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2009 In Review: Outfield

We wrap up the year 2009 today, and not coincidentally we finish up our recap of all batters from the 2009 baseball season today as well. We’ve already finished up our look back at each infield position, and now turn our attention to the outfield. Because we’re looking at three times as many players in the outfield, we’ll just have to triple our awards! As usual though, don’t forget to check out what got us here:

Catcher
First Base
Second Base
Third Base
Shortstop
Pitchers

And since I haven’t mentioned it in a few days, all players are ranked according to PSR. For an explanation of what PSR really is, check out our PSR Rankings Explained page.

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MVPs of 2009

Ryan Braun (MIL) – Coming into 2009 there was debate surrounding whether or not to take Braun or his Cleveland counterpart, Grady Sizemore, as the first OF. I think it’s pretty clear now who the choice is. While Sizemore battled injuries in ’09, you can’t help but notice how his AVG has trended downward for the fourth straight season before settling at .248 last season. Braun, on the other hand, had his first 30/20 season, batted .320, and finished first among all OF (and fourth among all players) in R with 113. He’s up there with Hanley and Pujols as the most well-rounded players in the game.

Carl Crawford (TB) – As you may recall, 2008 was a colossal disappointment for Crawford as he posted a line of 69/.273/8/57/25 in 109 largely injury-aggravated games. For some reason though, his 2009 season took me by surprise. It shouldn’t have as he posted numbers in line with his career norms, although he topped his previous career high for SB by swiping 60 bags this season. When it was all said and done, he had his usual pesky season that bothers every fantasy owner because he outscored your entire team in SB and added what seems like 20 R. God, I hate Crawford.

Jacoby Ellsbury (BOS) – Believe it or not, he really does deserve a 2009 MVP award. He led all of baseball in SB by 10. Before you shrug that off and say, “Oh come on, what about Matt Kemp, Jason Bay, and Matt Holliday!” consider this: all of those guys were extremely valuable, and if you had them you were probably pretty psyched about it, but 70 SB?! He also posted a .301 AVG in the second-most AB by any outfielder, and when a guy hits for that good of an AVG in that many AB, it carries more weight than someone who hits, say, .313 in 581 AB (cough, Matt Holliday). Also, like we saw with Figgins, he did enough in the power categories to warrant starting him everyday… and laughing while your opponents had no answer for him.

Honorable Mentions: Matt Kemp (LAD), Jason Bay (BOS, now NYM), Jayson Werth (PHI)

Comeback Players of 2009

Curtis Granderson (DET) – Yeah, he probably doesn’t deserve a “comeback” award when his R total fell and his AVG was an abysmal .249, but he returned to 20/20 status, and even became a 30/20 guy. Back in 2008, that potential is why he was drafted so highly, so in a way he does deserve this award.

Michael Cuddyer (MIN) – Cuddyer is really a combination of comeback and breakout. His 2009 season had  acouple career bests (mainly his 32 HR), but he also had a pretty good 2006 season when he finished 102/.284/24/109/6. As you’ll recall, his ’07 and ’08 seasons weren’t quite as good when he combined for 107 R, 19 HR, and 107 RBI in 902 AB. Michael, glad to have you back.

Matt Holliday (OAK/STL) – This is kind of a two-part award. First, he rebounded from his 88 RBI in 2008 to post 109 in 2009, which is the kind of production we expect out of an elite OF. Second, he came back from a terrible start in Oakland to post a 42/.353/13/55/2 line in only 235 AB. Because I know you’re wondering (and I already did the math) over 550 AB that averages out to 98/.353/30/129/5, which is just below his career years in ’06 and ’07. Basically, if he stays in St. Louis, Matt Holliday is back.

Honorable Mentions: Nick Swisher (NYY), Marlon Byrd (TEX)… it’s a comeback/breakout combo, Juan Rivera (LAA)

Breakout Players of 2009

Adam Lind (TOR) – Lind more than tripled his HR numbers in just over twice as many AB, all while hitting a career-best .305. Plus, his OPS was .932. For comparison, Ryan Braun posted a .937 OPS in 2009. Things couldn’t have gone better for Lind last year, and given where he was drafted on average (and in many league’s he probably wasn’t drafted), he truly was one of the nicest surprises we’ve seen in a while.

Jason Kubel (MIN) -In only 51 more AB than 2008, Kubel hit 8 more HR (28) and drove in 25 more runs (103) while hitting .300 for the first time in his career. Along with teammate, Michael Cuddyer, these Twin Terrors showed baseball they don’t need Torii Hunter as Minnesota stormed back to claim the AL Central title. The next step? Don’t fade away like so many past breakouts have.

Justin Upton (ARI) – The failures of his brother, B.J., were always in the back of my mind when evaluating Justin, but entering 2009 at only 21 years of age, he still had some time before the breakout season really had to come. He started his career towards stardom though, becoming an All-Star in 2009 and ballooning both his HR and SB totals to become a true 30/30 threat.

Honorable Mentions: Shin-Soo Choo (CLE), Michael Bourn (HOU), Garrett Jones (PIT)

Most Disappointing Players of 2009

Manny Ramirez (LAD) -I can’t believe you, Manny. A 50-game suspension for substance abuse? That alone merits a Most Disappointing Player of 2009 award, but you couldn’t even hit once you got back. Just a very forgettable season. What other players had PSRs similar to yours? How about these guys: Melky Cabrera, Luke Scott, Dexter Fowler, Garrett Jones, Juan Pierre, and Seth Smith. Geez.

B.J. Upton (TB) – This is more of a career achievement (or lack thereof) award. What’s happened to this guy? He was supposed to be the next great thing, but instead can’t seem to right the ship. His AVG has fallen for three straight seasons from .300 to .241 in 2009, and while he still has the speed and athleticism to steal 40+ bases, you can’t help but wonder where that 24 HR power from ’07 went. He’s already been eclipsed by his 22-year old bother, Justin, and the end to this downward spiral seems nowhere in sight.

Grady Sizemore (CLE) -Injuries bothered Sizemore for almost all of 2009, so consider this a warning. If he doesn’t get back to that .275-level, though, there will be a point where we can no longer refer to his seasons as “disappointing” and begin calling them “normal.”

Dishonorable Mentions: Ryan Ludwick (STL), Alexis Rios (TOR/CHW), Corey Hart (MIL)

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About the author: Bryan is the co-founder of Baseball Professor and works as a consultant specializing in operational metrics and efficiency analysis. When he’s not working, blogging, or tending to basic human needs, he enjoys pondering the vastness of the universe, rewatching episodes of Breaking Bad, and avoiding snakes. (@BaseballProf)

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