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How Giants stack up against rest of NL stars in awards race

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When Farhan Zaidi took over as president of baseball operations after the 2018 season, he didn't just inherit one of the worst teams in baseball. He inherited one that seemingly had lost just about all of its star power.

The Giants didn't have a single player get a vote for any of the major awards in 2017 and 2018, and the next season wasn't much better. Kevin Pillar was listed 10th on one MVP ballot and that was it.

Things started to turn in 2020, and this season it's fully back to normal at Oracle Park. The team is winning -- more consistently than most teams in MLB history -- and some huge individual performances have led the way, even as Gabe Kapler relies on depth day-to-day. Bay Area baseball fans can legitimately discuss the MVP and Cy Young Award races again, and a few Giants should get respect when ballots are turned in before the postseason kicks off.

As the season hits the stretch run, here's a look at where things stand with some of the major National League awards and which Giants have a shot to get shown some love:

Most Valuable Player

The frontrunner: Fernando Tatis Jr. (Padres)

The 22-year-old has basically been the frontrunner the entire season, with the exception of IL stints that allowed others to close the gap. He leads the league with 36 homers and ranks second in OPS (1.005) and stolen bases (24). He's tied for second with 5.1 fWAR, and while the defense at shortstop was awful, he deserves credit for coming back as an outfielder after suffering another shoulder injury. 

 

The main knock on Tatis right now is that his Padres might slip out of the postseason picture after an offseason of hype.

Others in the mix: Bryce Harper (Phillies), Trea Turner (Dodgers), Max Muncy (Dodgers), Freddie Freeman (Braves)

Harper has had a huge second half -- thanks, Kris Bryant! -- and just finished off an August that included 10 homers and a 1.231 OPS, pushing his fWAR to a league-leading 5.3. He has the Phillies right there in the NL East and Wild Card races, and if they sneak in he probably becomes the favorite. 

Turner and Muncy are two of the three Dodgers in the top seven in the NL in Wins Above Replacement, along with Will Smith. It's a loaded team, and while Turner has the statistical edge on just about everyone in baseball, it's hard to be the MVP after a midseason trade. If the Dodgers win the West, Muncy could be their choice. 

Freeman is the reigning MVP and is up to 28 homers. If the Braves win the East without Ronald Acuña Jr., Freeman and Austin Riley are going to get a lot of the credit.

The Giants: Buster Posey, Brandon Crawford

The two most popular Giants have taken turns inching toward the top of this race, but both are currently slumping at the plate. They still rank 11th and 12th in the NL in fWAR, though, and this surprise Giants run opens the door for MVP consideration. Posey has won it before and Crawford might be the most impactful two-way player in the league.

Cy Young Award

The frontrunner: Nobody, since Jacob deGrom is still hurt

Guys in the mix: Walker Buehler (Dodgers), Corbin Burnes (Brewers), Zack Wheeler (Phillies), Brandon Woodruff (Brewers), Max Scherzer

This might have been renamed the Jacob deGrom Award if the Mets right-hander had stayed healthy and continued his absurd run, but deGrom (1.08 ERA, 13.3 K/9) hasn't pitched since July 7. That means it's wide open down the stretch.

Burnes lowered his ERA to 2.27 with a strong start Monday at Oracle Park and leads NL pitchers with 6.3 fWAR. His 1.58 FIP is the lowest in the league by over a full run, but he has thrown just 139 innings, so he'll need a full September. His teammate, Woodruff, lowered his ERA to 2.35 on Tuesday and ranks in the top five in just about every category.

Buehler has completed at least six innings in 26 of his 27 starts and leads MLB with a 2.05 ERA and 193 ERA+. He's 13-2 and is going to shoot past 200 strikeouts in the next couple weeks. 

Wheeler is the dark horse, and while his ERA is up at 3.02, he leads the NL in innings, strikeouts and fWAR. Keep an eye on Scherzer, too. The three-time winner is 5-0 with a 1.55 ERA since being traded to L.A. 

 

The Giant: Kevin Gausman's rough second half has scared Giants fans, but he still ranks fourth in ERA (2.49) and FIP (2.94) and fifth in fWAR (3.8). He has looked better the last few times out, and a big September could get him back to the front of this pack.

Manager of the Year

The frontrunner: Gabe Kapler

This is a strange award, because it's very rarely given to the manager who actually did the best job for nine innings every night. We know that because Bruce Bochy never won it as Giants manager. It helps to win your division, but it really helps to vastly exceed expectations, and Kapler currently checks all the boxes. 

The most optimistic projections had the Giants finishing around .500 and in third place in the NL West. As we all know, they have had the best record in baseball for three months. Kapler also deserves a ton of credit for putting together a staff that has gotten the most out of newcomers and veterans alike. 

Kapler came to San Francisco as a polarizing figure, but at the moment he should be a unanimous choice, and even if the Giants fade to second place he still should be a pretty easy choice. 

Others in the mix: Brian Snitker (Braves), Craig Counsell (Brewers)

Snitker won three years ago and deserves a lot of credit for helping the Braves climb to the top of the NL East pack after losing Ronald Acuña Jr. for the year. Counsell has finished second two of the last three seasons and has the Brewers way out in front in the Central. There's no doubt the former big leaguer is one of the best managers in the game, but this is Kapler's award to lose. 

Gold Glove Awards

The SABR Defensive Index makes up about 25 percent of the vote, and while the numbers haven't always matched the eye test for the Giants, this year they could be a big help. 

Crawford ranks third overall in the NL and second at shortstop -- behind St. Louis' Paul deJong -- in SDI, which puts him firmly in the mix for a fourth Gold Glove. He's tied with deJong and Francisco Lindor with six Defensive Runs Saved, but he leads both players by well over 100 innings on the field. Crawford is also in the top 10 in MLB in Outs Above Average, although Nick Ahmed and Lindor rank first and second, respectively. 

The eye test says Crawford is about as good as he has ever been defensively, and his reputation -- and the big overall season -- should help. He has a very good shot at picking up more hardware at the age of 34.

RELATED: Giants need All-Star version of Gausman now more than ever

The rest of the Giants are probably out of the mix, although SDI does love Gausman. Posey currently ranks eighth among NL catchers and is going to be far behind in games and innings caught. 

 

Brandon Belt probably should have won a Gold Glove years ago, but injuries have cost him too much time this season. Evan Longoria was a rock at third early on, but he has missed most of the summer and plays the same position as Nolan Arenado. Mike Yastrzemski rates very well in right field but has moved to center since the Kris Bryant trade. 

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