With the postseason stuck in that lull between the Division Series and the League Championship Series, we here at Walkoff Walk thought it would be a good time to assault our readers' eyes and brains with some award posts. We proudly present The First Annual Walkoff Walk Dot Com Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Excellence sponsored in part by nobody because we don't get paid a damn thing to do this website. It's a labor of love.
We've split up our choices into two sections, one for each of us. We've spent minutes and minutes research stats and whatnot to make these important decisions. Please consider our opinions and then feel free to express your own in the comment section.
Next up, the American League MVP:
This was the toughest choice for me to make among all the awards. I've been thinking about this award for a while now and no one candidate stuck his head out long enough for me to make an absolute decision. Still, Mauer caught 139 games this year and managed to amass an .864 OPS while batting third for a team that nearly won the AL Central. Historically, this was a great year for a Twins catcher, nearly as good as his own 2006 season with his .936 OPS. Am I giving this to Mauer as a make-up? Possibly. But take Mauer out of the Twins lineup and there's no way they score 829 runs.
I nearly gave top billing to Youkilis, who significantly increased his power output in 2008, going from a .453 to a .569 slugging percentage while maintaining his .390 on base percentage. Youk also played a great first base while committing 252 innings to third base while Mike Lowell was out. Most of all, Youkilis hit well in every single month. Rodriguez had a noticeable decline from 2007 but is still the best offensive player in the league; to leave him off my ballot would be unfair.
Honorable mention goes to Dustin Pedroia, who started slow but upped his output in time to become the best hitting middle infielder in the league. As for Milton Bradley and Carlos Quentin, they both missed too much time to be considered in this vote.
Camp Tiger Claw:
Toughest one on the board. The one thing to keep in mind here, is that if Ian Kinsler doesn't get hurt, he ends up running away with this damn thing. But for me his injury comes just a bit too early. Yes Quentin was hurt, and that probably keeps him out off most "real" ballots, but in 130 games, he missed the league HR title by one. He had a higher SLG than anyone but A-Rod, and a higher OPS than anyone but Milton Bradley or A-Rod. Rodriguez takes second by virtue of playing 138 games, and being the best player in the history of sentient life. For lack of a better option, I'll do something I don't usually do and throw a bone to a starting pitcher. The Indians went 24-7 in Lee's 31 starts. Throw out a 14-12 loss in July and they scored 15 runs in the 6 remaining losses. There was hardly a game Lee did not show up for.
As for Pedroia/Youkilis. They both had great years. They split my vote and don't make the list.