It’s been a long, somewhat tumultuous season for the Milwaukee Brewers and their rookie manager Ron Roenicke.
After starting 2011 on a 0-4 note, the Brewers managed to rally around the timely hitting of both Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder toward the top of the NL Central standings. Finishing with a wholesome five game lead over the St. Louis Cardinals at season’s end, the Brewers captured their first division title in franchise history since making the switch from the AL East back in 1995.
This season has also brought about many award-winning performances.
From the stellar pitching of the starting rotation to the MVP-caliber production from Milwaukee’s dynamic-duo, 2011 has been, from a performance standpoint, outstanding.
We’re here today to hand out many traditional awards, along with a few unconventional honors, to some of the most valuable players in the 2011 roster.
Best Player Acquired Via Free Agency or Trade: Shaun Marcum
GM Doug Melvin clearly saw something special when he sought to trade for Marcum in the offseason.
The former Toronto Blue Jay has anchored Milwaukee’s refurbished 2011 rotation to the tune of a 12-6 combined record, 3.25 ERA (first among Brewers starters) and 145 SO in just 183.0 innings of work.
Marcum has been a model of consistency for the first-place Brewers, and will be key in Milwaukee’s quest back to the World Series.
Fan Favorite: Nyjer Morgan
This one isn’t even close.
Throughout the course of this 2011 regular season, Milwaukee’s outspoken center fielder has made a tremendous impact on the field, accounting for 4 HR, 34 RBI with a .310 BA to boot.
However, it may be Morgan’s post-game antics that will most be remembered.
Long live Tony Plush.
Most Disappointing Player: Casey McGehee
It’s been an comprehensive struggle for McGehee this season.
Last season, the Brewers’ third baseman batted .285 with 23 HR and led the team in RBI (104). In 2011, he just hasn’t been able to get things going.
A .234 BA, 12 HR and just 66 RBI are enough to classify McGehee as an utter disappointment. On the bright side of things, McGehee will have his shot at redemption in the postseason.
Most Valuable Reliever: John Axford
John Axford had his share of skeptics before the season (myself included) but with all things considered, he’s been an absolute gem for the Brewers.
Milwaukee’s “go-to” man in the ninth inning has accounted to 40 saves in 42 opportunities in his first full season as a big-league closer, and has amassed 78 SO in just 66.2 innings of work.
It remains to be seen how well he will pitch in the postseason, but, for now, he’s clearly Milwaukee’s most valuable reliever of 2011.
Cy Young: Yovani Gallardo
No surprises here.
Milwaukee’s team leader in wins (16), strikeouts (183), innings pitched (194.0) and quality starts (20) Gallardo is in the midst of another outstanding season with the postseason just ahead.
Ron Roenicke’s 25-year-old ace set a career-high in wins in 2011, and will presumably be the Brewers’ No.1 starter in a deep rotation in the playoffs.
Co-MVP: Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder
This probably seems a bit cliché, but it’s simply too difficult to choose between the two.
Over the past few seasons, Braun and Fielder have staked their claim as one of baseball’s most lethal offensive one-two punches, but 2011 has clearly put the two in a whole new category of greatness.
Both are making impressive cases to become this year’s NL MVP, but when it comes down to what each have been able to accomplish for Milwaukee this season, it’s near impossible to name a clear-cut MVP.
Follow Alec Dopp on Twitter: @alecdopp.