It’s the end of the first decade in the new millennium on MLB Monday as we move into a time that normally is full of news about spring training. Alas, we’re stuck in the past, either way, examining the 2009 MLB season and its award winners. How many of them will keep their hardware? Guesses?
Read on to find out if you were right … or wrong. We never know ourselves until we do the numbers.
2009 AL MVP: Joe Mauer (original, confirmed)
We have a solid top-5 group this year for this award: Tampa Bay Rays utility man Ben Zobrist (8.6 WAR), Minnesota Twins catcher Joe Mauer (7.8), Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim third baseman Chone Figgins (7.7), Rays 3B Evan Longoria (7.0), and Seattle Mariners center fielder Franklin Gutierrez (6.6). The two Tampa teammates cancel each other out, which is a bummer for Zobrist.
Mauer won this nod from us in 2006, but can he win keep this vote win? With the Twins winning the AL Central Division by 1 game over Detroit, he most definitely will retain the hardware. The Angels won the AL West by 10 games, and the Mariners finished 12 games behind Los Angeles there. Mauer won his third batting title in four seasons, too, by hitting a career-high .365 for the year, which is insane.
He also topped the circuit in OBP (.444), SLG (.587), and OPS (1.031)—while adding career bests in HRs (28) and RBI (96). Mauer also drew 76 walks while posting 0.7 dWAR in the process. He was never the best defensive catcher, but he was a good-enough one. At age 29, this represented the peak of his career, for sure, and it should get him into the Hall of Fame soon.
2009 NL MVP: Albert Pujols (original, confirmed)
The top five in the NL form a strong bunch, too: St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols (9.7 WAR), Philadelphia Phillies second baseman Chase Utley (8.2), Florida Marlins shortstop Hanley Ramírez (7.3), Washington Nationals 3B Ryan Zimmerman (7.3), and San Diego Padres 1B Adrián González (6.9)—who just retired. Pujols won the vote with a near-historic season at age 29.
The Cards also won the NL Central by 7.5 games, so Pujols could be keeping his trophy here, unlike last year when we gave it to Utley. But with the Phillies winning the NL East by 6 games, it could be closer than anyone might thought! The Nats and the Pads both finished under .500, with the Marlins coming in those 6 games behind Philly in the East Division. So it’s Pujols or Utley, both positive defenders:
- Pujols: 124 runs, 47 HRs, .443 OBP, .658 SLG, 1.101 OPS, and 374 TBs all led the league
- Utley: 112 runs, 31 HRs, .397 OBP, .508 SLG, .905 OPS, and 290 TBs didn’t lead the league
Utley did manage to get hit by 24 pitches to top the NL, however. It’s clear both players were difference makers for their respective teams, and the cushions they provided were equal, in relation to the winning margins in each division race. All things being equal, therefore, we let Pujols keep his trophy this time out.
This is his fourth MVP nod in our books (2001, 2003, 2006). He won three voted MVPs in his career, so we’ve already given him his proper due. Other numbers for him in this season? 135 RBI, 115 BBs, a .327 average, and 44 IBBs. He was a pretty good player, no?
2009 AL Cy Young: Zack Greinke (original, confirmed)
Well, this is an open-and-shut case, because for the first time in a long time, we have a legitimate historical performance from a player: Kansas City Royals ace Zack Greinke (10.4 WAR), who won the vote at the time despite pitching for a 65-win team. That threshold has always been our rule, and suffice it to say, the next-best AL pitcher—Toronto Blue Jays star Roy Halladay—finished with 6.9 WAR.
His numbers were impressive, despite the vacuum he compiled them within all season: 16-8, 2.16 ERA, 242 Ks, and a 1.073 WHIP in 229 1/3 IP. The ERA and WHIP topped the AL, while Greinke added 3 shutouts and a league-low 0.4 HR/9 rate. That’s all you need to know, really.
2009 NL Cy Young: Tim Lincecum (original, confirmed)
San Francisco Giants wunderkind Tim Lincecum (7.4 WAR) won a second straight NL Cy vote, but we didn’t let him keep the award last year. There are contenders again: Florida Marlins youngster Josh Johnson (6.7), Atlanta Braves phenom Jair Jurrjens (6.5), Arizona Diamondbacks veteran Dan Haren (6.5), Cardinals veteran Chris Carpenter (6.5), St. Louis ace Adam Wainwright (6.3), and Braves journeyman Javier Vázquez (6.2).
Two sets of teammates cancel each other out, to Lincecum’s benefit here. But the Giants finished 7 games out first place in the NL West and 4 games out of the postseason chase. Meanwhile, the D’backs finished under .500, so that eliminates Haren. We know the Fish finished just 6 games out in the NL East, although they were 5 games behind in the wild-card chase.
Years ago when this vote was announced, we strongly criticized it; lucky for us, that article isn’t online anymore as the website is defunct. Phew! With better analytical tools today, we see Lincecum brought more value to a better team that finished a little closer to the postseason. We confirm the award, despite concerns about integrity expressed elsewhere. The Freak deserved this one.
2009 AL ROTY: Andrew Bailey (original), Rick Porcello (revised)
The three top contenders for this award were Oakland Athletics closer Andrew Bailey (3.7 WAR), Texas Rangers SS Elvis Andrus (3.6), and Tigers starter Rick Porcello (2.6). Bailey won the vote, but the A’s finished under .500 overall, while the Rangers came up 10 games short of first place in the AL West. We know Detroit only missed out on the postseason by 1 game, so we’re going to give this to Porcello.
His numbers aren’t great, but it’s the value behind them: 14-9, 3.96, 31 starts, and 170 2/3 IP. The Tigers would have been nowhere near the AL Central lead without Porcello’s right arm.
2009 NL ROTY: Chris Coghlan (original), J.A. Happ (revised)
This was a messy vote, as the winner—Marlins left fielder Chris Coghlan—finished tenth among NL rookies in WAR, thanks to a brutal glove that rated out to -2.5 dWAR. That is not a typo. Needless to say, he won’t be winning this trophy from us. It’s amazing voters could have been that blind to his defense, despite his .321 average and .850 OPS.
The real candidates are as follows: Chicago Cubs starter Randy Wells (4.3), Phillies starter J.A. Happ (3.9), Braves starter Tommy Hanson (3.5), and Pittsburgh Pirates utility man Garrett Jones (3.3). The Cubbies were 7.5 games out of first, and the Phillies won the NL East by 6 games as we know. Atlanta was 7 games behind Philly, while the Pirates finished last in the NL Central.
So, while Happ didn’t make the difference for the Phillies, he’s deserves this award over the other contenders. He posted a 12-4 record with a 2.93 ERA in 166 IP. He also topped the NL with 2 shutouts, finishing second in the vote. It’s interesting that Happ made 30 starts in the 2021 MLB season: not quite ageless, but he’s had a meandering career for 8 teams, making him a true journeyman these days.