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LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - JULY 19: Aaron Judge #99 of the New York Yankees and Shohei Ohtani #17 of the Los Angeles Angels look on from the dugout before the 92nd MLB All-Star Game presented by Mastercard at Dodger Stadium on July 19, 2022 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

A month remains in the 2022 MLB regular season and none of favorites for the major individual awards are certain to win. Most of the categories (if not all) have clear favorites but none of the margins are insurmountable considering the time MLB has left to play.

If the balloting happened today, AL MVP probably would go to New York Yankees slugger Aaron Judge, who is on the verge of breaching the 60-home run mark and leads in Wins Above Replacement at the three major platforms to varying degrees. And yet, Los Angeles Angels two-way superstar Shohei Ohtani is not far behind after winning MVP a year ago, and he might not trail Judge at all in the eyes of many voters who appreciate Ohtani's singular place as a dual threat in MLB history.

The National League leader in two Triple Crown categories and a close pursuer in home runs, St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Paul Goldschmidt has a significant lead on the next top sluggers in the league for NL MVP. But a teammate, third baseman Nolan Arenado, along with others like Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Mookie Betts and San Diego Padres third baseman Manny Machado, can boast defensive numbers that narrow the gap to very little.

Let's examine the leaders for MVP, Cy Young and Rookie of the Year as MLB comes down the stretch.

AL MVP

With an on-base percentage over .400, a slugging percentage near .700 and Roger Maris’ single-season team record for home runs just a few deep drives away, no other player in MLB can match the kind of offensive season Judge is having. Presuming that most voters will look at traditional statistics along with other modern metrics like WAR, Judge finds himself in a good spot. And with the Yankees also leading the AL East and — presuming certain voters will lend additional weight to a candidate who leads a playoff contender — Judge has almost every factor in his favor.

Except, of course, for Ohtani’s ability to pitch at an All-Star (even Cy Young) level. And when we add up the WAR at the three big outlets — Baseball-Reference, FanGraphs and Baseball Prospects, here’s how they compare overall:

WAR comparison for top AL MVP candidates
Platform Judge Ohtani
Baseball-Reference 8.4 7.9
FanGraphs 8.9 7.8
Baseball Prospectus 8.2 7.2

Judge is having a better season at bat but, like every other slugger, he can't compete with Ohtani's ability to pitch like a Cy Young candidate too. If Judge keeps pumping home runs over the fence like Roger Maris in 1961, he figures to have the edge. But if Ohtani keeps up his end and continues to ride his own unprecedented wave, many voters won’t be able to resist him. It could be one of the closest votes ever.

NL MVP

Goldschmidt is having a Triple Crown kind of season, leading in batting average and RBIs and second in home runs. But the margins are narrow, and it's possible that a flat September could spoil his leadership of any major category in the NL (perhaps aside from slugging percentage). And to win MVP, he's going to need to stay hot.

Arenado and Betts are not far behind him in the overall WAR picture because of their strong defensive seasons. Goldschmidt’s metrics at first base (unlike in most of his previous seasons) are closer to league average.

WAR comparison for top NL MVP candidates
Platform Goldschmidt Arenado Betts
Baseball-Reference 7.3 7.3 6.1
FanGraphs 7.0 6.9 6.4
Baseball Prospectus 5.6 4.8 6.3

AL Cy Young

Injuries to Justin Verlander and Shane McClanahan muddy the waters, with Dylan Cease of the Chicago White Sox and Ohtani standing to benefit the most. Verlander's 1.84 ERA stands out among all stats for any pitcher, but the longer he is sidelined, the higher the likelihood it would cost him votes.

The biggest detail working against Ohtani, who is part of a six-person rotation with the Angels, is a lack of innings; he trails Houston Astros left-hander Framber Valdez, the AL leader, by 34 innings. But even accounting for that, Ohtani leads Baseball Prospectus in WAR for pitchers. He’s easily having his best season as a pitcher.

Could anyone else win? It's possible that Alek Manoah of the Toronto Blue Jays and Valdez could gain on everyone by climbing the ERA chart. However, it’s likely that it comes down to Ohtani and Cease, with some holdovers for Verlander if his ERA stays where it is.

AL Cy Young contenders
PItcher, Team ERA IP
Justin Verlander, Astros 1.84 152
Dylan Cease, White Sox 2.13 156
Shane McClanahan, Rays 2.20 147 1/3
Shohei Ohtani, Angels 2.58 136

NL Cy Young

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Sep 2, 2022; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Miami Marlins starting pitcher Sandy Alcantara (22) throws against the Atlanta Braves in the second inning at Truist Park. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Marlins right-hander Sandy Alcántara leads the majors with 190 2/3 innings pitched and is second in the NL with a 2.39 ERA. That’s a nearly impossible combination to beat. Dodgers left-hander Julio Urias has a lower ERA narrowly but is 45 innings behind Alcántara. Zac Gallen of the Arizona Diamondbacks and Max Fried of the Atlanta Braves also have sub-2.50 ERAs, but they also trail by a significant amount of innings.

Looking at WAR across the board clears up little. Philadelphia Phillies right-hander Aaron Nola leads at FanGraphs and Baseball Prospectus (and he’s third at Baseball-Reference), but his ERA would have to come down a lot to threaten Alcántara. Fried and Gallen (who has been unhittable since the All-Star break) could make a run if Alcántara falters in his final five or six starts.

NL Rookie of the Year

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Sep 7, 2022; Oakland, California, USA; Atlanta Braves starting pitcher Spencer Strider (65) delivers a pitch against the Oakland Athletics during the second inning at RingCentral Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: D. Ross Cameron-USA TODAY Sports

Right-hander Spencer Strider and outfielder Michael Harris II of the Braves are the runaway top rookies in the NL. With a 2.67 ERA and about one billion strikeouts (actually 174), Strider has the stats to go with the hype and the mustache. He’s got it locked up and should do well in down-ballot Cy Young voting too. Harris leads NL rookie hitters in average WAR, homers and steals.

AL Rookie of the Year

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Sep 5, 2022; Seattle, Washington, USA; Seattle Mariners center fielder Julio Rodriguez (44) hits a single against the Chicago White Sox during the first inning at T-Mobile Park. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Julio Rodríguez of the Seattle Mariners and Adley Rutschman of the Baltimore Orioles have been the two best rookies in the AL, and it should be viewed as a really tight race that will go down to the end of the season.

Making the club out of spring training before struggling in his first month, Rodríguez has been the top power hitter among all AL rookies (in home runs, slugging percentage and isolated power), leads in runs scored and is second in stolen bases. His defensive metrics at FanGraphs and Fielding Bible are roughly neutral, but he ranks 14th overall among 134 qualifying outfielders in Outs Above Average at MLB’s site, Baseball Savant. His presence is no doubt a huge reason the Mariners are in great position to make the playoffs for the first time since 2001.

Rutschman didn’t debut until the third week of May, but he’s been even better in real life than he was advertised as a prospect for the Orioles, who improbably are vying for an AL wild card after losing 110 games in 2021. Without him in the lineup this season, the Orioles are 20-28. With him playing, they are 52-36. Rutschman’s defense, including but not limited to pitch framing, has raised the floor across the board on Baltimore’s pitching staff, which has gone from dead last in ERA to 11th in MLB in one season.

Individually at Fielding Bible, Rutschman ranks tied for first with Jose Trevino of the Yankees in Total Runs Saved among all catchers — not just rookies. Rutschman’s hitting has been sneaky good; he’s tied for second with Cleveland Guardians outfielder Steven Kwan in on-base percentage among rookies, and only Rodríguez (.205) has a higher ISO (.195) among AL rookies.

Bobby Witt of the Kansas City Royals ranks high in home runs and stolen bases, but he has poor metrics at shortstop (better at third base). He and Kwan, along with Astros shortstop Jeremy Peña, have a chance to come in third.

The top rookie pitchers have been Orioles closer Félix Bautista and Minnesota Twins closer Jhoan Durán; either could finish as high as third. The best rookie starter has been Mariners righty George Kirby, with Joe Ryan of the Twins and Reid Detmers of the Angels trailing.

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