Season's best claim TYIB Awards
Stars Mauer, Greinke, Jeter among fan favorites for 2009
We set up the ballots, and once again, the fans spoke loud and clear in naming this past season's best hitters, pitchers, performances and moments in the 2009 MLB.com This Year in Baseball Awards.
More than 12 million votes were cast by fans across the globe, producing another record-breaking total.
"These year-end awards are a privilege to present and have grown in importance, both in terms of fan participation and in how they are received by the winners," said Dinn Mann, Executive Vice President, Content, and Editor-in-Chief, MLB.com.
"We are grateful for every vote, and more, for the platform to celebrate greatness in baseball and to continue to identify ways to expand this significant, deserved recognition."
Here's a recap of this year's 15 TYIB winners, who'll be presented their trophies on the field in 2010:
Hitter of the Year -- Joe Mauer, Twins: Mauer has been recognized as one of the game's best offensive catchers for a few years, but his performance in '09 was spectacular for a player of any position. The 26-year-old led the Majors with his .365 average and .444 on-base percentage, and he established career highs with 28 homers and 96 RBIs despite missing the first month to injury. Mauer was named on 25.8 percent of the vote to win the Gibby, with the Yankees' Derek Jeter coming in a close second with 21.3 percent of the vote.
Starting Pitcher of the Year -- Zack Greinke, Royals: From the early stages of '09, it was clear that Greinke was on his way to a special season. The Royals ace didn't surrender an earned run until his fifth start of the year, and he didn't take his first loss until start number seven. By the time the year was complete, Greinke had rung up a Major League-best 2.16 ERA to go with 16 wins, 242 strikeouts and six complete games. His brilliance garnered 19.8 percent of the vote, which barely topped the 19.6 percent that went to San Francisco's Tim Lincecum.
Rookie of the Year -- J.A. Happ, Phillies: At the beginning of '09, it appeared that Happ would be limited to a bullpen role for the Phillies. But the 27-year-old was soon called to take over a rotation spot, a move that proved key for the defending World Series champs. Happ rolled to seven straight wins before taking his first loss, and went on to post a 12-4 record with a terrific 2.93 ERA. The southpaw earned a whopping 46.9 percent of the vote to claim the Gibby, with Pittsburgh outfielder Andrew McCutchen finishing a distant second at 9.3 percent.
Manager of the Year -- Jim Tracy, Rockies: Colorado seemed headed for a disappointing '09 campaign, but things quickly changed after Tracy took over at the helm in late May. The new skipper shook up his lineup and set a tone of accountability in the clubhouse, sparking his team to a 17-1 stretch in June. The Rockies surged to the front of the National League Wild Card race in August and never looked back, rolling to a club-record 92 wins and a postseason berth. Tracy was named on 18.3 percent of the fans' ballots, giving him a narrow win over Philadelphia's Charlie Manuel (16.5 percent) for the Gibby.
Closer of the Year -- Mariano Rivera, Yankees: Rivera has long been the standard by which all other closers are measured, and the lanky righty showed he's still the cream of the crop in '09. Firing his trademark cutter with precision, the 40-year-old converted 44 of 46 save opportunities, held batters to a .197 average and topped all full-time closers with a 1.76 ERA. Rivera was named on 46.6 percent of the ballots for his fourth Gibby trophy, with Boston's Jonathan Papelbon coming in second at 8.7 percent.
Setup Man of the Year -- Jeremy Affeldt, Giants: When it came to keeping a game close in the late innings this past season, no reliever was more effective than Affeldt. The Giants lefty tied for the ML lead with 33 holds, and his 1.73 ERA was tops among all full-time NL relievers. He also held righties to a .187 average, delivered a 1.26 ERA on the road and allowed earned runs in back-to-back outings only twice all year. Affeldt's numbers earned him 24.8 percent of the vote for the Gibby, with Yankees right-hander Phil Hughes finishing second at 19 percent.
Defensive Player of the Year -- Jacoby Ellsbury, Red Sox: Ellsbury has built his reputation as a basestealer, but his Gibby victory shows that fans have come to recognize his outstanding defensive ability as well. Boston's pitching staff certainly enjoyed having the sure-handed speedster in center, as Ellsbury committed just two errors all season for a robust .994 fielding percentage. Thanks to his airtight glovework and highlight-reel ability, Ellsbury earned 34.6 percent of the vote, easily outdistancing the 15.3 percent garnered by Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins.
Performance of the Year -- Mark Buehrle, White Sox: The crafty southpaw is generally known more for his steady contributions than individual dominance, but it all came together for Buehrle on July 23. Getting the start against an explosive Rays lineup, Buehrle used a rapid-fire pace and impeccable control to set down batter after batter. Shortly after a big-time catch from outfielder Dewayne Wise in the ninth, Buehrle induced a game-ending groundout to seal the deal on just the 18th perfect game in ML history. The performance for the ages helped the South Sider take the Gibby trophy with 29.7 percent of the vote, with San Francisco lefty Jonathan Sanchez placing second at 13.5 percent for his no-hitter on July 10.
Play of the Year -- Dewayne Wise, White Sox: While all defensive gems dazzle the fans, some become much more significant if an historic moment is close at hand. Such was the case when Wise took over center field for the White Sox with Buehrle three outs away from his perfect game on July 23. Wise was immediately tested when Tampa Bay's Gabe Kapler led off the ninth with a deep drive to left-center, but the speedy outfielder raced to the wall, timed his leap perfectly and pulled in the near home run to keep the dream alive for Buehrle. Wise was named on 24.7 percent of the ballots to beat Philadelphia's Eric Bruntlett, who earned 18.2 percent for turning the first game-ending unassisted triple play in NL history on Aug. 23.
Moment of the Year -- Derek Jeter, Yankees: During his playing career, Lou Gehrig was a symbol of Yankee class, excellence and durability. Jeter is recognized in much the same manner today, so perhaps it was only fitting that the veteran shortstop was the one who broke the Iron Horse's franchise mark for hits. The record-breaker came in classic Jeter fashion on Sept. 11, a single through the right side of the infield that earned the Bombers captain a hug from his teammates and a standing ovation from the Yankee Stadium faithful. Jeter drew 24.6 percent of the vote for his second consecutive Gibby trophy, with Ellsbury finishing just behind at 22.8 percent for his steal of home vs. the Yanks on April 26.
Oddity of the Year -- Phillies Fanatic: When a fan reached over the upper-deck railing for a foul ball at Citizens Bank Park on Sept. 15, he likely figured he had a nice keepsake to share with his young daughter. But that idea evaporated when he handed the ball to his daughter, who instantly flung it back over the railing. Her throw earned her a consolation hug from dad, as well as the Gibby trophy with a TYIB-high 55.5 percent of the vote. Coming in second at 8.9 percent was the Rangers fan, who proved that lightning can strike twice by snagging a pair of foul balls off the bat of Josh Hamilton on Aug. 16.
Executive of the Year -- Ruben Amaro Jr., Phillies: It's tough to fill the shoes of a proven winner, but Amaro managed to turn the trick. Taking over as Philadelphia's general manager for '08 TYIB Executive of the Year Pat Gillick, Amaro beefed up his offense by signing outfielder Raul Ibanez last offseason, and his Deadline trade for ace Cliff Lee proved to be one of the shrewdest deals of the summer. Amaro's moves helped the Phillies claim their third straight NL East crown and return to the World Series, earning him 26.8 percent of votes to edge the Yankees' Brian Cashman (22.9 percent) for the Gibby.
Unsung Star of the Year -- Jayson Werth, Phillies: Werth may not be considered a headliner for a loaded Philly squad, but phanatics were singing his praises during an outstanding '09 campaign. Given his first clear-cut starting job, the long-limbed 30-year-old responded with a career-high 36 homers, 98 runs and 99 RBIs. He also stole 20 bases, showing the speed that's helped him become a top-notch right fielder. Werth wound up with 37.4 percent of the vote to handily win the Gibby trophy, with Arizona's Mark Reynolds placing second at 12.8 percent.
Postseason Moment of the Year -- Johnny Damon, Yankees: The Yankees' powerful bats came up big throughout the team's run to the World Series championship, but it was Damon's wheels that made the difference at a critical point. With the Yanks and Phillies tied in the ninth inning of Game 4 of the Fall Classic, Damon successfully stole second base. Recognizing that nobody was covering third in the Phillies' shifted infield, the veteran outfielder immediately sprinted to the vacated base, sparking a Yankees victory. His heads-up baserunning earned 19.4 percent of the vote, just ahead of the 18.6 percent that went to Rollins for his walk-off double in Game 4 of the NL Championship Series.
A special, first-ever X-Factor of the Year was awarded to former Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder and recent White Sox acquisition Juan Pierre through a media-only vote by MLB.com editors, reporters and multimedia personnel.
In 2010, this category will be added to the overall voting process. The 2010 This Year in Baseball Awards will include additional exciting enhancements to be unveiled at a later date.
Tim Ott is a writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.