in the American League (first published Sept. 4, updated in November). Members of the Baseball Writers of America voted for the awards based on regular-season statistics, and results will be announced in early November.
Most Valuable Player
This could be the closest vote in years. There's no shortage of candidates.
Who should win: Jose Bautista, Blue Jays. He finished fourth last year when he hit 54 homers, and has improved in many aspects of his game this season, even if it doesn't appear he'll reach 50 homers again. He should still be in the mid-40s, and has raised his average alomst 50 points. His OPS was .61 higher (1.056, leading the AL) and he led the league in walks, slugging and intentional walks (24). That shows he doesn't have much protection in the Blue Jays' order, either. He was second the AL in WAR (wins above replacement) at 8.3. But will voters give the MVP to a player on a .500 team?
Darkhorse: Justin Verlander, Tigers. No starting pitcher has won the award in 43 years, since another Tigers pitcher, Denny McClain, won in the AL and Hall of Famer Bob Gibson won in the NL. Verlander went 24-5 with a 2.40 ERA. He the clear leader for Cy Young (see below), but with so many quality candidates on the offensive side, it will be hard to break through. On the other hand, on a ballot that could be split in several ways, anybody can win.
Other contenders: Curtis Granderson, Yankees (.262, 41 HR, league-leading 119 RBI, 25 SB, 7.0 WAR), Jacoby Ellsbury, Red Sox (.321, 32 HR, 105 RBI, 39 SB, league-leading 9.4 WAR, and as a leadoff hitter), Adrian Gonzalez, Red Sox (.338, 27 HR, 108 RBI), Miguel Cabrera, Tigers (.344, 30 HR, 111 RBI)
Who will win: The Tigers and Red Sox have two candidates each, so cancel them out. So that leaves it open to Bautista, just barely.
Cy Young Award
The only shoo-in.
Who should win: Verlander. At 24-5 with a 2.40 ERA on a division-winning team, he's the clear leader. He threw a no-hitter, and took another into the eighth inning. He was the first to win 20 games before the end of August in nine seasons. His WAR was 7.0.
Darkhorse: Jered Weaver, Angels. He emerged into the total ace on the West Coast, and had his best season. He finished 18-8 with a 2.41 ERA and 5.6 WAR.
Other contenders: CC Sabathia, Yankees (19-8, 3.00 ERA, 7.1 WAR), Dan Haren, Angels (16-10, 3.17 ERA, 6.4 WAR), Felix Hernandez, Mariners (14-4, 3.47 ERA, 5.5 WAR), C.J. Wilson, Rangers (16-7, 2.94 ERA, 5.9 WAR).
Who will win: Verlander.
Rookie of the Year
Not a great crop statistically, but there's a few budding stars here.
Who should win: Ivan Nova, Yankees. The 24-year-old Dominican righty finished 16-4, and did it while filling a gaping hole in the rotation of one of the best teams in the league. His ERA is just a so-so 3.70, but has a 2.7 WAR, which is solid in a relatively weak crop of rookies, at least statistically this season.
Darkhorse: Dustin Ackley, Mariners. He might turn out to be the best of this group, but was called up a little too late to put up big numbers. He hit .273 with six homers as the Seattle second baseman throughout the second half, and led all AL rookie position players (who played more than 50 games) with a 2.7 WAR.
Other contenders: Mark Trumbo, Angels (.254, 29 HR, 87 RBI, 2.3 WAR), Eric Hosmer, Royals (.293, 19 HR, 66 RBI, 1.6 WAR), Jeremy Hellickson, Rays (13-10, 3.43 ERA, 1.4 WAR); Michael Pineda, Mariners (9-10, 3.74 ERA, 3.4 WAR), Alexi Ogando (13-8, 3.51 ERA, 3.6 WAR)
Who will win: Nova. Being in the big market will put him over the top.
Manager of the Year
Who should win: Joe Maddon, Rays. They lost so many pieces in the offseason, but the Rays somehow put together a wild-card team, thanks to the Red Sox's collapse.
Darkhorse: Manny Acta, Indians. Nobody was expecting Cleveland to contend with a young, unproven roster. And they were still in the thick of things in September, even as injuries to veterans Grady Sizemore, Travis Hafner and Shin-Soo Choo have depleted the everyday lineup.
Other contenders: Joe Girardi, Yankees; Jim Leyland, Tigers; Mike Scioscia, Angels.
Who will win: Maddon.