What's at stake over the final week of the MLB season?

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The 2022 Major League Baseball season is heading toward the finish line, and there are a number of intriguing items that still haven't been resolved.

From Aaron Judge's Triple Crown chase to some undetermined winners of baseball hardware, the campaign's final week should have plenty to offer.

Here's what you need to keep an eye on.

Triple Crown and AL MVP

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Judge is putting together one of the best offensive seasons this century. As impressive as his home run quest has been, the slugger's chase for the Triple Crown is arguably even more incredible. In an era where power hitters are increasingly sacrificing batting average for power, Judge has bucked the trend to keep his average well over the .300 mark. The 30-year-old is in a tight race with the Twins' Luis Arraez and Red Sox stalwart Xander Bogaerts for the average title in the season's final days.

Judge's pursuit of the Triple Crown is yet another notch in his belt to help solidify the first MVP award of his stellar career. It's a testament to Judge's brilliance that he's been able to hold Angels star Shohei Ohtani at bay in the MVP conversation. Ohtani will likely receive some first-place votes on ballots, but at this point, it's hard to envision a scenario where Judge doesn't take home the prestigious hardware in November.

Hardware up for grabs


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It appears to be a three-horse race for National League MVP, and the winner could be determined during the season's final week.

The front-runners are Nolan Arenado and Paul Goldschmidt of the Cardinals and Manny Machado of the Padres, with the three having similar seasons. Each has surpassed 30 home runs and 100 RBIs, plus they're all hitting around .300 or slugging over .500.

Entering Thursday, Machado and Arenado are tied at 7.2 fWAR, with Goldschmidt nipping at their heels with 7.1. Goldschmidt has an advantage in homers, RBIs, and wRC+, but Arenado and Machado have been superior defenders at a tougher position while still putting up impressive offensive numbers.

Machado has been hot as of late, while Arenado and Goldschmidt have not, so it'll be interesting to see how things turn out by season's end.

Cy Youngs

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The race for the American League Cy Young is a fascinating one. The Astros' Justin Verlander is putting together one of the great comeback campaigns in recent history. Verlander leads the AL in ERA at the age of 39 after missing nearly two seasons following Tommy John surgery.

Meanwhile, White Sox ace Dylan Cease has been one of the few bright spots in a dreary season on the South Side of Chicago. Cease sits inside the top five in K/9, ERA, and fWAR among qualified AL hurlers.

Ohtani might have as strong a claim for the Cy Young as he does MVP. Although he doesn't have as many innings as some of the other candidates, Ohtani's brilliance should put him squarely in the mix for the award.

Tampa Bay's Shane McClanahan, Houston's Framber Valdez, and a pair of Blue Jays arms in Kevin Gausman and Alek Manoah are also likely to be in the fray.

The National League's Cy Young debate could pit traditionalists against new-school, analytically-inclined baseball thinkers.

Marlins ace Sandy Alcantara leads the Senior Circuit by a wide margin in innings pitched and complete games but is lacking in the strikeout department, which is usually an important statistic for voters to take into consideration.

Giants lefty Carlos Rodon is second in the league in strikeouts and carries a higher fWAR than Alcantara.

The Phillies' Aaron Nola boasts a microscopic walk rate to go with a strong ERA and fWAR. There are certainly a handful of deserving candidates, but this has felt like Alcantara's award to lose for the majority of the season.

Rookie of the Year honors

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MLB's young talent pool is elite, so determining who will win Rookie of the Year honors in each league is no easy task.

In the AL, a strong contingent has made its presence known throughout the 2022 campaign, but it looks like one of Julio Rodriguez or Adley Rutschman will be named the league's top rookie.

J-Rod has had a more complete campaign, slashing .280/.342/.502 with 27 homers, 73 RBIs, and 25 steals in 129 games, but Rutschman's body of work can't be overlooked. The Orioles catcher owns a .256/.361/.447 line with 12 homers, 32 doubles, and 40 RBIs in 104 games.

In the NL, two members of the Braves have stood out the most.

Michael Harris II and Spencer Strider have both been exceptional, with the talented pair both registering 4.9 fWAR.

Strider has been shelved for the remainder of the season due to injury, giving Harris one final week to surge ahead of his peer.

Wild cards and division crowns

Final playoff spots in AL, NL

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The push for the playoffs in the American League appears to be about seeding more than who'll actually qualify. The Blue Jays, Rays, and Mariners are all closing in on clinching playoff berths. The three clubs are jockeying for the right to take the first wild-card spot, ensuring all three games will be played in their home stadium. The big question many are asking is would it be more advantageous to finish in the third wild-card spot instead of the second? That placement would set up a road to the World Series through Cleveland and New York, which might be an easier path than going through the first wild-card club and the AL-leading Astros. It should make for an exciting and tense final week of scoreboard watching for fans in Toronto, Tampa Bay, and Seattle.

The battle between the Padres, Phillies, and Brewers for the final two NL wild-card spots might come down to who has the most forgiving schedule. Milwaukee needs to leapfrog one of San Diego or Philadelphia outright because each club holds the tiebreaker over the Brew Crew. The Brewers will play the remainder of their games at the friendly confines of American Family Field, which could be the boost they need to make up ground. The Padres take on the Dodgers, White Sox, and Giants. A pair of matchups against division foes could leave San Diego somewhat vulnerable. The Phillies have the Cubs, Nationals, and Astros remaining and will need to find their stride again after an inconsistent first few weeks of September if they hope to clinch their first postseason berth since 2011.

Who will win NL East?

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After leading the division for all but three days of the regular season, the Mets saw their lead evaporate. A torrid run from the Braves has made the race for the NL East the most exciting battle to track over the final week of the season. The division will likely be decided by a three-game set at Truist Park in Atlanta over the weekend. The Mets have the ideal configuration for their pitching rotation, with Jacob deGrom, Max Scherzer, and Chris Bassitt expected to make starts against the Braves. The Mets will need deGrom to quickly remedy the struggles he showed in Oakland during his last outing. If hoisting an NL East banner wasn't incentive enough, avoiding the Dodgers in a potential NLDS is likely another motivating factor for both clubs to emerge as the division king.

What's at stake over the final week of the MLB season?
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