By Cliff Corcoran
As baseball in August heats up, the stakes get higher. While the playoff races certainly grab everyone's attention, there are so many other competitions to track -- something for everyone, essentially. Here are 32 of the most compelling individual milestones, league leaders and historically significant accomplishments that are within reach as we enter the final seven weeks of the regular season, ranked in order of which ones are the most intriguing.
32. National League West
31. NL East
30. American League West
Check out MLB.com's playoff projections and you'll see: These divisional races are essentially over.
29. Home-field advantage throughout the postseason
28. Home-field advantage throughout the AL playoffs
The Dodgers have a sizable edge over the Nationals for home-field advantage throughout the NL playoffs and over the Astros for home-field advantage in a potential World Series matchup. As for the Astros, they have a comfortable lead on the Red Sox for home-field advantage throughout the AL playoffs (though Boston could always go on a run and shrink the gap).
27. AL batting title
Jose Altuve, who won the AL batting crown in 2014 and '16, enters Friday hitting a Major League-leading .365. The runner-up in the AL is his teammate, Carlos Correa (.320), but on the disabled list with a thumb injury that is likely to keep him out into September and may not even get enough at-bats to qualify for the batting title this season.
26. AL Rookie of the Year Award
Don't worry too much about Aaron Judge's post-All-Star slump. Since July 18, he has hit .212/.376/.455 with five home runs and 18 walks in 85 plate appearances. No, that's not great, but Judge is not quite as lost as his first five post-ASG games made him look. He's still leading the AL in homers (35), runs (86), walks (83), slugging (.616) and OPS (1.038), never mind the rookies.
25. NL Rookie of the Year Award
Cody Bellinger will probably win this unanimously, but despite his home run barrage, his overall numbers aren't as impressive as Judge's. As a result, he'd have a more difficult time enduring the sort of slump Judge has had to contend with.
24. NL Wild Card teams
The D-backs and Rockies have these two spots pretty well in-hand, as you can see from MLB.com's playoff projections.
23. AL Manager of the Year Award
A.J. Hinch was the runner-up for this award in 2015, when the Astros surprised everyone with an ahead-of-schedule playoff appearance. This year, they're right on time, but so dominant that Hinch seems like a lock for the award. Joe Girardi should get some support, but Hinch's biggest challenge could come from the skipper of whatever team sneaks in to win the AL's second Wild Card spot.
22. NL Manager of the Year Award
This is only a more difficult call than the AL Manager of the Year Award competition because the Dodgers' Dave Roberts just won the award last year. He'll have challenges from Washington's Dusty Baker (a three-time winner, with his last honor in 2000), Milwaukee's Craig Counsell, and the new hires in Colorado and Arizona: Bud Black (who won with San Diego in 2010) and rookie skipper Torey Lovullo.
21. 300 strikeouts
When Clayton Kershaw struck out 301 batters in 2015, he was the first pitcher to reach 300 strikeouts since Randy Johnson (334) and Curt Schilling (316) both did it for the Diamondbacks in 2002. Thus far this season, Chris Sale is on pace to break the 300-K-mark comfortably.
20. AL Central
Thursday night's loss was the Royals' ninth in their past 11 games and dropped them behind the Twins for the first time since July 20. However, Minnesota has won five in a row to climb within four games in the loss column of first-place Cleveland.
19. Best Rookie (MLB Awards)
Per the above, Judge has a sizeable lead on Bellinger despite their similar home run totals, but Judge's slump has left the door open for Bellinger to catch up.
18. NL Cy Young Award
This looks like defending NL Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer's trophy to lose right now, but if Kershaw returns before the end of the month and picks up where he left off in July, this race could get very interesting.
17. AL Cy Young Award
This looks like the year that Sale will finally take home this award, but Cleveland's Corey Kluber has been gaining on him ever since returning from a back injury on June 1, and it was a strong finish that netted Kluber the award in 2014.
16. NL batting title
Since going 3-for-5 on Opening Day, Justin Turner's batting average hasn't been below .343 this season. Entering Friday's action, he is at .348 with a 15-point lead on Colorado's Charlie Blackmon. That's far from a sure thing, but it's a comfortable lead, for now. The catch here is that Turner has already had one disabled list stay this year. Another could leave him short the qualifying number of at-bats needed.
15. MLB/NL stolen-base lead
Billy Hamilton has 45 steals. Dee Gordon has 40. However, Trea Turner stole 35 in just 68 games before fracturing his wrist. If he returns before the end of the month, he could make like the Freeze and come from behind to ice everyone.
14. MLB home run lead
Judge and Giancarlo Stanton were neck-and-neck for the Major League home run lead until Stanton broke away, hitting six home runs over the past seven days to take a four-homer lead. Meanwhile, Bellinger is just two behind Judge's 35 and six behind Stanton's 39, and has being going deep more often than either since making his Major League debut in April.
13. NL Central
The Cubs' inability to pull away from the pack remains frustrating, but they have now been alone in first place for more than two weeks, and it remains difficult to envision any other team winning this division, despite the Cardinals' recent surge.
12. Best Defensive Player (MLB Awards)
The advanced stats suggest this could come down to Angels shortstop Andrelton Simmons and Red Sox right fielder Mookie Betts. Do the aesthetics match?
11. AL East
The Yankees were in first place for the last four days of July, but they stumbled last week. The Red Sox took advantage with a winning streak that stretched to eight games. However, these two clubs will play three-game sets against each other each of the next two weekends, and four more head-to-head games as the calendar flips to September.
10. AL MVP Award
This is a close call between Judge and Altuve right now. Where does Judge go from here? If he continues to slump, Altuve could win this easily. If Judge breaks out of his current doldrums and goes on another run, he could surge back into the lead.
9. First to clinch
Entering Friday's action, the Dodgers' magic number is 33. The Astros' and Nationals' numbers are both at 35.
8. Best Major Leaguer (MLB Awards)
This will probably go to the winner of the AL MVP Award (or at least the player most deserving of the AL MVP Award), but there's a lot of season left and many great players having excellent seasons in the NL who could upset that expectation with a strong finish.
7. Best Pitcher (MLB Awards)
This is very close between Scherzer and Sale right now, with Scherzer having the edge in ERA and WHIP, but Sale having thrown eight more innings in the same number of starts with more strikeouts but fewer walks and homers and -- for those who still care -- more wins and fewer losses. Meanwhile, Kluber and Kershaw aren't out of the picture just yet.
6. NL Wild Card home-field advantage
In the past three weeks, the Rockies and D-backs have swapped places in the standings nine times. On the season, the two teams are 6-6 against each other, including a 3-3 record both in Denver and Phoenix.
5. 2018's No. 1 Draft pick
The Phillies, White Sox, Giants and Padres are all in the mix here. Potential prize? Perhaps Brice Turang, a shortstop out of Corona, Calif.
4. Rookie home run record
Since Mark McGwire hit 49 home runs in 1987 to break Frank Robinson's 31-year-old rookie record of 38, no rookie has hit more than Albert Pujols' 37 in 2001. Judge and Bellinger should easily surpass Robinson, and both have a very real chance to catch McGwire as well. Judge, despite his recent slump, is on pace for 50 homers. Bellinger, if he continues to play in every Dodgers game, is on an almost identical pace. However, there's almost no room for either to cool off, something Judge has already done, leaving open the possibility that both could fall short of McGwire's 49.
3. Dodgers' win total
The Dodgers won their 81st game Thursday night and remain on a 115-win pace. The all-time record is 116. More details here.
2. NL MVP Award
Paul Goldschmidt? Bryce Harper? Nolan Arenado? Charlie Blackmon? Bellinger? Justin Turner? Anthony Rendon? Corey Seager? Chris Taylor? Joey Votto? Stanton? You might have an easy way to eliminate two or three of those names, but the rest still present quite a puzzle for MVP voters.
1. AL Wild Card
The host of the AL Wild Card Game is likely to be the team that loses the AL East race. As for the visitor in that game, that's anyone's guess. Here's how things look at the moment, with just 7 1/2 weeks left in the season.
There will be plenty to watch as the season winds down. Buckle up.
Cliff Corcoran is a Sports on Earth contributor and a regular guest analyst on the MLB Network. An editor or contributor to 13 books about baseball, including seven Baseball Prospectus annuals, he spent the last 10 seasons covering baseball for SI.com and has also written for USA Today and SB Nation, among others.