|(Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)|
Justin Verlander took home the two biggest awards in the American League.
His incredible 2011 season won him the AL Cy Young and MVP.
AL Manager of the Year: Joe Maddon
Can't disagree with this pick. Maddon did a great job managing the Rays in the toughest division in baseball. The Rays started off the season ice cold, losing their first six games of the season, but slowly progressed as the season went on. The Rays also pulled off one of the greatest comebacks of the decade, by sneaking into the playoffs on the last night of the regular season. Going into September, the Rays were at least ten games back of the Red Sox, and had a .5% chance of making the playoffs, but Joe Maddon rallied his troops together as the Rays went on to win 17 out of their last 25, including a 6-1 record against Boston in September. Plus Maddon, is one of the most likable guys in baseball and has a great personality. Maddon was the right guy for this award.
NL Manager of the Year: Kirk Gibson
Again, the MLB did a great job of picking the right guy to win the Manger of the year. Gibson took a Diamondbacks team that only won 64 games just a year ago, turned them around, and won 94 games this year. Gibson also did this with one of the lowest payrolls in the MLB. The Diamondbacks competed in a fairly competitive NL West, and had to beat out the defending World Series champs, San Francisco Giants, to represent the NL West in the playoffs. One could make the case for Ron Roenicke as NL Manager of they year. Roenicke led the Brewers to their best record in franchise history, and won their first NL Central title ever. Then again, Roenicke did this with Ryan Braun, Prince Fielder, and a star studded pitching staff. Gibson won the NL West with Ian Kennedy and a lot of hard work.
AL Rookie of the Year: Jeremy Hellickson
Here is where I believe the MLB made their first error. Hellickson had a great year for the Rays, but Ivan Nova deserved this award. One could also argue that Mark Trumbo or Eric Hosmer could have also won the award, but the fact of the matter is that Hellickson wasn't even the best rookie pitcher. Hellickson posted a 13-10 record, with an ERA of 2.95 in 189 innings pitched. Nova posted a 16-4 record, with an ERA of 3.70 in 165.1 innings pitched. Nova clearly has the better record, and even though you might think Hellickson's ERA is way better, we are only talking about a one run differential here. Usually an ERA under four can win you a ball game. Nova also won 12 straight decisions throughout the course of the season. When the Yankees couldn't rely on AJ Burnett, Bartolo Colon, or Freddy Garcia, Nova pitched as the clear No. 2 behind Sabathia. Hellickson might have had the eight best ERA in the AL, but Nova had the fourth most wins in the AL, and wins is the most important statistic.
NL Rookie of the Year: Craig Kimbrel
No mistake here, Kimbrel was the best rookie in the National league. In fact, he was the best closer in the NL and arguably the whole MLB. Kimbrel led the NL in saves, with 46 on the season. He struck out 127 batters in only 77 innings, and had a WHIP of 1.04. Kimbrel was clearly dominant this season, and only blew eight saves. He was also the first pitcher to unanimously win the award. Does he need farther explanation to why he won the award? No.
AL Cy Young: Justin Verlander
You'd have to be crazy to disagree with this pick. Verlander had one of the most impressive seasons on the mound of all-time. Verlander was 24-5 this season, and led the league in Strikeouts, Innings Pitched ERA, WHIP, and obviously wins. Verlander dominated this season, and could have been the most valuable player in the whole American League (hint!). Verlander was the first AL pitcher to win the pitching Triple Crown in over 10 years.
NL Cy Young: Clayton Kershaw
Another no brainer here with Kershaw winning the NL Cy Young. Like Verlander, CK also won the Triple Crown, leading the NL in Wins, ERA, and Strikeouts. The Dodgers were one of the most dysfunctional teams in baseball this season, playing amid ownership controversy that seemed like it would never end. Kershaw put the distractions on the side and just balled all year. His 21-5 record was the best in the NL. Kershaw did get some competition from Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, and Ian Kennedy, but he was clearly the best man for the award.
AL MVP: Justin Verlander
As hinted earlier, Verlander was also the AL MVP. I can't say I completely agree with this pick, but Verlander deserved it. It just seems strange that a pitcher can win the MVP if they play once every five games, impact the game in only half the innings, and have their own award. If you do look at the candidates, and see which one is most valuable to their team though, Verlander is the winner. Take out Robinson Cano, or Curtis Granderson and you still have a 90+ win Yankees team that has a ridiculous payroll. Take out Jacoby Ellsbury and you have the same deal with the Red Sox. Take Verlander away from the Tigers and you have a 70-80 win team that doesn't make the playoffs. Seems like the MLB got it right. Verlander joins a prestigious group of pitchers who have won the Cy Young and MVP. The last pitcher to win the award was A's closer Dennis Eckersley in 1992, but the last starter to win the award was Roger Clemens 25 years ago back in 1986.
NL MVP: Ryan Braun
It's great to see that the Hebrew Hammer, Ryan Braun, won the NL MVP but I have to say in all honesty that Matt Kemp deserved the award. Here are their stats head to head. Braun was sixth in the league in Homers with 33 while Kemp led the NL with 39. Braun was fourth in the NL with 111 RBI's while Kemp led the league with 126. Braun's .332 Batting Average was second best in the league while Kemp's .324 was third. Kemp also led the NL in Runs. Now ,let's look at the meaning of the most valuable player. Braun was on a high payroll Brewers team with Prince Fielder, Zack Greinke, Yovani Gallardo, and K-Rod. Kemp played on an underachieving Dodgers team with Andre Ethier, Kershaw, and Chad Billingsley. In Braun's defense though, he led the NL in SLG and OBP, which Kemp finished second in both. He also played on a historical Brewers team that made it to the postseason. Two reasons why Kemp was robbed from the NL MVP: his team had an 82-79 record and finished third in the division, and his teammate Clayton Kershaw also won a big award. Can't say that Kemp deserved the MVP hands down, but this pick is definitely raising eyebrows.