Anybody who has ever watched baseball with any conviction at all, then debating over who should win Major League baseball's annual awards is almost as fun as watching what unfolds during the postseason.
With those awards, however, occassionally comes winners who make the baseball viewing public scratch their heads, and wonder what the baseball writers of America were thinking (i.e. Albert Belle in 1995, Willie Mays in 1962).
So rather than sitting idly by and waiting for the baseball writers to select the baseball award winners, the baseball featured columnists here at Bleacher Report have decided, as baseball writers ourselves, to select our own baseball award winners.
I originally came up with the idea after reading numerous articles debating who sho be selected for various award, such as MVP and Cy Young, with the idea that the entire community of baseball featured columnists should vote on, and select who we thought deserved to win awards.
The response from my fellow featured columnists was terrific, as responses to my online survey poured in as the final month of the 2009 baseball season wound down.
The award categories were as follows: AL and NL MVP, AL and NL Cy Young, AL and NL Rookie of the Year, AL and NL Manager of the Year, Comeback Player of Year, and Team of the Year. The winner in each category will have a slide written by myself, or by some of my favorite baseball featured columnists.
This is the first year of the awards, and with any luck, I would like to do this again in upcoming seasons, so any feedback, positive or negative, is welcome, and once again, I'd like to give a big thank you to all of the featured columnists who participated in this article. I hope you all had as much fun with this as I did, and let's continue to make the baseball featured columnists the most cohesive community on Bleacher Report.
So with all that said, here our you 2009 Bleacher Report Featured Columnist Award winners.
Player/ Percentage of vote
Chris Carpenter, STL 55%
Justin Verlander, DET 10%
Aaron Hill, TOR 10%
17-4 W/L, 2.24 ERA, 192.2 IP, 3 CG, 1 SHO, 38 BB, 144 SO, 1.007 WHIP
There were plenty of great comeback stories in the Major Leagues in 2009. Aaron Hill, Justin Verlander, and Travis Hafner all came back strong after injuries and disappointing seasons in 2008, but no story could touch that of St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Chris Carpenter.
The baseball Featured Columnists here at Bleacher Report took notice, and have justly awarded Carpenter the 2009 Comeback Player of the Year.
It was an amazing story for Carpenter, who after winning the NL Cy Young award in 2005 and a World Series ring in 2006, had basically fallen of the baseball map.
Numerous injuries led Carpenter to pitch in only five games in 2007 and 2008 combined. With each setback, it appeared more and more likely that we had seen the last of Chris Carpenter, but Carpenter never gave up, and the Cardinals never gave up on him either.
Carpenter returned in 2009, and even after a minor injury limited him to only five starts in the first two months of the season, it seemed as if he hadn't missed a beat.
As if the past two season never happened, Carpenter began to dominate his opponents, throwing gem after gem seemingly picking up where he left off in 2006.
He would not only return as a quality starter for St. Louis, but he would once again reclaim the role of "ace" of the staff, as he and Adam Wainwright would form a formidable combo atop the Cardinal's rotation.
Carpenter would once again throw his name in the Cy Young conversation by posting a terrific 17-4 record and leading the National League with a 2.24 ERA.
Any player who had gone though what Chris Carpenter has the past few seasons would be happy just to be back in the majors. Carpenter not only achieved that, but he is still able to dominate, making his comeback even more amazing.
Name/ Percentage of votes
Jim Tracy, COL 39%
Tony LaRussa, STL 35%
Joe Torre, LA 13%
90-72 (74-42 under Tracy), 2nd in NL West, NL Wild Card winner
This was the closest vote by the Bleacher Report baseball Featured Columnists, as Jim Tracy beat out Tony LaRussa for NL Manager of the Year by only one vote.
It's very rare that somebody who is only with a team for part of a season wins an award, but when you are given credit for totally changing the course of a team in less than one season's time, you probably deserve it.
So is the case with Jim Tracy, who righted the Colorado Rockies ship after Clint Hurdle was fired after only 46 games.
The Rockies were a mere 18-28 when Hurdle was dismissed as the team's manager. Tracy's job was to basically stop the bleeding, and keep the Rockies from finishing last. No one ever expected that Tracy would lead the Rockies to a playoff berth.
But that's exactly what happened, as Colorado's players, who had seemed to tune their former manager out, bought into Tracy's message, and suddenly began winning. Once again, the team began doing what made them successful during their World Series run in 2007. They hustled, pitched well, and played terrific defense, and before the baseball world knew it, the Rockies were within striking distance of the NL wild card.
The team would finish strong, going 18-9 in the month of September, while the Giants faltered. The season would finish with the Rockies as the Wild Card winner, going from 10 games under .500, to a final record of 92-70. The team's record under Tracy was even more impressive, at 74-42, 32 games above .500. That's a 42-game improvement.
Name/ Percentage of vote
Ron Washington, TEX 32%
Mike Sciocia, LAA 26%
Joe Girardi, NYY 23 %
Nino Colla, B/R MLB community leader and Cleveland Indians FC
Year after year the Texas Rangers have always had one problem that prevented them from taking a new step.
In 2008, the Rangers pitching was the worst the major leagues had to offer. Dead last in team ERA and innings pitched by starting pitching. Horrible pitching cannot make up for all the offense in the world.
A season later, the Rangers didn’t make some crazy turnaround in the pitching department, but it was obvious the improvements impacted their overall effectiveness as a team. An above .500 record and the last team to fall out of the wild card race, they even held the AL West lead for some time.
A large part of their pitching success is owed to Mike Maddux, who was brought in to establish a new method with the Texas pitchers in an effort to fix their woes. But don’t overlook some of the decisions Ron Washington has had to make and the impact he’s made, not just in 2009, but in 2008.
Moving Scott Feldman to the rotation seemed like a crazy idea at the time, but no doubt as the manager, Washington had to have been cool with it. How many other managers would have been able to deal with their team leader and franchise icon in Michael Young not being happy with a move to third.
Washington guided the ship. He got Michael Young playing third and got him to buy in. He juggled many injuries to his biggest superstar Josh Hamilton, his best player Ian Kinsler and one of his better relievers in Joaquin Benoit. He pressed the right buttons with Andruw Jones, Marlon Byrd and David Murphy in the outfield in an effort to replace Hamilton.
And overall, he was the guy in charge of a team that went from a below-average baseball team that would win games with offense, to an above-average team that no longer had to worry about losing if their offense wasn’t right on a nightly basis.
The manager is the goat when the team isn’t doing well and the the hero when they are doing it all right. This year, Ron Washington made a lot of important decisions and they came up right more than they came up wrong.
Player/ Percentage of Vote
J.A. Happ, PHI 30%
Tommy Hanson, ATL 17%
Chris Coghlan, FLA 17%
12-4 W/L, 2.93 ERA, 166 IP, 3 CG, 2 SHO, 56 BB, 119 SO, 1.235 WHIP
Christian Karcole, Phillies Featured Columnist
J.A. Happ for the Phillies was the Kyle Kendrick of 2007, only far better. His ERA hung around 2.70 for most of the season, and even though he finished the season with it at 2.93, you can’t take away from what he did from May to September.
When Chan Ho Park was demoted to the bullpen, and Happ was called upon to help stop the bleeding in the team’s rotation, the rookie did as told. Brett Myers was supposedly lost for the year, Cole Hamels, Joe Blanton, and Jamie Moyer were struggling, and Park had lost his job.
For Happ to step in and pitch as effectively as he did as a rookie is remarkable. It wasn’t until his 12th start that he lost his first start. And even when he lost his first of the season, which was followed by another loss, the already-balding 26-year-old bounced back with a stellar August, posting a 1.67 ERA. In the end, his 12-4 record, 2.93 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, and 119 strikeouts are only a part of what makes J.A. Happ the NL ROTY. It was his ability to get it done for a team in need that made the difference.
Player/ Percentage of Vote
1. Elvis Andrus, TEX 24 %
2. Jeff Neimann, TB 20%
3. Andrew Bailey, OAK 17%
.267 AVG, 72 R, 128 H, 17 2B, 6 HR, 40 RBI, 33 SB, .329 OBP, .373 SLG
Bo Reed, Rangers Featured Columnist
Elvis Andrus began his career with all eyes on the rookie who caused the team to move longtime shortstop and Rangers captain Michael Young to third base. Things were even more complicated when Michael Young asked to be traded while the Rangers brass were taking a PR pounding for promoting Andrus "'before he was ready."
Young and the media pundits would quickly change their minds after watching the slick-fielding speedster make plays the steady Michael Young would have been unable to reach, much less make. In 145 games played, Andrus had 690 chances and helped turn 98 double plays while compiling a fielding percentage of .968.
In addition to his strong defense, Andrus also hit much better than anyone expected; especially after mid-season adjustments vaulted Andrus from ninth in the order to second. He finished the season with an on-base percentage of .329 and 33 stolen bases. Add in his flashy highlight reel plays on a regular basis and Elvis Andrus is the clear favorite for the American League Rookie of the Year award.
Player/Percentage of Vote
1. Tim Lincecum, SFG 50%
2. Chris Carpenter, STL 39%
3. Adam Wainwright, STL 10%
15-7 W/L, 2.48 ERA, 225.1 IP, 4 CG, 2 SHO, 68 BB, 261 SO, 1.047 WHIP
Andrew Nuschler, Giants Featured Columnist
It’s nice to know that the wise leaders of Bleacher Report’s baseball community recognize true greatness when they see it. Even if the observers who officially vote seem to be leaning away from it.
Tim Lincecum of the San Francisco Giants definitely had a 2009 worthy of recognition.
Despite slim leads owned by Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright in a few of the more traditional categories like wins and earned run average, a closer look at the numbers reveals that no pitcher in the National League was filthier that the Freak.
He was at or near the top of the Senior Circuit in wins, earned run average, WHIP, strikeouts, complete games, shutouts, opponents’ batting average, opponents’ on-base percentage, opponents’ slugging percentage, strikeouts-per-nine-innings, and blew the field away in just about every advanced pitching metric you would care to find.
If it’s intangibles you prefer, Tiny Tim has you covered.
The diminutive Franchise put together this scintillating campaign while laboring under the weight of defending last year’s Cy Young victory IN ADDITION to being the Giants best player and face of the organization. Not only that, he did it against a rougher schedule than most people appreciate due to the NL West sneaking up on people in 2009.
Oh, and he started the year slowly due to some weird fatiguing illness.
Depending on who you ask, people will tell you Tim Lincecum’s 2009 season wasn’t as good as his 2008 effort. I don’t know which was better—I just know both were good enough to take home the Cy Young.
Player/ Percentage of Vote
1. Zack Greinke, KC 80%
2. Justin Verlander, DET 10%
3. Felix Hernandez, SEA 3%
16-8 W/L, 2.16 ERA, 229.1 IP, 6 CG, 3 SHO, 51 BB, 242 SO, 1.073 WHIP
In 2008, Zack Greinke seemed to finally put it all together. He finished with a above .500 for the first time in his career, and set career bests in ERA, innings, strikeouts, and WHIP.
Indeed, Greinke was begining to realize his potential, but many questioned if he would take the next step in 2009.
Greinke answered those questions immediately in 2009, as he would start the season as the hottest pitcher in baseball, going 5-0 with a 0.50 ERA while adding a 38-inning scoreless streak during April (the streak was actually 43 innings, it began in September 2008).
The season looked promising, and even while the rest of his team floundered, Greinke continued to dominate the American League. He would wind up leading the Major Leagues in ERA (2.16), and the American League in WHIP (1.073) while finishing in the top ten in wins (16), winning percentage (.667), H/ 9 innings (7.65), BB/ 9 innings (2.0), K/ 9 innings (9.5), innings pitched (229.1), strikeouts (242), complete games (6), shutouts (3), and K/ BB ratio (4.75).
While critics may point out that Greinke's win total of 16 may be a bit low for a Cy Young contender, he did so on a team that won only 65 games. Sure it's not exactly Steve Carlton in 1972, but it's still a quarter of the Royals wins. On even a halfway decent team, Greinke probably wins 20.
The baseball Featured Columnists here at Bleacher Report seemed to agree, awarding him our own version of the AL Cy Young award.
It seems that Greinke has answered many of the questions that faced him this season. The only question remaining may be how long will the Royals be able to keep their ace in Kansas City.
Player/ Percentage of Votes
1. Albert Pujols, STL 93%
2. Troy Tulowitzki, COL 3%
3. Hanley Ramirez, FLA 3%
.327 AVG, 124 R, 186 H, 45 2B, 47 HR, 135 RBI, .443 OBP, .658 SLG
Aaron Hooks, Cardinals Featured Columnist
Albert Pujols is the best hitter in the history of baseball. Not the
best hitter right now. Not the best hitter ever on the Cardinals. The
best hitter ever to play the sport of baseball on any level anywhere
in the world. And if you don't believe me, you will eventually.
It's not often you find a player that hit 47 home runs, drove in 135
runs, hit .327 and had an OBP of almost .500 say "I'm not satisfied
with my statistics. I could have done more to help my team win." But
that's Albert. A machine. El Hombre. The most amazingly consistent
player of the 00's on the verge of back to back NL MVPs with no end
Perhaps we could sit here and debate the merits of Prince Fielder or
Chase Utley for MVP... but at the end of the day it's a waste of time.
Albert Pujols carried a weak Cardinal team from third place
afterthoughts, to NL juggernaut in 2009. And no offense to Karl
Malone–but this ain't the NBA. We're not going to give the MVP to
someone else just because we're tired of how great the MLB version of
Oh, and in case you're wondering... No. It doesn't get old having him
on your team.
Player/Percentage of Vote
1. Joe Mauer, MIN 60%
2. Derek Jeter, NYY 13%
3. Mark Teixiera, NYY 13%
.365 AVG, 94 R, 191 H, 30 2B, 28 HR, 96 RBI, .444 OBP, .587 SLG
For the most part, the baseball writers who vote for Major League Baseball's annual awards have traditionally loved to honor catchers who have had great seasons offensively, while leading their team to the playoffs (unless you're Mike Piazza in 1996, 1997, or 2000).
The basebll writers here at Bleacher Report seem to appreciate a backstop who is also the backbone of his team, as we have voted Joe Mauer our American League Most Valuable Player.
Already arguably the best catcher in baseball, Mauer took his game to the next level in 2009.
After beginning the season on the disabled list, Mauer returned rust-free, getting off to a hot start, and staying hot all season long.
Batting over .400 until mid-June, Mauer would hit below .350 in only one month during the season (July, .309), on his way to his third batting title, something no catcher in the history of the game had accomplished.
Mauer proved to be more than just a contact hitter at the plate this season as well. Prior to this past season, Mauer's career highs in home runs and RBI where 13 and 85 respectively. He would shatter both in 2009, setting new career bests in both categories, belting 28 home runs and driving in 96 RBI.
Maybe the best argument for Mauer for MVP could be the Twins final record.
Even with their cleanup hitter Justin Morneau out, Mauer proved to be the backbone of his team, helping guide them down the stretch to a tie with the Detroit Tigers, and a win in game number 163, awarding them a playoff spot even after being down by as many as seven games during the final month of the season.
Playing his usual stellar defense, adding power to his already great offensive game, and proving himself as a team leader, Mauer deserves our Featured Columnist AL MVP award, and given the position he plays, maybe it's time he's mentioned in the same breath as Albert Pujols, as best all-around player in the game.
Team/ Percentage of Vote
103-59, 1st in AL East, best record in MLB
What can be said about this team that hasn't been said already in 2009?
They may have the greatest infield ever, their offense is terrific, boasting seven players who hit 20-plus home runs, the rotation boasts arguably the best left-handed pitcher in baseball, and Mariano Rivera is not only the greatest closer of all time, but even at this point in his career, he's the best closer right now. Oh yeah, that manager's not bad either.
Sure the Yankees spent a ton of money during the offseason, but they spent wisely.
CC Sabathia led the AL in wins, Mark Teixiera was terrific, on both defense and offense, AJ Burnett was a solid number two starter, who at times was great, and Nick Swisher, who was figured to be a spare part after the Yanks acquired Teixiera, filled in nicely for injured right fielder Xavier Nady and almost single-handedly carried the team offensively in April.
That's smart money in my book.
Joe Girardi, who after missing the playoffs last season is still trying to shake the ghost of Joe Torre, has managed the pitching staff, especially the bullpen, brilliantly. During Torre's reign, especially in the later years, the Yankee middle relief was overworked, and ultimately in October struggled. Girardi has spread the work load around much better, and the relief corps have flourished for the Yankees down the stretch.
The end result was another division title, in the toughest division in baseball no less, and the best record in baseball. Could a 27th title be next?