As promised, here are my 2009 National League award winners.
MVP: Albert Pujols, St. Louis Cardinals
Pujols again functioned for much of the season with little-to-no protection in the Cardinals lineup and still put up Joe DiMaggio-type numbers. We're in the midst of watching the best right-handed hitter in the history of the game. It's one things to put up consistent numbers; it's another to put up consistent numbers that are so good that if there was a higher league, Pujols would've been sent there long ago, and that league would try to find an even higher league to challenge him.
One thing to watch with Pujols that's not mentioned often enough is how many of his hits are straight back up the middle. If anything's an indication of how well a hitter is seeing the ball and how good his timing is, it's that; and the majority of Pujols's hits go straight back up the middle.
2. Hanley Ramirez, Florida Marlins
Ramirez is a strange hitter in that he's notoriously aggressive, but doesn't strike out an absurd amount (101) and gets enough hits to have an on base percentage over .400 while not taking that many walks (61 with 14 intentional). In the non-steroid era and with guys in front of him who'll get on base, Ramirez is a triple crown threat who could also steal 50 bases and win a Gold Glove. (Speaking of which, his defense improved by a lot this year.)
3. Troy Tulowitzki, Colorado Rockies
It was no coincidence that Tulowitzki got hot when manager Clint Hurdle was fired and that after he got hot, the team took off. What went on between player and manager is anyone's guess; they obviously couldn't co-exist any longer. My guess is it was a father/son relationship that had run its course. After a rotten, injury-plagued 2008 and terrible start in 2009, many were wondering if Tulowitzki was another Joe Charboneau, but under new manager Jim Tracy, he again became a reasonable heir apparent to Derek Jeter as the glue of his club at shortstop.
4. Ryan Howard, Philadelphia Phillies
Reggie Jackson once said, "home run hitters drive Cadillacs" when it was a big deal to drive a Cadillac. Ryan Howard would be driving a Cadillac if it was still a big deal to be driving a Cadillac.
5. Adrian Gonzalez, San Diego Padres
What would this poor guy do if he was: A) in a decent----not good, just decent----lineup; B) was in a hitter's park; and C) played for a better team? Gonzalez is Pujols-light in the power/threat department, except he's functioning with a clueless manager and rebuilding club. He's a great fielder too.
Note: I picked Ramirez to win the MVP in my book.
Cy Young Award: Tim Lincecum, San Francisco Giants
Because he only won 15 games, he's probably going to get screwed out of his second straight piece of hardware, but if he was on a team that could score, he would've won 23 games. He led the league in strikeouts; was second in ERA; led the league in complete games and shutouts (4 and 2----it's the era we live in) and was a durable horse. Lincecum is a small package of power like Seabiscuit and may go down in history in a similar fashion.
2. Adam Wainwright, St. Louis Cardinals
Wainwright gets the nod as runner up over teammate Chris Carpenter because he's been consistent and durable for the whole season. He pounds the strike zone, doesn't give up many homers; racks up the strikeouts and keeps his team in the game. He got screwed out of his 20th win by the Cardinals bullpen and I'm sure no one felt worse about it than manager Tony La Russa; probably far worse than Wainwright in fact.
3. Chris Carpenter, St. Louis Cardinals
I wondered a couple of weeks ago what Carpenter would be if he'd had Greg Maddux durability with his own (better) stuff. Carpenter is a great pitcher, but he's an injury waiting to happen at all times. He was masterful when he returned to health in May. Along with his more noticeable numbers (17-4 record, 2.24 ERA), Carpenter only walked 38 and allowed 7 homers in 192 innings. Ridiculously good.
4. Javier Vazquez, Atlanta Braves
With a little luck and/or a better bullpen, Vazquez would've won 22 games. He was durable, consistent and had a big strikeout year in his return to the National League, regaining the form he showed early in his career with the Expos.
5. Jair Jurrjens, Atlanta Braves
I don't think people realize how good Jurrjens is, but they'll know one day; possibly as soon as next year.
Note: I picked Johan Santana to win the CYA in the pre-season. He was on his way early in the year before the team behind him fell apart and his elbow started barking.
Rookie of the Year: Chris Coghlan, Florida Marlins
Coghlan is going to be a star one day. He just has that look. Playing out of position in left field, he held his own learning his way in the big leagues and exploded in the second half ending with a .321 average and a .390 OBP playing for a contending team.
2. Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh Pirates:
I knew this guy was going to be a star the first time I saw him run out a triple. He ran more beautifully, cleanly and seemingly faster than Jose Reyes. He hit 12 homers, drove in 54 runs; stole 22 bases; batted .286 and had a .365 OBP. He's going to be a star.
3. Colby Rasmus, St. Louis Cardinals
Rasmus didn't have a great year, but he's only 22 and hit 16 homers.
4. Everth Cabrera, San Diego Padres
His numbers don't jump off the page, but there's something about Cabrera that I like and he stole 25 bases, had some pop and showed impressive defense.
5. Garrett Jones, Pittsburgh Pirates
A 28-year-old rookie, Jones came out of nowhere and hit 22 homers in 358 plate appearances. He walks a lot too.
Note: I picked Dodgers pitcher James McDonald as the ROY before the season.
Manager of the Year: Jim Tracy, Colorado Rockies
Tracy took over a floundering and moribund team and they exploded into contention and won the Wild Card. Tracy is liked by his players and respected by opponents. He was unfairly dismissed by the Dodgers and fell into a rancid situation in Pittsburgh with the Pirates. 2009 proved how good a manager Tracy is.
2. Fredi Gonzalez, Florida Marlins
I kept a close eye on the Marlins because I'd picked them to win the division and I do so love being right; I didn't see any reason for the current consideration that's apparently taking place on whether or not to keep Gonzalez. I think he did a great job strategically and handling his players. No matter what happens, Gonzalez won't be out of work for long and will be managing sooner rather than later. If he's fired, the Mets should look at him as a bench coach, but if he's out in Florida, I think he'll be in Atlanta sitting next to Bobby Cox in 2010 and will be the next manager of the Braves in 2011.
3. Bruce Bochy, San Francisco Giants
Bochy was a winning manager for the Padres; he's a winning manager for the Giants. He's handled the pitching staff brilliantly and dealt with a popgun offense bringing the Giants into contention and 87 wins. (I picked Bochy to win the award in the pre-season.)
4. Joe Torre, Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers won 95 games with a short starting rotation and inexperienced bullpen. Torre wins now by force of reputation and that his teams play the game and behave the right way.
5. Tony La Russa, St. Louis Cardinals
What more can you say about La Russa? He's the best manager of his generation and is worth (at least) 10 wins by himself because of his strategic wizardry.
Note: Viewer Mail will be answered in tomorrow's posting along with previews of every post-season series.