After handing out my league-wide awards, it’s time to move on to team specific awards. I plan on making this a yearly event that I’m sure every Tiger player and fan will eventually anticipate with great… uh.. anticipation?
Cy Young- Justin Verlander-JV was the definition of an ace this season. Plagued early by one bad inning per start, he was able to right the ship and make himself into one of the top five pitchers in the league. Verlander faced more hitters and threw more pitches than any AL hurler, but he never slowed down. It’s amazing to say, but after starting his career with seasons of 17 and 18 wins, this 19 win campaign may just be scratching the surface of what he can become.
Best Reliever- Brandon Lyon-Apologies to Fernando Rodney as he had a great season as the closer, but Lyon was able to move into the eighth inning role when Joel Zumaya went down and really solidified the back end of the ‘pen. After a rough start to his season in which he allowed a .910 OPS and a 6.43 ERA through May, Lyon turned things around. Over the final four months of the year he posted a 1.56 ERA and held opponents to a .180 batting average.
MVP- Miguel Cabrera-His fiasco over the final weekend doesn’t change the fact that he was the one constant in a struggling offense. Cabrera once again proved that he might be the best right handed hitter in baseball whose name is not Albert Pujols. He finished up with numbers that were just where we all expected, and if he hadn’t played so many games batting behind a black hole in the three spot, his RBI total would be much higher. Just another .320/30/100 type season for the big guy and for the second straight year, he improved dramatically on defense.
Biggest Waste of a Roster Spot- Josh Anderson/Aubrey Huff-Two players who essentially split the season with the Tigers were both amazingly unimpressive in their time in Detroit. Anderson has great speed, but to say that his judgement is questionable is putting mildly. He frequently used his speed to misplay fly balls and to run his team out of innings. Mercifully, he was DFA’d and now plays in Kansas City. Huff became the Tigers team leader in RBI on the day he came over from Baltimore, but his swing stayed in Camden Yards. Huff played 40 games in Detroit, batting .189/.265/.302/.567. He did not help get the Tigers over the hump, he just became part of the problem.
Most Improved- Ryan Raburn-Raburn still makes defense an adventure, but he has a very strong and accurate arm, as evidenced by his eight outfield assists. Once he was given a somewhat full-time job, he really blossomed at the plate. He began leading off versus lefties and although Jim Leyland steadfastly refused to play him against right handers, Raburn can hit them, too. In 291 at bats, he belted 16 home runs and knocked in 45 while posting an .891 OPS. He should be the everyday left fielder next season.
Biggest Surprise- Rick Porcello- Honestly, how much did you expect from a 20 year old rookie who was one year removed from high school? I figured he would start the year in Detroit, then shortly head to Erie for “seasoning”. 14 big league wins is 14 more than I expected for sure. All he did was throw 170 innings and keep his ERA under four. He did a great job of keeping his pitch counts low and he occasionally displayed the strike out numbers that will rise as his workload is allowed to increase. It will be fun to watch him grow into his game over the next few years.
Biggest Disappoitment- Curtis Granderson– Magglio Ordonez saved himself from this award by putting up great numbers in the second half, but Granderson couldn’t do the same. An all-star for the first time this year, Granderson set a career high in home runs, and his defense was solid, if not great. Granderson has now played four full seasons and in 2009 he had his worst. He had career lows in doubles, triples, and batting average. He did have a career best 72 walks, but somehow still had his worst OBP at .327, that’s hard to do. Granderson is what he is, and that is not a lead-off hitter, the sooner the Tigers’ brass figures that out, the better.