The 2009 season is behind us for better or worse, and for the most part it was for the better. There were a lot of good performances, especially on the pitching side, and we finished with our best record since 2005. Here are the Atlanta Braves 2009 hitting and pitching MVPs and LVPs.
Hitting MVP: This is actually a pretty tough decision. No one really stands out, as there were some good performances, but not any great performances. All the really good performances were not for a full season. If guys like Adam LaRoche, Matt Diaz, and Martin Prado had posted the numbers they did in the second half for a full season, we might have had a three-headed MVP monster. I considered LaRoche, but he was a victim of his position in the lineup, and while he posted the highest OPS+ on the team, he wasn't in run producing situations enough, and of course, he was only here for half a season. Yunel Escobar gets some consideration, but he doesn't really act like an MVP all the time. He's got some growing up to do in that department.
I'm going to go with consistency for the MVP, and that would be Brian McCann. Once he got his vision straightened out, he put up some stellar numbers, and even when the rigors of catching 90% of the games slowed him down, he was still able to drive in runs. McCann quietly put together a terrific season, leading the team in homeruns, RBI, and OPS+ for a full season -- not bad production from a catcher. The runner up here is most certainly Martin Prado.
#16 / Catcher / Atlanta Braves
Feb 20, 1984
|2009 - Brian McCann||138||488||63||137||35||1||21||94||49||83||4||1||.281||.349||.486|
Hitting LVP: There are a couple of unfortunate candidates here. The guy I most want to give it to is Garret Anderson. He was just awful, and he played 134 games of .303 OBP and .401 slugging in a position where there should be a big bopper. Not to mention his defensive style is that of a hung-over beer-leaguer. He was bad, but not as bad as some others. We all know about how bad Jeff Francoeur was as a Brave -- the worst everyday right fielder in baseball. But we've done enough beating up on Frenchy, and besides we rid ourselves of his taint months ago.
Nope, the hitting LVP for the 2009 Braves is a guy many thought would really turn the corner this year, unfortunately he did turn a corner, just not down the road to improvement. Kelly Johnson played way too much before he was mercifully replaced by the excellent Martin Prado. Johnson spent way too much time in the lead-off spot, compiling a .274 on-base percentage while hitting first. His whole game suffered this year as he looked completely lost and/or over-matched at the plate. The runner up here is actually Jordan Schafer, another unfortunate season for someone who we had such high hopes for.
#2 / Second Base / Atlanta Braves
Feb 22, 1982
|2009 - Kelly Johnson||106||303||47||68||20||3||8||29||32||54||7||2||.224||.303||.389|
Pitching MVP: There are several very good and deserving candidates for this award. First off, we need to step back and realize that in Tommy Hanson, we probably saw the best debut of a Braves rookie starting pitcher ever... and the scary thing is he's only going to get better. There were some worthy bullpen performances. As much as Rafael Soriano and Mike Gonzalez struggled at times, they were two pretty darn good relievers for most of the year. Both of them had ERAs under 3.00 and strikeout-per-nine ratios over 10. Add Peter Moylan and his almost league leading appearances in there as well (he missed it by one game).
Jair Jurrjens was absolutely amazing this year, with the third-best ERA in the National League (2.60) while starting the most games on the team (34). But still, as good as he was, we had someone better. Javier Vazquez may have been the best off-season acquisition of any club. He ranked 6th in the NL in ERA (2.87), tied for 5th in wins (15), 3rd in WHIP (1.026), the 5th lowest in hits allowed, and the 4th lowest in walks allowed, while striking out the 3rd most per 9 innings pitched. Oh, and he pitched the 5th most innings in the league, and ranked right behind last year's Cy Young winner in total strikeouts. He was silly-good, and worth every prospect we gave up for him.
#33 / Pitcher / Atlanta Braves
Jul 25, 1976
|2009 - Javier Vazquez||15-10||37||32||3||0||0||0||219.1||181||75||70||20||44||238||2.87||1.03|
Pitching LVP: At first I was struggling with this one. There really weren't too many bad performances this year. No one in the bullpen stayed around long enough if they were stinking it up -- they were Blaine Boyered out of town. The default for this distinction goes to Derek Lowe. Yes, he won 15 games... I don't know how. When you look at his numbers (other than the wins) he definitely deserves this award. A 4.67 ERA and a disgusting 1.515 WHIP. Lowe gave up 10.7 hits per nine innings for a total of 232 hits -- the most in the NL. He is going to have to figure some things out and be more like the Lowe we saw in the first couple of months of the season.
#32 / Pitcher / Atlanta Braves
Jun 01, 1973
|2009 - Derek Lowe||15-10||34||34||0||0||0||0||194.2||232||109||101||16||63||111||4.67||1.52|