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Biertempfel: Ranking MLB's best, and Pirates' chances

| Saturday, Aug. 24, 2013, 11:51 p.m.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen drives in a run with a single during the first inning against the Rockies on Sunday, Aug. 4, 2013, at PNC Park.

With five weeks left in the regular season, Andrew McCutchen sure looks like the National League MVP.

Although he got off to a somewhat slow start (by his standards, at least), McCutchen's performance at the plate is every bit as good as last year. He ranks among the top three players in the league in wins above replacement, which is one of the more important tools voters use when filling out MVP ballots. His base stealing and baserunning has improved, as has his defense. Also, McCutchen is universally recognized as the face of the franchise, which, for better or worse, plays a big role in the voting.

Of course, none of that is a guarantee McCutchen will win the award. A lot can happen in five weeks.

The MVP, Cy Young, Rookie of the Year and Manager of the Year awards are voted upon by the Baseball Writers Association of America. Two members in each of the 30 chapters cast ballots for each award. Ballots are due on the final day of the regular season.

On Wednesday afternoon, I received my 2013 MVP ballot via email. I've been an awards voter for the past decade, and this will be my fourth time voting for MVP.

The ballot came with this disclaimer: “There is no clear-cut definition of what most valuable means. It is up to the individual voter to decide.”

I haven't yet finalized which 10 names I will list (in order of preference) on my ballot. I always reveal that after the winner is announced.

But if you'd ask me today how I think the final outcome will look, I'd say ... 1. McCutchen; 2. Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers; 3. Paul Goldschmidt, Diamondbacks.

McCutchen's fine stats and the Pirates' surprising pennant chase are pluses. Kershaw has been amazing, but some voters hesitate to elect a pitcher MVP because he's not an everyday player and there's already an award specifically for pitchers.

Carlos Gomez of the Brewers, Matt Carpenter of the Cardinals and Joey Votto of the Reds also will rank high on most ballots.

The Mets' David Wright was in the midst of a great season until being derailed by a hamstring injury. That'll knock him down a spot or two on some ballots.

Pirates left fielder Starling Marte keeps popping up among the top five on USA Today's MVP tracker, but I would be surprised if he finishes that high in the final tally. Marte doesn't have a lot of national name recognition yet. And although his overall stats are solid, Marte has been erratic at times at the plate and in the field.

Other Pirates will factor into the other awards, but I don't foresee any of them winning.

Cy Young: 1. Kershaw; 2. Adam Wainwright, Cardinals; 3. Craig Kimbrel, Braves.

This one will be a landslide for Kershaw. Pirates lefty Francisco Liriano is a great candidate for Comeback Player of the Year (which is not a BBWAA award) but probably won't crack the top five for Cy Young.

Rookie of the Year: 1. Jose Fernandez, Marlins; 2. Yasiel Puig, Dodgers; 3. Hyun-Jin Ryu, Dodgers.

A difficult choice. Puig's detractors will say he didn't play enough games (71, through Saturday) to make an accurate judgment. His supporters will say his arrival helped jolt the Dodgers out of their early-season stupor.

Through Tuesday, Gerrit Cole's six victories put him in a four-way tie for sixth among NL rookies. His 3.88 ERA barely landed him a spot in the top 20. Shelby Miller of the Cardinals and Julio Teheran of the Braves arguably have made bigger contributions for playoff-bound teams than Cole.

Manager of the Year: 1. Don Mattingly, Dodgers; 2. Clint Hurdle, Pirates; 3. Fredi Gonzalez, Braves.

On June 21, the Dodgers were 12 games below .500. At the end of June, they were last in the NL West. Mattingly held things together, and the Dodgers are favored to win the NL pennant.

Rob Biertempfel is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at rbiertempfel@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.

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