Handing Out the Hardware: Baseball’s Best & Brightest of 2009

Joe Mauer, and his sideburns, are runaway winners for the 2009 AL MVP.

Joe Mauer, and his sideburns, are runaway winners for the 2009 AL MVP.

AL MVP–Joe Mauer (C-Minnesota): No matter what millions of Derek Jeter apologists may say, the AL MVP is a no brainer. Joe Mauer missed the first month of the season with a bad back, but from May on was the best hitter in all of baseball. The Twins’ All-Star catcher captured his third AL batting title in four years, finishing the season with a .365 average.  Mauer also enjoyed a tremendous spike in his power numbers with a career high 28 HR’s and 98 RBI’s, leading to an AL-best .587 slugging percentage. He walked more times than he struck out (76 BB’s vs. 63 K’s) and lead the league by a country mile in both OBP (.444) and OPS (1.031). As if that wasn’t enough, Mauer continued to play Gold Glove caliber defense behind the plate and led a depleted Twins team to a surprising AL Central title. Without Joltin’ Joe, Minnesota is likely a sub .500 team; without Jeter the Yankees are still one of the AL’s elite clubs. Quite simply, Mauer was more valuable to his team than any other player in the American League. If that doesn’t make him the MVP, what does?

NL MVP–Albert Pujols (1B-St. Louis): While he might not have captured the first Triple Crown since 1967, Pujols was still dominant from start to finish and continued to prove why he will go down in history as one of the game’s greatest sluggers. Phat Albert led the NL is HR’s (47), runs, slugging, OBP and OPS, while finishing third in the league in both RBI’s (135) and batting (.327). He spent the majority of the season getting pitched around (115 BB’s) but always seemed to come through with a clutch hit when St. Louis need it, and his numbers with the bases loaded were simply mind boggling (.588-5 HR-35 RBI-2.171 OPS). Pujols’ third MVP in five years showed once again that it’s Albert’s world and we’re all just living in it.

Zach Grienke overcame pitching for Kansas City and became baseball's best pitcher in 2009.

Zach Grienke overcame pitching for Kansas City and became baseball's best pitcher in 2009.

AL Cy Young–Zack Greinke (SP-Kansas City): Despite being tormented throughout his childhood for having a last named that rhymed with stinky (helping us understand his issues with social anxiety disorder), Zack Grienke was anything but in 2009, pitching brilliantly for one of baseball’s worst teams. The 25-year-old righty had one of the best opening months in history (5-0, 0.50 ERA, 44 K’s) and never looked back, finishing the year 16-8 with a 2.16 ERA and 242 K’s. Don’t let the win-loss record fool you, Grienke was the best pitcher in the majors all year and was reminiscent of a young Pedro Martinez circa 1998. The sky is the limit for Grienke after finally living up to his enormous potential in 2009 (and fulfilling the propechy set forth in the Book of Mary); what will he do for an encore next season?

NL Cy Young–Chris Carpenter (SP-St. Louis): The race for the NL Cy Young was probably the closest in all of baseball, with three pitchers who could make a strong argument for the award. Tim Lincecum was his usual dominant self for the Giants, but winning only 15 games really hurt his chances at back-to-back awards. Adam Wainwright was outstanding in leading the Cardinals to the postseason, but he was outshined by his own teammate, the revitalized Chris Carpenter. Carpenter, who hadn’t pitched a full season since 2006 because of arm troubles, looked better than ever in 2009, going 17-4 with a 2.24 ERA and 1.01 WHIP. The right-hander already captured the league’s Comeback Player of the Year award, but Carpenter will need more room in his trophy case after the best season of his career–and the finest of any NL hurler in ’09.

AL Rookie of the Year–Andrew Bailey (RP-Oakland): Although hidden out in the West Coast on a mediocre Oakland team, Andrew Bailey proved that Billy Beane hasn’t completely lost his marbles by setting a rookie record for saves with 26, good for 9th in the AL. The former Wagner Seahawk soared all season long, striking out more than a batter per inning and finishing the year with an impressive 1.84 ERA and 0.88 WHIP. At only 25-years-old, it appears that Oakland has found a long term solution in the back of their bullpen with “Rich & Creamy” Bailey.

Tommy Hanson baffled NL hitters all season long.

Tommy Hanson baffled National League hitters all season long.

NL Rookie of the Year–Tommy Hanson (SP-Atlanta): The National League had a trio of talented rookie hurlers as Randy Wells, J.A. Happ and Tommy Hanson all turned in stellar freshman campaigns. Despite a late start, Hanson deserves the award after showing why he was regarded as one of the best pitching prospects in all of baseball. The Braves next staff ace wasn’t called up until June 7th, but made the best of his time in bigs, with an 11-4 record, 2.89 ERA and 116 K’s in 127 innings. Although only 23-years-old, Hanson demonstrated the poise of bomb squad technician and was instrumental in Atlanta’s last season push for a playoff berth. Look for continued improvement from John Smoltz version 2.0 in 2010 as he teams up with Jair Jurrjens to form one of the National League’s best 1-2 punches.

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One Response

  1. Couldn’t agree more with your choices. Now, what’re you going to do once the season is over? Furthermore, what am I going to do once you stop writing?

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