Major League baseball players today announced the winners for their highest honors - the Players Choice Awards - in which the players themselves recognize their peers' most outstanding and inspiring performances. The Awards announcement was made this evening on MLB Network during an exclusive Players Choice Awards broadcast special presented by 2K Sports and benefitting the Major League Baseball Players Trust.
Justin Verlander of the Detroit Tigers was chosen by his peers as the 2011 Player of the Year. Verlander led the American League with a dominant performance on the mound, winning 24 games, striking out 250 and compiling a 2.40 ERA to win the first AL pitching Triple Crown since Johan Santana in 2006. The ace pitcher also set the American League bar for innings pitched (251), opposing batting average (.192), WHIP (.092) and winning percentage (.828) and led the Tigers to the AL Central pennant with his third straight All-Star appearance. Verlander was also named the Players Choice Award winner for American League Outstanding Pitcher.
Michael Young, known for his team dedication and a heart the size of Texas, was recognized for his outstanding character and charitable work as the 2011 Marvin Miller Man of the Year. Named for the founding executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association, the Man of the Year award honors the player whose excellence on and off the field most inspires others to higher levels of achievement. In addition to collecting a Major League-best 213 hits and a .338 batting average as the Texas Rangers' designated hitter this season, Young and his wife Cristina launched The Michael Young Family Foundation to improve children's health. An All-Star in both the clubhouse and the community, Young is a champion for Wipe Out Kids Cancer and has provided more than $170,000 in college scholarships to 94 local cancer survivors and Hispanic students through his Young Heroes and Michael Young Family Hispanic Scholarship Programs. Young, who was previously chosen by the players as the 2008 Marvin Miller Man of the Year, is also a long-time supporter of the Dallas R.B.I. program, the Make a Wish Foundation and the Players Trust.
New York Yankee Curtis Granderson was honored as the American League Outstanding Player. With his 2011 offensive power surge, Granderson led all American League hitters with 119 RBIs and a Major League-best 136 runs scored, as well as placing second in home runs (41), third in triples (10) and fourth in extra-base hits (77). Granderson is just the seventh Yankees slugger in history to score 130 runs and hit 40 home runs in a season, joining pinstriped legends Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio, Lou Gehrig, Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris, as well as teammate Alex Rodriguez. The speedy All-Star was also solid in center field, posting a .992 fielding percentage and 11 outfield assists to lead the Yankees to the AL East crown.
Matt Kemp was named the National League Outstanding Player after a breakout season with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Kemp paced all National League hitters with 115 runs, 39 home runs and 126 RBIs and became the first Dodger ever to lead the NL in all three categories. The All-Star centerfielder and second-time Gold Glove winner also stole 40 bases, collected 195 hits and batted .324 for the season, including a clutch .335 average with runners in scoring position, to secure his first Silver Slugger award. Kemp is just the fifth player in history to reach 30 home runs, 100 RBIs, 35 stolen bases, and a .310 batting average in a season, joining the company of all-time great hitters Ken Williams (1922), Barry Bonds (1992), Alex Rodriguez (1998) and Vladimir Guerrero (2002).
National League Outstanding Pitcher honors were awarded to the Los Angeles Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw. The lefty ace captured the National League pitching Triple Crown with a dazzling season in which he led the Senior Circuit with 21 wins (tie), a 2.28 ERA and 248 strikeouts. Kershaw's ERA and win totals were the most by a Dodgers pitcher since Orel Hershiser in 1988, while his strikeout total was the Dodgers' best since Sandy Koufax struck out 317 in 1966. Kershaw, a Gold Glove winner and All-Star, also finished first among National League pitchers in opposing batting average (.207) and WHIP (0.98), second in shutouts (2) and third in innings pitched (233.1) and complete games (5).
Mark Trumbo received the award for American League Outstanding Rookie for his performance with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Trumbo, a hometown slugger drafted in the 18th-round of the 2004 First-Year Player Draft, led his teammates and all Major League rookies with 29 home runs and 87 RBIs. The Angels first baseman also led American League rookies with 31 doubles, 61 extra-base hits, 257 total bases and a .477 slugging percentage, while finishing second in hits (137) and runs scored (65). Also talented defensively, Trumbo compiled a .993 fielding percentage at first base to tie Eric Hosmer for the lead among all rookie position players.
Atlanta Braves All-Star closer Craig Kimbrel was chosen as the National League Outstanding Rookie. The twenty-three year old pitcher made his inaugural season one for the record books, tying the Major League lead with 46 saves and breaking Neftali Feliz's 2010 mark of 40 to set a new all-time record for saves by a rookie. Kimbrel established himself as one of the premier relievers in the game by posting a 2.40 ERA and 127 strikeouts over 77.0 innings pitched and held his opponents scoreless for a season-high streak of 37 2/3 innings, the fifth-longest such streak in history.
American League Comeback Player of the Year honors went to Jacoby Ellsbury of the Boston Red Sox. After fractured ribs limited him to just 18 games in 2010, the healthy and determined centerfielder stormed back this season to establish career highs in games played (158), runs (119), hits (212), total bases (364), doubles (46), home runs (32), RBIs (105), walks (52) and slugging percentage (.552). Ellsbury was also a force in the field, recording 388 putouts in 394 total chances and leading all Major League centerfielders with a perfect 1.000 fielding percentage en route to his first Gold Glove and All-Star selections.
Lance Berkman of the World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals was named the National League Comeback Player of the Year. The 35 year-old slugger and thirteen-year Major League veteran returned from 2010 arthroscopic knee surgery to defy age and earn the sixth All-Star selection of his career. Berkman turned back the clock with a .301 season batting average, 94 RBIs and top ten finishes among National League hitters in home runs (31), on-base percentage (.412), slugging percentage (.547) and walks (92), rivaling his standout 2008 form and keying the Cardinals' championship run.
The Players Choice Awards annually honor the outstanding player, rookie, pitcher and comeback player in each league, while the Player of the Year and Man of the Year awards bestow top honors without regard to league. Balloting for the Players Choice Awards was conducted in September under the supervision of accounting firm KPMG.
2011 Players Choice Award winners in all categories will designate charities to receive grants totaling $260,000 from the Major League Baseball Players Trust, the charitable foundation created and run by the players themselves. The Players Trust raises funds and attention for issues affecting the needy and promotes community involvement. Since 1992, the Players Trust has recognized the outstanding on-field and off-field performances of Players Choice Awards winners by contributing more than $3 million to charities around the world. For additional information, please visit www.MLBPLAYERS.com or visit the Players Trust channel on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/user/MLBPlayersTrust.
Below please find the complete list of the 2011 Players Choice Award winners and finalists.
2011 Players Choice Awards Finalists:
Outstanding Player: Jose Bautista (Toronto), Adrian Gonzalez (Boston), Curtis Granderson, Jr. (NY Yankees)
Outstanding Pitcher: James Shields (Tampa Bay), Justin Verlander (Detroit), Jered Weaver (LA Angels)
Outstanding Rookie: Jeremy Hellickson (Tampa Bay), Eric Hosmer (Kansas City), Mark Trumbo (LA Angels)
Comeback Player: Bartolo Colon (NY Yankees), Jacoby Ellsbury (Boston), Casey Kotchman (Tampa Bay)
Outstanding Player: Ryan Braun (Milwaukee), Matt Kemp (LA Dodgers), Justin Upton (Arizona)
Outstanding Pitcher: Roy Halladay (Philadelphia), Ian Kennedy (Arizona), Clayton Kershaw (LA Dodgers)
Outstanding Rookie: Freddie Freeman (Atlanta), Craig Kimbrel (Atlanta), Vance Worley (Philadelphia)
Comeback Player: Lance Berkman (St. Louis), Jose Reyes (NY Mets), Ryan Vogelsong (San Francisco)
Player of Year: Adrian Gonzalez (Boston), Curtis Granderson, Jr. (NY Yankees), Justin Verlander (Detroit)
Man of the Year: Paul Konerko (Chicago White Sox), Adam Wainwright (St. Louis), Michael Young (Texas)
(Winners in bold/underline)