From the drawers of the Top Secret Fyles:
Pitchers in 2021 could sweep MVP and Cy Young Awards in each league for the first time since 1968, when Bob Gibson and Denny McLain took the honors.
After just passing the midpoint, this MLB season’s division and wild-card races are heating up, and the most interesting individual battles will be for NL and AL MVPs.
In the AL, two-way talent Shohei Ohtani of the Angels and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. of the Blue Jays are big-time frontrunners, while in the NL, pitching whiz Jacob deGrom and Fernando Tatis Jr. are the top candidates.
Ohtani is this century’s Babe Ruth, who starred as a hitter and a pitcher for the Red Sox in 1918-19. The international star is hitting .279 with an MLB-leading 33 homers and 70 RBIs, third in the AL. On the mound, Ohtani is 4-1 in 13 starts over 67 innings with a 3.49 ERA and 87 strikeouts, but he needs to improve his stats in the second half.
Only in his third big league season, Guerrero Jr. is hitting .332 with 73 RBIs — both MLB bests — and 28 homers.
Meanwhile, deGrom could be baseball’s best pitcher since Sandy Koufax. DeGrom is 7-2 in 15 starts over 92 innings with an unreal 1.08 ERA. The Mets’ right-hander has walked only 11 batters and struck out an NL-high 146.
The Padres’ Tatis Jr. leads the NL with 28 homers and has knocked in 60 runs, tied for fourth-most in the NL.
n AL MVP: Ohtani.
n NL MVP: deGrom.
n AL Cy Young: Gerrit Cole, Yankees. He’s 9-4 with a 2.68 ERA and leads the majors with 147 strikeouts.
n NL Cy Young: deGrom.
n AL Rookie: Adolis Garcia, Rangers. The relatively unknown outfielder is enjoying a big year (.270, 22 HRs, 62 RBIs).
n NL Rookie: Trevor Rogers, Marlins. Talented pitcher is fifth in the NL in ERA (2.31).
n AL Manager: Alex Cora, Red Sox. The AL East leader (55-36) is flying high with the manager back after a one-year ban and a 2020 last-place finish.
n NL Manager: Craig Counsell, Brewers. Milwaukee (53-39) recently enjoyed an 11-game winning streak that vaulted it atop the NL Central.
n AL Most Surprising Team: White Sox. Chicago (54-35) is an eight-game division leader under “new” manager Tony La Russa, 76, despite injuries.
n NL Most Surprising Team: Giants. San Francisco (57-32) has thrived behind its veterans, whose health will be closely watched in the second half.
n AL Most Disappointing Team: Twins. Minnesota (39-50) has floundered all season because of spotty pitching.
n NL Most Disappointing Team: Cubs. Chicago (44-46) has lost 13 of its past 15 games since no-hitting the Dodgers on June 24.
Times sports copy editor Richard Fyle can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org