Tony LaRussa hoists the World Series trophy
The World Series is over and congratulations to Tony LaRussa and the Saint Louis Cardinals. The Cardinals defeated the Texas Rangers in a stirring World Series and won the 11th world championship in franchise history.
Now that the World Series is over, it's time to turn our attention to the 2011 season awards. I will provide a detailed analysis of all the major awards and also project a winner.
The important thing to remember is these awards are for the regular season and any post-season heroics are not considered. Read on for a fun look at the stars of the 2011 season.
Matt Kemp gets my vote for NL MVP
The 2011 season saw seven top candidates for the NL MVP award. My vote goes to Matt Kemp, as he stood one step above the rest.
Kemp hit .324, with 39 home runs and 126 RBI. His OPS was an impressive .985. What also set Kemp apart from the other top players was his 40 stolen bases. Kemp combined power and speed to be a true Triple Crown candidate.
Of the top candidates, Kemp also played in the toughest ballpark for a power hitter to hit in. With its spacious outfield and heavy air, it's very tough to hit for power in Dodger Stadium. This makes Kemp's accomplishments all the more impressive.
Ryan Braun takes second place with a .322 average, 33 home runs and 111 RBI. His OPS of .994 led the list of top candidates.
Prince Fielder finishes third with a .299 batting average, 38 home runs and 120 RBI. He also carried an OPS of .981. Fielder is now a free agent and one of the top prizes in the 2011 free agent class.
Joey Votto hit .309, with 29 HRs and 103 RBI. His OPS was .947. Good numbers, but not good enough.
Albert Pujols got the big prize of a World Series championship. He had a very strong year, with a .299 average, 37 home runs and 99 RBI. His OPS was .907. Pujols is also a free agent and looking for a huge mega-contract. My guess is he will stay in St. Louis, but we shall see.
Jose Reyes was the top lead-off hitter in the National League. He was at or near the top of the MVP race over the first half of the season, until he got hurt and missed several weeks of action. Reyes hit .337, scored 101 runs and stole 39 bases. Reyes also wreaked havoc on the bases.
Troy Tulowitzki hit .302, with 30 home runs and 105 RBI. His OPS was .916. Tulowitzki missed a lot of time late in the season due to injury.
Miguel Cabrera watches a long home run blast
The 2011 AL MVP race was extremely tight. A compelling case can be made for the MVP award by several of the top candidates.
After serious deliberation, my vote goes to Miguel Cabrera of the Detroit Tigers. Cabrera hit .344, the highest batting average of any of the top candidates. He hit 30 home runs with 105 RBI and also scored 111 runs. Cabrera's OPS was 1.034, the second highest in all of baseball.
Cabrera led the Tigers to the AL Central division crown and the playoffs. This was a main difference between him and our second place candidate, Jose Bautista.
Jose Bautista had an outstanding year with a .302 average, 43 home runs, 103 RBI and 105 runs scored. Bautista's OPS of 1.055 led the Majors.
Curtis Granderson gets the nod for third place. He only hit .262, which cost him my first place vote. Granderson hit 41 home runs, with 119 RBI and 136 runs scored.
Granderson used his speed very well, as he swiped 25 bases over the course of the season. His OPS was .916, which is excellent, but well below Cabrera and Bautista.
Jacoby Ellsbury had a great season and in another year, could have won the MVP award. He batted .321 with 32 home runs, 105 RBI and 119 runs scored. Ellsbury's OPS was .928.
Adrian Gonzalez hit .338 in his first season in the American League. He also had 27 home runs, 117 RBI and scored 108 runs. His OPS of .958 was excellent.
Robinson Cano rounds out our list. He hit .302, with 28 home runs, 118 RBI and scored 104 runs. His OPS of .882 was great, but also the lowest of our top candidates.
Clayton Kershaw was dominant for the Dodgers
Four pitchers stood above the rest in the National League. These pitchers, Clayton Kershaw, Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Ian Kennedy, all dominated in their own way.
The pitcher that gets my vote for the 2011 NL Cy Young award is Clayton Kershaw. He compiled a record of 21-5, with an ERA of 2.28 and a WHIP of 0.977. These three stats were the best in the National League for starting pitchers.
Kershaw threw 233.1 innings and only allowed 174 hits. Opposing batters only hit .207 against him. Kershaw struck out 248, which also led the league. He was the most dominant pitcher in an excellent group. At only age 23, Kershaw could win many more Cy Young's.
Roy Halladay, last year's Cy Young winner had another great season, surpassed only by Kershaw. Halladay was 19-6, with an ERA of 2.35 and WHIP of 1.040. He struck out 220 hitters in his 233.2 innings of work.
Cliff Lee had an outstanding season, with a record of 17-8. His ERA was 2.40 and WHIP 1.027. Lee struck out 238 batters in 232.2 innings pitched.
Arizona pitcher Ian Kennedy rounds out our list of top candidates. He was 21-4, with an ERA of 2.88 and WHIP of 1.086. Kennedy threw 222 innings and struck out 198.
Justin Verlander led Detroit to the playoffs
Justin Verlander had an outstanding year and gets my vote as the AL Cy Young award winner. Verlander led the league with 24 wins, against only 5 losses.
Verlander's ERA of 2.40 and WHIP of 0.920 led the league for starting pitchers. Verlander threw a league high of 251 innings and his 250 strikeouts also led the league. Opposing batters hit only .192 against him.
Jared Weaver is my AL Cy Young runner up. He compiled a record of 18-8, with an ERA of 2.41 and WHIP of 1.010. Weaver threw 235.2 innings and allowed only 182 hits, while striking out 198.
CC Sabathia is a big, strong workhorse of a pitcher. He was the ace of the Yankees pitching staff and had a record of 19-8. His ERA of 3.00 and WHIP of 1.226 were very good, although not as strong as either Verlander or Weaver. Sabathia worked 237.1 innings and struck out 230.
C.J. Wilson was an integral factor in the Rangers' second AL championship in as many years. Wilson finished the year with a record of 16-7, ERA of 2.94 and WHIP of 1.187. He struck out 206 batters in his 223.1 innings pitched.
James Shields rounds out our top five. The Tampa Bay pitcher finished the year with a 16-12 record. His ERA of 2.82 and WHIP of 1.043 were excellent. Shields led the league with 11 complete games and four shutouts. He pitched a career high 249.1 innings and struck out 225 batters.
Kirk Gibson got the Diamondbacks to the playoffs in 2011
Most of the prognosticators had picked the Arizona Diamondbacks to finish fourth or fifth in the NL West. Kirk Gibson led them to a surprising first place finish in the division, with a record of 94-68. The Diamondbacks won the NL West by eight games over the second place Giants.
At the start of the season, the expectations for the Diamondbacks were extremely low. Gibson molded a team together and was rewarded by good years from Justin Upton, Ryan Roberts and a stellar pitching staff.
The low expectations and high finish of the Diamondbacks is the reason Kirk Gibson gets my vote for NL Manager of the Year.
Running a close second was Milwaukee Brewers' manager Ron Roenicke. He led the Brewers to a first place finish in the NL Central. His team finished with a record of 96-66.
Tony LaRussa is my third place finisher for NL Manager of the Year. The Cardinals trailed the Braves by 10.5 games on August 25 and 8.5 games on September 5. The Cardinals played well down the stretch and ultimately caught and passed the stumbling Braves, to win the NL Wild Card.
Although the Cardinals won the World Series, post-season play was not a consideration for our choice. LaRussa just announced his retirement after 33 years as a manager. He won three world championships, two with the Cardinals and one with the Oakland A's.
Charlie Manuel earns a mention here, as he led the Phillies to the best record in the National League. Philadelphia finished the year at 102-60.
The final mention is for the Giants' manager Bruce Bochy. Although the Giants failed to make the playoffs, Bochy kept the team in contention despite an unimaginable string of injuries. Buster Posey and Freddy Sanchez were lost for the season early on and several other players missed significant time due to injury.
These included Pablo Sandoval, Carlos Beltran, Miguel Tejada, Cody Ross, Pat Burrell, Andres Torres, Mike Fontenot, Nate Schierholtz, Darren Ford, Barry Zito, Brian Wilson, Santiago Casilla, Jonathan Sanchez, Jeremy Affeldt and Ramon Ramirez. First baseman Aubrey Huff was the only regular position player that did not miss considerable time due to injury.
Jim Leyland led the Detroit Tigers to the playoffs
The AL Manager of the Year came down to two top candidates in my opinion. I gave a slight nod to Jim Leyland over Ron Washington because I think Leyland had less to work with than Washington.
Leyland and the Tigers energized the city of Detroit. They won the AL Central with a record of 95-67.
Ron Washington led the Texas Rangers to the AL West title with a record of 96-66. He also drove the Rangers to their second World Series in a row, although that had no bearing on these results.
The Yankees' Joe Giradi is my third place finisher. Girardi does not get enough credit for the good job he does because the Yankees are so loaded with high-priced talent. Girardi guided the Yankees to a 97-65 record and the AL East title.
Joe Maddon from Tampa Bay is also on our list. The Rays trailed Boston by nine games on September 3, but rallied down the stretch to pass Boston for the Wild Card berth. The Rays played well, while the Red Sox imploded, which ultimately led to the departure of their manager Terry Francona.
Maddon's Tampa Bay team finished the season at 91-71, six games behind the Yankees.
Our final mention goes to Cleveland Indians' manager Manny Acta. Although the Indians faded badly down the stretch, they played good baseball for the first four months of the season. Cleveland finished at 80-82, in second place in the AL East.
Atlanta closer Craig Kimbrel converted 46 saves
It's extremely rare when one team has the top two candidates for Rookie of the Year. It happened this year for the Atlanta Braves, as they had Craig Kimbrel and Freddie Freeman.
Kimbrel gets my vote, but it was a very close decision. Kimbrel earned 46 saves to lead the league. He had an ERA of 2.10 and WHIP of 1.039. He was a dominant power pitcher and also handled the pressure of being a closer quite well. He struck out an amazing 127 batters in only 77 innings pitched.
Freeman was equally outstanding on the offensive side. He hit .282 with 21 home runs and 76 RBI. He also showed good durability, playing in 157 games this past season.
Vance Worley emerged for the Phillies as a reliable and effective starting pitcher. He went 11-3 with an ERA of 3.01 and WHIP of 1.230. Worley also collected 119 strikeouts in 131.2 innings of work.
Dee Gordon of the Los Angeles Dodgers deserves a mention here. Gordon hit .304 and his best asset was his speed. Gordon stole 24 bases in his first Major League campaign.
Lucas Duda is our final mention for this list. Duda played very well this past season, batting ..292 with ten home runs and 50 RBI. The fact that Duda can play both first base and the outfield will enable him to continue to see lots of playing time next season, when Ike Davis returns to first base.
Mark Trumbo bashed 29 home runs for the Angels
2011 was an excellent year for American League Rookie of the Year candidates. There were several excellent performances, although Mark Trumbo, from the Los Angeles Angels, tops our list.
Trumbo only hit for a .254 average, but he was a big-time run producer. He blasted 29 home runs and drove in 87 runs, both of which led the Angels.
Ivan Nova finished a close second in my mind. He became the Yankees' savior on the starting rotation. When other big name stars like A.J. Burnett and Phillip Hughes struggled, Nova came on to solidify the Yankees' rotation.
Nova compiled a 16-4 record, with an ERA of 3.70 and WHIP of 1.331. Nova struck out 98 batters in 165.1 innings pitched. He came out of nowhere to have a great season and gives the Yankees an excellent 1-2 punch with CC Sabathia.
Eric Hosmer is next on the list. The Kansas City Royals' first baseman hit .293 with 19 home runs and 78 RBI. The Royals finished 20 games below .500, but Hosmer was one of the bright spots of the season.
Jeremy Hellickson had a very strong season for the Tampa Bay Rays. He went 13-10 and had an excellent ERA of 2.95 and WHIP of 1.153. The latter two stats even topped Ivan Nova. Hellickson struck out 117 batters in 189 innings of work.
Jemile Weeks rounds out our top five. The Oakland rookie hit .303 and really gave the A's a jolt of much needed energy when he was called up from triple A. Weeks did not hit for power with only two home runs and 36 RBI, but he used his speed for 22 stolen bases.
Ryan Vogelsong had an All-Star season
With all due respect to Lance Berkman, who had a great year, there is no way that Ryan Vogelsong should not have won the NL Comeback Player of the Year award.
Berkman won the award with a .301 average, 31 home runs and 94 RBI. He played in 145 games for the Cardinals, but he did not emerge from the bottom of the barrel like Ryan Vogelsong.
In 2010, Berkman split time between the Astros and Yankees. He was plagued by injuries and played only 122 games. He batted .248 with 14 home runs and 58 RBI.
However, let's take a look at Ryan Vogelsong, who literally came out of nowhere to have an All-Star season. Vogelsong had not pitched in the Major Leagues since 2006, when he split time with the Pirates and their triple A club in Indianapolis.
Vogelsong then spent three years in Japan, then came back to the US in 2010 and again pitched in the minors. He came to the San Francisco Giants' training camp and pitched well in spring training. He still did not earn a roster spot and was sent to the Giants' triple A affiliate in Fresno.
Vogelsong threw the ball well in Fresno and when Barry Zito was injured, Vogelsong finally got his chance. This was perhaps the best thing that Zito ever did for the Giants.
Vogelsong threw 179.2 innings and compiled a record of 13-7. His 13 wins tied Tim Lincecum for most on the Giants' staff. Vogelsong also had an excellent ERA at 2.71 and WHIP of 1.252. His ERA ranked him 4th in the National League.
Vogelsong surprised everyone and most certainly deserved the NL Comeback Player of the Year award.