NL MVP – Albert Pujols: A no-brainer. Of the four main awards given out, this one is the clearest call. His BA (.357) and OBP (.462) trailed only Chipper Jones, but Pujols had nearly 100 more at-bats and his .653 slugging percentage led the league by a wide margin. He also led the NL in adjusted OPS+, runs created and sported a ridiculous 54:104 K:BB ratio. He’s also the game’s best fielding first baseman and major league baseball’s best base runner. Ryan Howard’s 48 homers and 146 RBI can’t be completely ignored; his .320/.439/.589 line with RISP may have been somewhat of a fluke and unsustainable, but it also means he was more valuable this year than his .881 OPS indicates. Still, even Lance Berkman was a better hitter in 2008, so he’s my choice for runner-up. Pujols clearly deserves the hardware.
AL MVP – Kevin Youkilis: Carlos Quentin or Milton Bradley would have taken this award, but both simply missed too many games this season. Like in 2006, there really isn’t anyone who jumps out here. Dustin Pedroia has been a nice player and all, but the guy’s OPS ranks 22nd just in the AL, and that number drops to .827 when he doesn’t have Fenway park helping him out. If you want to rate defensive importance highly, then Joe Mauer is the better pick. Or even Grady Sizemore.
NL Cy Young – Tim Lincecum: Johan Santana, Dan Haren and Cole Hamels are all excellent candidates, but the nod goes to The Freak. Lincecum walked the seventh most batters in the NL this season while also throwing the most wild pitches, but that’s far less hurtful when he combats it with an MLB-leading 265 strikeouts. In fact, his 10.51 K/9 IP mark was a full one punchout better than the second best mark. He also did an excellent job of limiting home runs, and although AT&T Park worked in his favor, he was pitching in front of a terrible defensive team. His FIP is 2.67; no other starter in the NL has one lower than 3.00. CC Sabathia has been the better pitcher since joining the NL, but this is a league given award, so there’s no way he was as valuable while throwing 100 fewer innings. As for Brandon Webb, it would be an absolute joke if he won, as he wasn’t even the best pitcher on his own team. In fact, Ricky Nolasco was a superior pitcher this year.
AL Cy Young – Roy Halladay: Narrowly, and I mean narrowly edging out Cliff Lee, who had a fantastic season as well. Halladay’s 1.053 WHIP and 5.28:1 K:BB ratio led all of baseball in 2008, and although Lee had a slightly better ERA (2.54 to 2.78), Halladay pitched 22.2 more innings, which is fairly substantial. Halladay did have the benefit of a good defense behind him, but pitching in the AL East is a much tougher task than the AL Central. In fact, he faced the Red Sox, the Yankees and the Rays a combined 16 times. Lee faced the Giants and Padres (once each) as often as he did the Yankees and Red Sox this season. As for Francisco Rodriguez, all hope for the future of society is lost if he finishes in the top-10.
NL ROY – Geovany Soto: Jair Jurrjens and Hiroki Kuroda had solid seasons on the mound, but this one came down to Soto and Joey Votto. In the end, Soto gets the nod because he put up similar numbers while playing catcher.
AL ROY – Evan Longoria: Alexei Ramirez was a worthy candidate, but Longoria takes home the trophy thanks to 60 extra-base hits in 448 at-bats. Honorable mention goes to Joey Devine, whose 0.59 ERA is the lowest in the history of major league baseball (minimum 40 innings). Good thing the Braves got three months of Mark Kotsay for him.