The following is a detailed look at the 2011 National League Most Valuable Player voting:
When Ryan Braun was notified of the NL MVP results, he immediately proceeded to call his mother, his agent, and then Green Bay Packers quarterback and fellow Cali-native Aaron Rodgers, who Braun calls his “best athlete friend.” His message to the leader of the 11-0 Packers was clear: your turn. Rodgers, forever a Wisconsin legend thanks to his Super Bowl XLV MVP performance, has the inside track for the MVP award this season and was happy for his pal. “I’m proud of him,” Rodgers said in an ESPN interview, “he had an incredible season.” Rodgers was also thankful to play in front of the best fans around. “It’s fun to know that he’s going to be in Milwaukee for a long time,” he said. “I’m hopefully going to be here for a long time, and we appreciate the opportunity to play in Wisconsin for sports teams and their fans who really care about their players.” Braun may now have the award, but Rodgers has the title – something Braun craves. “[Rodgers has] accomplished far more in his sport than I have in mine,” stated Braun, “it inspires me to try to get better and ultimately to win a championship of my own for the Milwaukee Brewers.” One day, Milwaukee. One day.
Milwaukee once again has a Most Valuable Player. Ryan Braun received 20 first-place votes to Matt Kemp’s 10 to earn National League MVP honors Tuesday afternoon, becoming the first Brewer to win the award since Robin Yount in 1989. The announcement caps an incredible year for baseball fans in Wisconsin. The Brewers won their first division title in 29 years, set a franchise-record with 96 wins, walked-off to the NLCS in dramatic fashion, and now can say they boast the MVP. Kemp put up some ridiculous numbers, but Braun deserved the award. He led the league in slugging (.597) and OPS (.994), finished second in batting (.332), became only the second Brewer ever to have a 30-30 season (33 homers, 33 steals), plus he drove in 111 runs, scored 109, was an All-Star for the fourth consecutive year, and won his fourth straight Silver Slugger. Brewers’ first baseman Prince Fielder finished third in the balloting. Thank goodness Milwaukee has Ryan Braun inked through 2020, because there isn’t a cooler, classier, or more clutch player in all the land.
Today was just about the craziest day in baseball that I can remember. So many things were on the line going into the final day of the 2011 season. In some scenarios we would have had the pleasure of watching two one-game playoffs on the same day; that didn’t happen, but here’s some stuff that did:
The Brewers capped their best season in franchise history, becoming the first Brewers squad to earn 96 victories. Their win versus the Pirates also earned them home field for their NLDS match-up against the NL West-Champion Arizona Diamondbacks. Yovani Gallardo will start game 1 for Milwaukee at home on Saturday.
Zack Greinke surpassed 200 strikeouts while earning his 16th win of the season Wednesday night; he improved his record at Miller Park this season to 11-0 (the Brewers are 15-0 in Greinke starts at home). Greinke and Yovani Gallardo are the only two teammates in Brewers history to have 200 punch-outs in the same season.
Prince Fielder earned a walk in his final at-bat of 2011. That walk left his batting average for the season at .299, leaving the quest for his first .300 season short once again. The base-on-balls did however give Fielder more walks (107) than strikeouts (106) for the season. Pretty neat.
Ryan Braun did not win the batting title, going 0-for-4 while Jose Reyes got on base via a bunt single in the first and was subsequently pinch-ran for per his request so that his average would remain higher than Braun’s. Bush. League. Braun finished the year at .332, Reyes at .337.
Albert Pujols recorded the first season in his career in which he failed to hit .300 and drive in 100 runs. Pujols finished with a .299 average and 99 RBI.
The Dodgers’ Matt Kemp hit his 39th home run Wednesay; however that left him one short of becoming the fifth player in MLB history to record a 40/40 season.
Following Boston’s knack for collapsing, Adrian Gonzalez (.338) lost the AL batting title to Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera (.344) after leading the race for almost every single day throughout the year.
Detroit closer Jose Valverde finished the season a perfect 49/49 in saves.
Jonathan Papelbon and the Red Sox were literally one strike away from a victory, yet the Boston closer ended up blowing the save and allowing Baltimore to win. Three minutes later the Tampa Bay Rays, who had just gotten out of a first and third nobody out situation in the eighth, walked-off with an Evan Longoria homer that squeaked inside the left field foul pole. Tampa Bay was down 7-0 to the Yankees going into the eighth inning, but thanks to sound baseball and a three-run Longoria bomb, the Rays pulled within one going into the ninth. Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon pinch-hit Dan Johnson for Sam Fuld with two outs and the bases empty. Johnson was hitting .105 with one home run on the sesason. On a 2-2 pitch, Johnson crushed a home run deep into right field which barely snuck fair for a home run. The Rays were literally one strike away from losing, yet they scratched and clawed their way to an improbable AL Wild Card birth.
And lastly one more word about the NL batting title race I’ve been covering for quite some time… I think this excerpt from Tim Kurkjian’s ESPN.com article titled “Remembering the Amazing Ted Williams” says it best, and keep in mind how Reyes asked to be removed after a first inning bunt single…
“When he got to the final day of the season, a doubleheader at Shibe Park in Philadelphia, Williams was hitting .3996, which rounded off to .400. Red Sox manager Joe Cronin gave Williams the option to play that day. Williams said if he couldn’t hit .400 from the beginning to the end of a season, he didn’t deserve it.
“I asked him about that final day,” Gwynn said, “and he said, ‘Hell yeah was I going to play.”’
Williams went 4-for-5 in the first game, the Red Sox overcame an 11-3 deficit to beat the A’s, 12-11, and Williams raised his average to .404. He insisted on playing the second game, and he went 2-for-3 to finish the season at .406. In the doubleheader, with all the pressure of .400, he went 6-for-8. “
The 30-30 club is nothing to scoff at. It’s an elite grouping of players who possess the talent to both bash the ball over the bleachers as well as swipe steals with blazing speed. The 30-30 club has seen its members increase over time, and 34 players have reached the plateau for a total of 54 magical seasons. Since 2000, there have been sixteen 30-30 seasons, however no one accomplished the feat last year. Smacking 30 home runs and stealing 30 bases in the same season is something that no Milwaukee Brewer has done since 1970 — when Tommy Harper hit 31 homers to go along with 38 stolen bases. Seven years before Harper, Hank Aaron of the Milwaukee Braves crushed 44 homers while stealing 31 bags. Yet that’s where the story ends for the city of Milwaukee. 2011 promises to be different. Milwaukee left fielder Ryan Braun is looking to become the second Brewer to complete the statistical sensation. Braun currently has 24 home runs and 28 stolen bases and is on pace for 31-35.
Here are the players who have a chance of joining the 30-30 club this season:
Ryan Braun, LF, Brewers: 24 HR, 28 SB
Matt Kemp, CF, Dodgers: 29 HR, 33 SB
Curtis Granderson, CF, Yankees: 35 HR, 24 SB
Jacoby Ellsbury, CF, Red Sox: 22 HR, 34 SB
Justin Upton, RF, Diamondbacks: 25 HR, 19 SB
Ian Kinsler, 2B, Rangers: 21 HR, 21 SB
There’s something special going on in Milwaukee, Wisconsin these days. The dog days of summer are upon us and the Milwaukee Brewers are hotter than ever — scorching, if you will. Milwaukee has stellar pitching, a loaded offensive lineup with two MVP candidates, and if that wasn’t enough, they began to really flash the leather Monday night at Miller Park.
With a 3-0 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Brewers improved to twenty games over .500 on the year (71-51) and thirty games over .500 at home (45-15). Milwaukee is 17-2 in their last 19 games and has a six game lead over the St. Louis Cardinals in the National League Central.
Randy Wolf (10-8, 3.30) was masterful as he went eight scoreless innings, allowing only six hits while walking five and striking out five. He was also the beneficiary of some beautifully crafted defensive gems. Wolf got Andre Ethier to ground into a 6-4-3 double play to end the first inning. In the second, the Brewers turned the first triple play in the National League this season and the sixth in franchise history. Wolf surrendered a lead-off walk and single to put runners on first and second (Matt Kemp was running on the single but was forced to slide into second base thanks to Josh Wilson’s bluff, making Kemp think it was a ground ball therefore preventing him from reaching third on the hit-and-run). James Loney then broke his bat on a cue shot up the middle; Wilson smoothly fielded and flipped the ball with his glove to Yuniesky Betancourt who threw to Prince Fielder at first base to turn two; Kemp, trying to score from second base on the play, was then thrown out by Prince at the plate thanks to a diving tag by George Kottaras; 4-6-3-2 (the first triple play of that sort since 1973 — 151 triple plays have occurred in between the two). In the third inning, Jerry Hairston Jr. threw out Dodgers catcher Dioner Navarro at home. The fourth inning ended with a double play when Hairston made a diving catch in center then promptly stood up and threw out Ethier at first who was attempting to tag. In the bottom half of the fourth, Ryan Braun capitalized off of Lilly’s lone mistake and deposited his 23rd homer into deep left center on a 0-2 pitch with two outs, giving the Crew a 1-0 lead. The fifth inning saw a 3-6-1 double play, also courtesy of James Loney — who had his first two at-bats result in five outs. Wolf finally had his first 1-2-3 inning in the sixth, getting two ground ball outs with a strikeout of Ted Lilly squeezed in between. With the bases loaded and two outs in the seventh, Wolf got Navarro to fly out to Hairston. Jonathan Lucroy entered the game for Kottaras in the eighth and unleashed on a fastball, cranking out his 9th home run of the season and putting the Brewers up 2-0. Corey Hart followed by launching his 18th long ball into right field, giving the Crew a 3-0 lead. John Axford closed the door again, thanks to a game ending double play, Milwaukee’s fourth of the game. Axford earned his 32nd consecutive save and 35th of 2011. Ryan Braun went 2-for-4 on the night, raising his batting average to .328 and stealing his 23rd bag along the way.
With teams having played over 100 games in the 2011 season, the sample size is large enough to start talking league awards. Below are the key statistics for the top ten candidates for National League Most Valuable Player. Now it’s up to you to vote. Do you count team success? What matters more, average or on-base percentage? How important is the walk-to-strikeout ratio? These are all things you’ll have to weigh in your own respective manner while choosing the most valuable player in the entire league.
The 82nd All-Star game has come and passed and Thursday brings MLB’s second half – which never fails to stir up drama. The NL has clinched home field advantage in World Series with a 5-1 victory over the AL All-Stars. The Milwaukee Brewers had three starters voted in, however, Ryan Braun sat out due to an ailing hamstring. Rickie Weeks hit lead-off and went hitless, but did steal a base and score a run. Fielder, starting at first base and hitting clean-up, delivered the big hit of the night – a three-run jack off of Texas starter C.J. Wilson – and was named the All-Star game MVP. At the end of the contest the Brewers made a drastic roster move. Milwaukee now has K-Rod and the Ax-Man at the back end of their pen. With Rickie Weeks playing like his hair is on fire, if Braun and Fielder keep mashing, the Brewers could be in line for a deep postseason run. Here are the top ten teams in baseball right now…
1. Philadelphia Phillies (57-34, 1st in NL East by 3.5 games)
Roy Halladay: (11-3) 2.45 ERA, 138 SO, 1.02 WHIP
Ryan Howard: (.257 BA/.353 OBP/.475 SLG) 18 HR, 72 RBI
2. Atlanta Braves (54-38, 2nd in NL East, 3.5 GB)
Jair Jurrjens: (12-3) 1.87 ERA, 65 SO, 1.07 WHIP
Brian McCann: (.310 BA/.381 OBP/.514 SLG) 15 HR, 50 RBI
3. Boston Red Sox (55-35, 1st in AL East by 1.0 game)
Josh Beckett: (8-3) 2.27 ERA, 94 SO, 0.95 WHIP
Adrian Gonzalez: (.354 BA/.414 OBP/.591 SLG) 17 HR, 77 RBI
4. New York Yankees (53-35, 2nd in AL East, 1.0 GB)
CC Sabathia: (13-4) 2.72 ERA, 126 SO, 1.16 WHIP
Curtis Granderson: (.269 BA/.361 OBP/.575 SLG) 25 HR, 63 RBI
5. San Francisco Giants (52-40, 1st in NL West by 3.0 games)
Matt Cain: (8-5) 3.06 ERA, 105 SO, 1.10 WHIP
Aubrey Huff: (.236 BA/.290 OBP/.361 SLG) 8 HR, 44 RBI
6. Milwaukee Brewers (49-43, 1st in NL Central, tied with STL)
Yovani Gallardo: (10-5) 3.76 ERA, 104 SO, 1.36 WHIP
Ryan Braun: (.320 BA/ .402 OBP/ .559 SLG) 16 HR, 62 RBI
Prince Fielder: (.297 BA/ .415 OBP/ .575 SLG) 22 HR, 72 RBI
7. Texas Rangers (51-41, 1st in AL West by 1.0 game)
Alexi Ogando: (9-3) 2.92 ERA, 78 SO, 1.01 WHIP
Adrian Beltre: (.273 BA/ .314 OBP/ .499 SLG) 19 HR, 71 RBI
8. St. Louis Cardinals (49-43, 1st in NL Central, tied with MIL)
Jaime Garcia: (9-3) 3.22 ERA, 100 SO, 1.25 WHIP
Lance Berkman: (.290 BA/.404 OBP/ .602 SLG) 24 HR, 63 RBI
9. Detroit Tigers (49-43, 1st in AL Central by 0.5 game)
Justin Verlander: (12-4) 2.15 ERA, 147 SO, 0.87 WHIP
Miguel Cabrera: (.311 BA/ .430 OBP/ .549 SLG) 18 HR, 59 RBI
10. Arizona Diamondbacks (49-43, 2nd in NL West, 2.0 GB)
Ian Kennedy: (9-3) 3.44 ERA, 106 SO, 1.15 WHIP
Justin Upton: (.293 BA/ .375 OBP/ .506 SLG) 15 HR, 46 RBI
If the season ended today:
1. Adrian Gonzalez, 1B, Red Sox
2. Jose Bautista, RF, Blue Jays
3. Curtis Granderson, CF, Yankees
1. Prince Fielder, 1B, Brewers
2. Jose Reyes, SS, Mets
3. Matt Kemp, CF, Dodgers
AL Cy Young
1. Justin Verlander, SP, Tigers
2. CC Sabathia, SP, Yankees
3. Jered Weaver, SP, Angels
NL Cy Young
1. Jair Jurrjens, SP, Braves
2. Roy Halladay, SP, Phillies
3. Cole Hamels, SP, Phillies