2011 MLB Awards: MVP and Cy Young Awards for All 30 Teams
MVP and Cy Young awards will be handed out in a few weeks. Only one player from each league can win the awards, but every MLB team has players that were critical to the ballclub.
Regardless of the amount of success a team had, every roster has players that are worthy of recognition for their accomplishments on the diamond in 2011.
I have selected one position player and one pitcher from each team to receive their team's MVP and Cy Young awards.
In some cases they were clearly the best players on the team, and in others they were overlooked players that made huge contributions to their franchise's season. I didn't use any magic formula to make these selections, but used WAR, season statistics and impact on the team's success as guidelines for making choices.
I'm sure there will be debates over my selections, and I welcome feedback and comments.
Here are the MVP and Cy Young awards for all 30 MLB teams.
Arizona Diamondbacks: Justin Upton and Ian Kennedy
Team MVP: Justin Upton
He will certainly get some votes for the NL MVP Award. Upton is only 24 years old and had an OPS of .898. The scary thing is he is only beginning to scratch the surface of his potential. He improved in nearly every offensive category in 2011 and will continue to get better as he quickly develops into one of the game's best hitters.
2011 Season Stats: .289 AVG, 31 HR, 88 RBI, 105 R, 21 SB
Team Cy Young: Ian Kennedy
Kennedy became only the fourth Diamondbacks pitcher to win more than 21 games. A legitimate contender for the NL Cy Young, Kennedy gave the Diamondbacks something they sorely needed—a true ace. As marvelous as the Diamondbacks season was, they do not go to the postseason without the contributions of Kennedy.
2011 Season Stats: 21-4, 2.88 ERA, 222.0 IP, 198 K, 1.09 WHIP
Atlanta Braves: Brian McCann and Craig Kimbrel
Team MVP: Brian McCann
He was the Braves' most consistent hitter all season long. If not for an oblique injury late in the season, he may well have thrown his hat in the NL MVP ring. He carried the offense in the first half and remains one of the best clutch hitters in baseball. There is no doubt that the six-time All-Star is in the elite amongst baseball's signal callers.
2011 Season Stats: .270 AVG, 24 HR, 71 RBI, 51 R, .817 OPS
Team Cy Young: Craig Kimbrel
On a team that had difficulty scoring runs, it was essential that the Braves win close games. Kimbrel delivered all season long and has quickly developed into one of the game's most dominant closers.He and setup man Jonny Venters might just be the best young duo at the back end of games in baseball. It would be a travesty if he didn't win NL Rookie of the Year.
2011 Season Stats: 4-3, 2.10 ERA, 46 SV, 1.04 WHIP, 14.8 K/9
Baltimore Orioles: J.J. Hardy and Jim Johnson
Team MVP: J.J. Hardy
He had big hit after big hit for the Orioles and had a resurgence of sorts at the plate. He was also tremendous defensively, making only six errors all season. His 30 home runs were a career high, and at age 28 he may be reaching his peak as a player. He is back on the radar as one of the league's better shortstops.
2011 Season Stats: .269 AVG, 30 HR, 80 RBI, 76 R, .990 FLD PCT
Team Cy Young: Jim Johnson
He took over the closer's role from Kevin Gregg in September after having a great year as a setup man. At times he seemed to be the only Orioles reliever who could record an out and was key in helping the Orioles get back into ballgames late. There is talk of him moving into the rotation in 2012, and it will be interesting to see how well he makes the transition.
2011 Season Stats: 6-5, 2.67 ERA, 9 SV, 1.11 WHIP, 91.0 IP
Boston Red Sox: Jacoby Ellsbury and Josh Beckett
Team MVP: Jacoby Ellsbury
Nobody can point the finger at Ellsbury for the Red Sox's historic September slide. He did his best to take the team on his back during the stretch run. If Boston had made the postseason, he might have been a lock for the AL MVP.
After an injury-plagued 2010, he made his first All-Star appearance and has developed into more than just a speedster, becoming one of baseball's most complete players.
2011 Season Stats: .321 AVG, 32 HR, 105 RBI, 119 R, 39 SB
Team Cy Young: Josh Beckett
After a disappointing 2010, Beckett had a career-best 2.89 ERA in 2011. He seemed to wear down some in August and September but was still the Red Sox's most consistent starter all season long. If the Red Sox have any hope of making the postseason in 2012, they will need another big year from Beckett.
2011 Season Stats: 13-7, 2.89 ERA, 193.0 IP, 1.03 WHIP, 175 K
Chicago Cubs: Aramis Ramirez and Matt Garza
Team MVP: Aramis Ramirez
After a horrific and injury-plagued first half in 2010, Ramirez bounced back with his highest home run total since 2008. In another disappointing year for the Cubs, he was one of the bright spots. Though he continues to age, he still remains one of the league's best third basemen. He will reportedly hit the free-agent market this winter and will be one of the better bats available this offseason.
2011 Season Stats: .306 AVG, 26 HR, 93 RBI, 80 R, .871 OPS
Team Cy Young: Matt Garza
Garza pitched much better than his record suggests in his first season with the Cubs. He had career highs in ERA and strikeouts and seemed to make the transition to pitching at Wrigley Field. He finished the season strong and will be a key piece for Chicago as it continues the transition into a contending club.
2011 Season Stats: 10-10, 3.32 ERA, 198.0 IP, 1.26 WHIP, 197 K
Chicago White Sox: Paul Konerko and Mark Buehrle
Team MVP: Paul Konerko
Konerko picked up right where he left off in 2010, when he had an MVP-caliber season. Every year is the year that he is supposed to start his decline, but there were no signs of that in 2011, as he had another monster year at the plate. The White Sox are a team in turmoil at the present, but Konerko will again look to lead the White Sox offense in 2012.
2011 Season Stats: .300 AVG, 31 HR, 105 RBI, 69 R, .906 OPS
Team Cy Young: Mark Buehrle
Buehrle gets the nod after leading the rotation in wins, innings pitched and ERA. He has likely pitched his last game in a White Sox uniform and would be a nice addition to any club looking to complement its pitching staff this offseason.
2011 Season Stats: 13-9 , 3.59 ERA, 205.1 IP, 1.30 WHIP, 109 K
Cincinnati Reds: Joey Votto and Johnny Cueto
Team MVP: Joey Votto
The reigning NL MVP had another magnificent campaign in 2011. He led the National League in doubles, walks and on-base percentage and made his second straight All-Star appearance. Still only 27 years old, we may not have seen the best from Votto yet.
2011 Season Stats: .309 AVG, 29 HR, 103 RBI, 101 R, .947 OPS
Team Cy Young: Johnny Cueto
Cueto is quickly developing into an ace. He didn't make his season debut until May 8th, and a strained lat muscle ended his season early. This prevented him from a shot at the ERA title. If he can stay injury free in 2012, he might be an NL Cy Young contender. The Reds will certainly need him to lead the staff in 2012 if they want to get back into the postseason.
2011 Season Stats: 9-5, 2.31 ERA, 156.0 IP, 1.09 WHIP, 3 CG
Cleveland Indians: Asdrubal Cabrera and Justin Masterson
Team MVP: Asdrubal Cabrera
The 25-year-old infielder had a breakout year and was a huge part of the Indians' early-season success. After having only 18 home runs combined in the previous four seasons, Cabrera found his power stroke in 2011. He also led the Indians in runs batted in and slugging percentage and was rewarded with his first All-Star nod.
Cabrera has a very bright future ahead of him, and if he can cut down on his strikeouts, he could be a superstar.
2011 Season Stats: .273 AVG, 25 HR, 92 RBI, 87 R, 17 SB
Team Cy Young: Justin Masterson
Masterson is quietly developing into an ace and had career highs in wins, innings pitched and strikeouts. If the Indians are to continue to build on the success they had this season, Masterson must take the next step forward and become the dominant pitcher that he can be.
2011 Season Stats: 12-10, 3.21 ERA, 216.0 IP, 1.28 WHIP, 158 K
Colorado Rockies: Troy Tulowitzki and Rafael Betancourt
Team MVP: Troy Tulowitzki
In case you didn't know, Tulowitzki is the best shortstop in the league. At the plate and with the leather, he is one of baseball's most talented and dynamic players.
After signing a big long-term contract with the Rockies last winter, he made his second straight All-Star appearance and had a career high in runs batted in. He will continue to be the Rockies leader on and off the field in 2012, where he will be the centerpiece for a team that should contend in the NL West.
2011 Season Stats: .302 AVG, 30 HR, 105 RBI, 81 R, 9 SB
Team Cy Young: Rafael Betancourt
Another tough call, but Betancourt was filthy out of the pen for the Rockies. He was virtually unhittable after the All-Star break and took over as the team's closer while Huston Street was out. It will be interesting to see what his role will be in 2012, but you've got to think the Rockies will consider giving him a shot at closing again.
2011 Season Stats: 2-0, 2.89 ERA, 8 SV, 0.87 WHIP, 10.5 K/9
Detroit Tigers: Miguel Cabrera and Justin Verlander
Team MVP: Miguel Cabrera
Cabrera put another off-field incident behind him and went out and won the AL batting crown in 2011. He also led the league in doubles and on-base percentage and was third in the AL in WAR at 7.1.
Whenever you talk about the best and most feared hitters in the game, Cabrera's name is at the top of the list. If he stays on the field another six or seven years, he'll be a slam dunk for the Hall of Fame.
2011 Season Stats: .344 AVG, 30 HR, 105 RBI, 111 R, 1.033 OPS
Team Cy Young: Justin Verlander
Verlander is the clear choice for the AL Cy Young Award, and many baseball writers feel he might win the AL MVP as well. All he did was win the pitching Triple Crown by leading the league in wins, earned run average and strikeouts this season in what was one of the better season performances by a pitcher in recent memory. If he sweeps the hardware this offseason, he would be the first pitcher since Dennis Eckersley in 1992 to win both awards.
2011 Season Stats: 24-5, 2.40 ERA, 251.0 IP, 0.92 WHIP, 250 K
Florida Marlins: Mike Stanton and Anibal Sanchez
Team MVP: Mike Stanton
You couldn't have a higher possible ceiling than Mike Stanton, who at the age of 21 hit 34 home runs. As he continues to mature as a hitter, his strikeouts should go down and his average up. He has the talent to be one of the league's great power hitters for years to come, and he is as close to a lock as you can be for 40 home runs next season.
2011 Season Stats: .262 AVG, 34 HR, 87 RBI, 79 R, ,893 OPS
Team Cy Young: Anibal Sanchez
Sanchez led the Marlins staff in earned run average and strikeouts and also hurled three complete games and two shutouts. Still only 27, he seems to be getting better every season and could be in line for a big 2012.
2011 Season Stats: 8-9, 3.67 ERA, 196.1 IP, 1.28 WHIP, 202 K
Houston Astros: Carlos Lee and Mark Melancon
Team MVP: Carlos Lee
Lee managed to drive in over 90 runs on the worst team in baseball. At 35, he is not quite the same hitter he used to be, but he still demands respect when he comes to the dish. He'll be in the final year of his contract in 2012 and is supposedly considering retirement.
2011 Season Stats: .275 AVG, 18 HR, 94 RBI, 66 R, 38 2B
Team Cy Young: Mark Melancon
A tough call here between Melancon and Wandy Rodriguez. The nod goes to Melancon primarily because it isn't easy being a closer on a last-place team. He doesn't have the most dominating stuff, but he was very solid as the Astros' ninth-inning guy in 2011.
2011 Season Stats: 8-4, 2.78 ERA, 20 SV, 1.22 WHIP, 8.0 K/9
Kansas City Royals: Alex Gordon and Bruce Chen
Team MVP: Alex Gordon
Very tough choice here, as the Royals were a very good and exciting offense in 2011. Gordon gets the slight nod over Melky Cabrera, mainly because he finally lived up to the enormous hype that has been surrounding him for what seems like forever.
Gordon tied for the team lead in runs batted in and led the squad in home runs, while hitting over .300. He is one of the centerpieces on an ever-improving Royals offense and should take another step forward in 2012.
2011 Season Stats: .303 AVG, 23 HR, 87 RBI, 101 R, 17 SB
Team Cy Young: Bruce Chen
A sexier choice would have been Greg Holland, but Chen was the most consistent starter, leading the staff in wins in 2011. He'll keep you in the game most nights, and that is more than you can say for the rest of the Royals starters.
2011 Season Stats: 12-8, 3.77 ERA, 155.0 IP, 1.30 WHIP, 97 K
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: Peter Bourjos and Jered Weaver
Team MVP: Peter Bourjos
Of all 30 teams, this one was the biggest crapshoot for me. Bourjos' speed and defense make him the choice for the Angels. He did lead the team in WAR, and at age 24 he still has a lot of room to improve his hitting. He scored 72 runs and had 11 triples on the season and was hot enough down the stretch to take starts away from uber-prospect Mike Trout.
2011 Season Stats: .271 AVG, 12 HR, 43 RBI, 72 R, 22 SB
Team Cy Young: Jered Weaver
Jered Weaver has become one of the best starters in the game. He once again led the Angels in wins, earned run average and strikeouts. He was second in the AL in wins and third in earned run average and started the All-Star Game for the American League. In any other season he would be a Cy Young contender, but that hardware has already been claimed by a guy in Detroit.
2011 Season Stats: 18-8, 2.41 ERA, 235.2 IP, 1.01 WHIP, 198 K
Los Angeles Dodgers: Matt Kemp and Clayton Kershaw
Team MVP: Matt Kemp
It is going to be a tight race between Kemp and Milwaukee's Ryan Braun for the NL MVP. Playing for the Dodgers may hurt his chances, but it shouldn't, as Kemp made a run at the Triple Crown and led the National League in home runs, runs and RBI.
Kemp more than answered his critics in 2011 and had career highs in nearly every offensive category. If he becomes a free agent at the end of the 2012 season, he just might sign one of the largest contracts in MLB history.
2011 Season Stats: .324 AVG, 39 HR, 126 RBI, 115 R, 40 SB
Team Cy Young: Clayton Kershaw
It is scary to think that Kershaw might actually get better. 2011 was his fourth big-league campaign, and he still just 23 years old. Kershaw is the likely Cy Young favorite.
Should he and Kemp both win the hardware, they would join Kirk Gibson and Orel Hershiser (1988), Steve Garvey and Mike Marshall (1974) and Maury Wills and Don Drysdale (1962) as Dodgers teammates to have brought home MVP and Cy Young awards in the same season. Like Verlander in the AL, Kershaw won the pitching Triple Crown and also led the league in WHIP and H/9.
2011 Season Stats: 21-5, 2.28 ERA, 233.1 IP, 0.98 WHIP, 248 K
Milwaukee Brewers: Ryan Braun and John Axford
Team MVP: Ryan Braun
If not for the aforementioned Matt Kemp, Ryan Braun would be a slam dunk for the NL MVP award. He still may win it, and after leading the Brewers back to the postseason, he may have the edge. He led the National League in slugging and on-base percentage and was the runner-up for the NL batting crown.
Braun is frighteningly consistent year to year and may be in line for a Hall of Fame career if he continues to produce at his current level.
2011 Season Stats: .332 AVG, 33 HR, 111 RBI, 109 R, 33 SB
Team Cy Young: John Axford
After blowing a save on Opening Day, many wondered if Axford could hold down the closer's job for the whole season. He did more than that, leading the NL in saves and cementing himself as one of the game's shutdown closers. He was a huge factor in the Brewers winning the NL Central and will look to build on his success in the postseason.
2011 Season Stats: 2-2, 1.95 ERA, 46 SV, 1.14 WHIP, 10.5 K/9
Minnesota Twins: Michael Cuddyer and Scott Baker
Team MVP: Michael Cuddyer
It was a disappointing season for the Twins, but Cuddyer was a rare bright spot. He made his first All-Star appearance and tied his career high in batting average. He also led the team in home runs and was the team's primary run producer while Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau dealt with injuries for most of the season.
2011 Season Stats: .284 AVG, 20 HR, 70 RBI, 70 R, 11 SB
Team Cy Young: Scott Baker
Twins pitching was awful in 2011, and although he made only 21 starts, Baker is the easy choice. He led the staff in earned run average and was the team's most consistent pitcher. His K/9 rate has been steadily increasing each season, and at age 29 he may finally put it all together in 2012.
2011 Season Stats: 8-6, 3.14 ERA, 134.2 IP, 1.17 WHIP, 123 K
New York Mets: Jose Reyes and R.A. Dickey
Team MVP: Jose Reyes
In 2011, Reyes became the first New York Mets player to win a batting title. He also led the league in triples for the fourth time and, perhaps most importantly, proved that he could manage his balky hamstrings. It is still uncertain if he will be back in a Mets uniform next season, and if he hits the open market, he will be one of the premier players available.
2011 Season Stats: .337 AVG, 7 HR, 44 RBI, 101 R, 39 SB
Team Cy Young: R.A. Dickey
Dickey only had eight wins in 32 starts but led the Mets staff in earned run average and innings pitched. Last year, at age 35, he came out of nowhere to become the staff ace. He was up to the challenge again in 2011, and the knuckleballer has proven that his sudden late-career emergence is no fluke.
2011 Season Stats: 8-13, 3.28 ERA, 208.2 IP, 1.23 WHIP, 134 K
New York Yankees: Curtis Granderson and CC Sabathia
Team MVP: Curtis Granderson
Granderson had an absolutely torrid first half and is a legitimate MVP candidate. He led the AL in runs and runs batted in and was second in home runs. He also had 11 outfield assists and stole 25 bases. He was a complete player for the Yankees all season long and is the perfect hitter for the new Yankee Stadium. He should have more than a few great seasons in pinstripes.
2011 Season Stats: .262 AVG, 41 HR, 119 RBI, 136 R, 25 SB
Team Cy Young: CC Sabathia
After the Yankees lost out on Cliff Lee this past offseason, it was apparent that Sabathia would again have to shoulder most of the load for the rotation. He has been remarkably consistent in his three years with the Yankees, and you can chalk him up every year for close to 20 wins, a 3.00 earned run average and 230 innings. Having a reliable ace like Sabathia is a luxury that few teams have.
2011 Season Stats: 19-8, 3.00 ERA, 237.1 IP, 1.23 WHIP, 230 K
Oakland Athletics: Coco Crisp and Gio Gonzalez
Team MVP: Coco Crisp
Crisp had one of the best years of his career, and the speedster won his first stolen base crown by swiping 49 bags. Mired in injuries the past few seasons, he was finally able to stay healthy and showed what he could provide to an offense over a full season. He'll be a free agent this offseason and will be a good addition to any ballclub with his speed and defensive play.
2011 Season Stats: .264 AVG, 8 HR, 54 RBI, 69 R, 49 SB
Team Cy Young: Gio Gonzalez
Gonzalez took another step forward in 2011 and is developing into ace material. He led a talented A's staff in wins, earned run average and strikeouts. He also made his first All-Star team. The one blemish on his great season was that he led the AL in bases on balls. If he can locate his pitches better, he has the stuff to be a truly dominant pitcher.
2011 Season Stats: 16-12, 3.12 ERA, 202.0 IP, 1.32 WHIP, 197 K
Philadelphia Phillies: Shane Victorino and Cliff Lee
Team MVP: Shane Victorino
The Flyin' Hawaiian set a career high in OPS and was very valuable to the Phillies because of his willingness and ability to hit all over the order. He tied for the league lead in triples with Jose Reyes and sported a perfect fielding percentage in center field. As the Phillies lineup continues to age, Victorino's value to the team will only increase.
2011 Season Stats: .279 AVG, 17 HR, 61 RBI, 95 R, 19 SB
Team Cy Young: Cliff Lee
Lee and Roy Halladay had nearly identical pitching lines this season. However, Lee bested Halladay in WHIP and strikeouts and threw an incredible six shutouts.He also had one of the best stretches of pitching in baseball history.
Halladay may be the Cy Young favorite in the National League, but Lee gets the nod for making an already good rotation the best in baseball. Lee lived up to the hype following his big payday last winter and will look to add to his résumé as a dominant postseason pitcher as the Phillies march towards a probable World Series berth.
2011 Season Stats: 17-8, 2.40 ERA, 232.2 IP, 1.03 WHIP, 238 K
Pittsburgh Pirates: Andrew McCutchen and Joel Hanrahan
Team MVP: Andrew McCutchen
The Pirates were a good story in the season's first half, and McCutchen was a huge reason. The talented 24-year-old led Pittsburgh in home runs, RBI, runs and stolen bases and made his first All-Star team. He also joined the 20-20 club, an achievement that should occur with regularity as he continues to improve.
The centerpiece of the Pirates franchise, McCutchen should continue to be one of the most exciting young players in baseball.
2011 Season Stats: .259 AVG, 23 HR, 89 RBI, 87 R, 23 SB
Team Cy Young: Joel Hanrahan
Hanrahan was sensational in his first full year as the Pirates closer and made the All-Star team. Like McCutchen, he was a key cog in the Pirates' first-half success and for the season recorded 40 saves. He is a an important commodity for the Pirates as they continue to try to improve their pitching staff.
2011 Season Stats: 1-4, 1.83 ERA, 40 SV, 1.05 WHIP, 8.0 K/9
San Diego Padres: Cameron Maybin and Mat Latos
Team MVP: Cameron Maybin
The 24-year-old Maybin took a huge step forward in 2011. He led a weak Padres offense in runs and stolen bases and was fantastic in the cavernous outfield of Petco Park. If he can cut down on his strikeouts in 2012, he should easily improve on this season's numbers.
Maybin was finally able to shake the "bust" tag this season and should be a centerpiece for the Padres for many years to come.
2011 Season Stats: .264 AVG, 9 HR, 40 RBI, 82 R, 40 SB
Team Cy Young: Mat Latos
After a tremendous breakout year in 2010, Latos took a small step back in 2011. He was still easily the Padres' best starter, though, and at age 23 he still has plenty of room for growth as a pitcher. He was fantastic in the second half and will look to build on that success going into 2012. As the Padres continue to rebuild, Latos is a nice cornerstone for a pitching staff.
2011 Season Stats: 9-14, 3.47 ERA, 194.1 IP, 1.18 WHIP, 185 K
San Francisco Giants: Pablo Sandoval and Tim Lincecum
Team MVP: Pablo Sandoval
After a disappointing 2010, Sandoval bounced back and was easily the Giants' best offensive performer this season. He led the team in average, home runs and RBI, and with the absence of Buster Posey from the Giants lineup he came up big as a run producer for the squad.
His physical fitness is a concern going forward, but there is little doubt that he can hit, and he and Posey make an nice one-two punch in the middle of the Giants batting order.
2011 Season Stats: .315 AVG, 23 HR, 70 RBI, 55 R, .909 OPS
Team Cy Young: Tim Lincecum
There was little separation between the Giants' top four starters in 2011, as Lincecum, Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner and Ryan Vogelsong all had great years. Lincecum gets a slight nod because of his remarkable consistency the past four seasons, and although he will not be amongst the Cy Young favorites this season, he nonetheless had a marvelous year.
2011 Season Stats: 13-14, 2.74 ERA, 217.0 IP, 1.21 WHIP, 220 K
Seattle Mariners: Dustin Ackley and Felix Hernandez
Team MVP: Dustin Ackley
He burst onto the major-league scene in June and immediately provided a spark for the Mariners' anemic offense. He was a legitimate candidate for Rookie of the Year until a prolonged August slump and will be an exciting player to watch develop over the coming years. Seattle will continue to improve offensively, and Ackley will be a key centerpiece in the Mariners lineup for years to come.
2011 Season Stats: .273 AVG, 6 HR, 36 RBI, 39 R, 6 SB
Team Cy Young: Felix Hernandez
The reigning AL Cy Young winner was not as dominant in 2011. He still managed to improve on his win total, winning a team-high 14 games. It is hard to imagine that Hernandez is still only 25 years old and that we may not have seen his best season yet. A perennial favorite for the Cy Young, the Mariners ace recorded 200 strikeouts for the third straight season and posted the highest K/9 ratio of his career.
2011 Season Stats: 14-14, 3.47 ERA, 233.2 IP, 1.22 WHIP, 222 K
St. Louis Cardinals: Lance Berkman and Chris Carpenter
Team MVP: Lance Berkman
Big Puma is a slam dunk for the NL Comeback Player of the Year Award. Signed to a one-year deal this past offseason, the Cardinals were looking for some modest production from Berkman but got much, much more. He was the Cardinals' most reliable run-producer all season long, and he carried the offense as Albert Pujols got off to a slow start.
Berkman hit 30 home runs for the first time since 2007, and his resurgence at the plate was a major reason that the Cardinals were able to contend this season.
2011 Season Stats: .301 AVG, 31 HR, 94 RBI, 90 R, .959 OPS
Team Cy Young: Chris Carpenter
Carpenter could win this just on the strength of his masterful performance on the last day of the season that vaulted the Cardinals into the postseason, but his contribution to the Cardinals season was much greater than just that.
With Adam Wainwright's season-ending injury in spring training, the task to carry the Cardinals staff fell squarely on Carpenter's shoulders. He came through big time, leading the league in innings pitched and starts. At age 36, he shows no signs of wearing down, and there is no reason to think he won't have another fine season in 2012.
2011 Season Stats: 11-9, 3.45 ERA, 237.1 IP, 1.26 WHIP, 191 K
Tampa Bay Rays: Evan Longoria and James Shields
Team MVP: Evan Longoria
Like Chris Carpenter, Longoria could win Team MVP just based on his now legendary heroics in Game 162. He was huge for the Rays in the second half, hitting 20 home runs and plating 57 runners. If not for a slow start to the season due to missing time with an oblique injury and a career-low batting average, he might have forced himself into the AL MVP picture.
Longoria's Gold Glove defense at the hot corner cannot be underestimated either. He is a complete player and the cornerstone of the Rays franchise.
2011 Season Stats: .244 AVG, 31 HR, 99 RBI, 78 R, .850 OPS
Team Cy Young: James Shields
Shields was magnificent in 2011 after a disappointing 2010 campaign. He improved his earned run average from 5.18 to 2.82 and made his first All-Star appearance. He won a career-high 16 games and led the AL in complete games and shutouts as well.
His biggest contribution to the Rays might have been his 249.1 innings pitched, allowing Joe Maddon to keep his bullpen fresh all season. Shields proved that he can be an ace, and with a down year from David Price, the Rays certainly needed it.
2011 Season Stats: 16-12, 2.82 ERA, 249.1 IP, 1.04 WHIP, 225 K
Texas Rangers: Mike Napoli and C.J. Wilson
Team MVP: Mike Napoli
The acquisition of Napoli by the Rangers last winter might have been the best move of the offseason. The Rangers had the best offense in the American League, and Napoli was a huge reason why.
He had his first career 30 home run season, and if not for being platooned early in the season and missing most of June with an oblique injury, Napoli might have been on a few MVP ballots this year. He was unreal in September, hitting .429, and has carried that hot streak into the postseason. His acquisition might be the final piece that gives Texas its first World Series in franchise history.
2011 Season Stats: .320 AVG, 30 HR, 75 RBI, 72 R, 1.046 OPS
Team Cy Young: C.J. Wilson
With the departure of Cliff Lee, Wilson became the staff ace in 2011 for the Rangers. He was up to the challenge, delivering career highs in games started, innings pitched, WHIP and strikeouts. In just his second year as a starter, he made his first All-Star appearance and put to rest any doubts about his ability to lead a rotation.
2011 Season Stats: 16-7, 2.94 ERA, 223.1 IP, 1.19 WHIP, 206 K
Toronto Blue Jays: Jose Bautista and Ricky Romero
Team MVP: Jose Bautista: There were those that doubted Bautista could replicate his monster season in 2010, but he answered his critics by having another huge season at the plate. He led the American League in home runs, walks and slugging percentage and cemented himself at the top of the list of the league's most feared hitters.
He will again garner some votes for the AL MVP and will look to lead the Blue Jays up the standings in the AL East in 2012.
2011 Season Stats: .302 AVG, 43 HR, 103 RBI, 105 R, 1.056 OPS
Team Cy Young: Ricky Romero
Romero led the Blue Jays staff in wins, innings pitched, earned run average and complete games. He took a major step forward in 2011 and is now firmly planted as the ace of Toronto's staff. He made the All-Star team for the first time this season and at age 26 will only continue to improve.
2011 Season Stats: 15-11, 2.92 ERA, 225.0 IP, 1.14 WHIP, 178 K
Washington Nationals: Mike Morse and Tyler Clippard
Team MVP: Mike Morse
Morse was the surprise hitting star for Washington in a campaign in which he belted 31 home runs and was one of the breakout stars of 2011. At age 29 he was a full-time starter for the first time in his career and made the most of the opportunity by leading the Nationals in all the major hitting categories.
With Ryan Zimmerman, Jayson Werth and the impending arrival of Bryce Harper, the Nationals have a very nice core of offensive players to add to the ever-improving pitching staff.
2011 Season Stats: .303 AVG, 31 HR, 95 RBI, 73 R, .910 OPS
Team Cy Young: Tyler Clippard
The 26-year-old reliever made his first All-Star team in 2011 and again was nearly unhittable, allowing only 48 hits in 88.1 innings pitched. His dominance in the late innings takes a lot of pressure off the starting staff, and he has become one of the game's best setup men. With Drew Storen closing out games and Clippard setting up, the Nationals have as good of a one-two punch in the late innings as any team in baseball.
2011 Season Stats: 3-0, 1.83 ERA, 88.1 IP, 0.84 WHIP, 104 K
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