Every year the writers who cover the Milwaukee Brewers all season long get together, so to speak, and cast ballots for five team awards.
The awards are under the following five categories:
- Team MVP (not limited to just hitters)
- Best Pitcher (in any role)
- Best Newcomer (someone not on the team last year)
- Unsung Hero (given to someone who didn’t necessarily get a lot of credit for the job that they did)
- Good Guy (a true “media” award because this is for someone who is good in the community, clubhouse, etc but also was very helpful and gracious with the media)
Last year I took part in a Brewers blogger balloting in which several of us who actively and consistently write about the Brewers voted for the same awards. I’m not sure what it says about me, but my top choices in each category were the same as the collective credentialed media.
This year, we’re doing the same exercise as a Brewers blogosphere (some time soon) but I figured I’d get my ballot posted on my blog in the interest of transparency and disclosure. (Many BBWAA members would do well to follow suit on their personal MVP and Hall of Fame ballots.) I’ll also, naturally, explain my reasons behind my choices because what fun would it be without something to argue?
The balloting is such that we choose three men for each award and the votes, when tallied, are worth more points for higher positioning.
Team MVP: Ryan Braun, Aramis Ramirez, Corey Hart
This is easily an award that belongs to Ryan Braun as I believe that he is deserving of no less than second place in the National League Most Valuable Player voting. His statistical output speaks for itself and he carried the team through many stretches of the season.
Aramis Ramirez takes second place for me because of what he was able to do both at the plate and in the field. Yes he started slowly at the dish like he tends to do but his finish was fantastic. He more than made up for the lost production from Prince Fielder and contributed much more on defense than we were led to believe he would. (For instance, he led the league in barehanded assists this season.)
Corey Hart gets my third place vote because while several players could have fit here Hart did something he was very much against in switching positions when a desperate need arose. He posted very good numbers despite being absent more than once. Him gutting out a painful lisfranc tear in September certainly didn’t hurt his case.
Best Pitcher: Yovani Gallardo, Marco Estrada, Zack Greinke
Make no mistake about it: Yovani Gallardo keeps taking steps toward ace-hood. His fourth career (and consecutive) 200+ strikeout season, another season of over 200 innings pitched, 16 wins including a fantastic run of effectiveness and success following the trade of Zack Greinke. Milwaukee needed Gallardo to step up and he answered the bell.
Marco Estrada found a strikeout tendency not before seen, slashed his walk rate, started a career-high number of games, pitched a career-high number of innings, struck out a career-high number of hitters, posted career-bests in ERA+, WHIP, K/BB ratio, and was a welcome addition to the rotation once Chris Narveson suffered a season-ending shoulder injury.
Zack Greinke didn’t pitch an entire season for the Brewers. This is true. He made 21 starts for the Brewers in 2012. But you know what? Shaun Marcum made 21 starts, Randy Wolf made 24, Fiers 22. Given the results that he posted while here, and given that the bullpen didn’t exactly inspire me to vote for anybody in it for this award, the nod goes to the 2/3 of a season Greinke posted.
Best Newcomer: Aramis Ramirez, Norichika Aoki, Mike Fiers
Aoki overcame early struggles with both playing time and drastic changes to his personal preparation routine to step in as a starting outfielder and eventual every day lead-off hitter. He was productive and posted multiple double-digit hitting streaks over the course of the season.
As for my third place vote, I chose Mike Fiers (though I’m not sure if he technically qualifies because he pitched for the team briefly in 2011) for both what he was able to accomplish throughout the early portion of his schedule but also for the longevity on the roster this year over other worthy newcomers like Jim Henderson, Martin Maldonado, Travis Ishikawa and even Jean Segura.
Unsung Hero: Martin Maldonado, Jim Henderson, Mike Fiers
Maldonado came up from Triple-A Nashville when Jonathan Lucroy went down with a freak hand injury and was lost for a month and a half. With George Kottaras both physically unable (due to a hamstring injury) and truthfully lacking the skills to be the everyday catcher, Maldy overcame a poor start at the plate in the minors and outperformed even the most optimistic projections at the plate. His receiving, throwing, and handling of the pitching staff didn’t get enough credit though which is why he wins this award for me. Maldonado not only was instrumental in handling Fiers when he first came up but he really seemed to get the most out of everybody he caught.
Jim Henderson is here because despite his average results his arrival helped to stabilize the bullpen. He wasn’t always on top of his game, and he blew a game or two, but adding another live arm to the back end of the ‘pen was a key to righting the ship for the 24-6 run where the bullpen finally performed as it was capable of doing.
Finally, I gave a vote to Fiers in this category as well for the fact that Fiers arrived amid a time of uncertainty and really performed exceptionally well until he simply ran out of gas. And judging by the reaction too many fans gave at Miller Park on the day of Fiers’ last start, it appears that his early efforts were forgotten and therefore he is plenty unsung.
Good Guy: John Axford, Rickie Weeks, Martin Maldonado
Struggling at a couple of points during the year, Axford never ducked the media…well, other than the time he had to excuse himself due to his wife going into premature labor but he still left an epic note. Axford answered his naysayers, dealt with the criticism, fielded the questions, and was always willing to own up to his failures and struggles.
Rickie Weeks, the team’s nominee for the Roberto Clemente Award, was active in the community and a locker room leader. He too struggled mightily, though for a much more sustained time, and never blew off the reporters and writers who sought his comment on the situation. Weeks never once made excuses or even used the viable ones that were readily available.
Third place here goes to Martin Maldonado. This is a completely personal choice because he was nice to me and took time out after a game to briefly chat with me after a game just as he promised to do. He was very kind and I appreciated he and his wife stopping to talk.