MLB Awards Watch - A wide-open NL MVP race, a new Cy Young leader and the Ohtani vs. Vlad Jr. debate

Even in a typical season, winning a major award is the result of some combination of skill and luck. The skill part is obviously crucial and more often than not, that's what ultimately holds sway when the ballots are cast.

But there is always an element of luck. Did a career season coincide with that of a competitor who is also producing at peak level but has a higher baseline of talent? How much impact with team-related factors have on the voting? And what about injuries?

Yeah, what about injuries? Perhaps it's appropriate for this topsy-turvy time in baseball, but this year's awards races have been heavily influenced by the injury wave that has washed over the majors this year.

Early season narratives have been forgotten because the protagonists in them have been on the shelf for weeks or months. Remember when the AL MVP race was shaping up as an epic battle between Angels great Mike Trout and Twins center fielder Byron Buxton, who finally seemed to have put all the elements of his immense talent together? Injuries wiped that out. They've also robbed us of Jacob deGrom's race against history and bids from Ronald Acuna Jr. and Fernando Tatis Jr. to post 40-40 seasons, or better.

It's tough for the sport but with seven weeks to go in the regular-season campaign, it's time to focus on the races we do have, not the ones we don't. And while injuries have stolen some of the glitz from the races, the flip side is that some of them are wide open as the season hits the stretch run.

And so today, ESPN MLB experts Bradford Doolittle and David Schoenfield check in with their regular glance of the races in this month's Awards Watch.

As always, a statistical glimpse of the races is provided using Doolittle's AXE ratings. This month, the ratings are prorated for 162 games using season-to-date results, plus a rest-of-season forecast based on anticipated playing time and 2021 performance. Playing time estimates are based on depth chart data from Fangraphs.com.