Major League Baseball teams have now played about 34 games each. In a normal season, the last thing we'd be focused on right now is postseason awards. As has been written ad infinitum this summer, this is not a normal season. In fact, we're down to the stretch run. Thus, strange as it seems, we have to take these results of barely more than a month and start to view them through the prism of postseason honors.
There are a couple of obvious ramifications from this. First, there are invariably going to be some surprising names you might never associate with a label like "MVP" or "Cy Young" who show up as contenders. Players we'd normally look at and say, "great start, good luck keeping it up" instead need only to perpetuate their auspicious beginnings for a few more weeks.
The other consequence is that the picture can change drastically with the results of a single night. That's especially true for pitchers. Take, for example, Reds starter Sonny Gray. Prior to his outing on Tuesday, he was clearly in a fairly crowded group of National League pitchers positioned for Cy Young contention. This was based on seven starts, during which he was 5-1 with a 1.93 ERA. Then came Tuesday ... and the Cardinals shelled Gray, hanging six runs on him over just ⅔ of an inning. Now he's 5-2 with a 3.19 ERA.
Things don't move as quickly for position players but, still, a five-RBI game that includes some late-game heroics can have quite an effect on how a player rates. Thus the leaderboards that follow must be considered snapshots. Look fast, because tomorrow they could look very different.