The vote for Cy Young was brought to a premature end, by the breaking news concerning the trade for Danny Haren, but this really wasn't much of a contest at all. Brandon Webb was, at the time the poll closed, the runaway winner with 80% of the votes - nine times that of the next highest player. Can't say this comes as any surprise, and congratulations are due to him. However, it'll be interesting to see if he can repeat last year's success and win the Pittie for MVP as well: last season, we didn't even bother with a Pittie Cy Young, it was such a foregone conclusion. However, Webb ended up taking MVP with 64% off the vote, beating out Hudson and Byrnes.
Those top three are on the short-list again, along with two other nominees in this category who made their way through from other awards; Chris Young [Rookie of the Year] and Chris Snyder [Unsung Hero of the Year]. I did think about including Jose Valverde on the list as well, but since he received less than ten percent of the vote in the Cy Young poll, it seemed rather unlikely, shall we say, that he would do significantly better when not only facing Webb, but also the best of the position players. So, here are the five nominations for the Arizona Diamondbacks' 2007 Most Valuable Player, in alphabetical order.
Eric Byrnes Luis who? Stepping up to replace the face of the franchise in left, Byrnes quickly became a fan favorite for his hustle and 'take no prisoners' style of play. He was the engine-room of the team, missing only two games all year - and likely would have missed none if he'd had his way. Eric led the team in hits, runs, doubles, RBI and stolen-bases, and was particularly effective early on, batting .315 with an .877 OPS through the end of June, and was still at .300 as late as August 22. Overall, he batted .296 with runners in scoring position, plus .358 with two out and RISP - that helped him provide the club with sixteen go-ahead hits. Byrnes became the de facto spokesman for the team, which perhaps helped divert some of the pressure from his young colleagues. Byrnes stole 50 bases, and was caught only once in 36 attempts after July 4; this helped to offset his second-half drop in performance, though the OPS drop there was his smallest since 2004. His contributions were acknowledged with a three-year deal which will keep him in Arizona through 2010.
Orlando Hudson The O-Dawg's season was brought to an untimely end by injury, but he still played in 139 games, and provided career-highs in BA, OBP and OPS, while reaching double-figures in stolen-bases for the first time ever. Oh, did I mention his first appearance in an All-Star game and another Gold Glove, his third in consecutive years? He tore out of the gate, hitting .352 in April, and led the club overall in 2007, batting .294. His team-best 70 walks meant he also led all D-backs with an OBP of .376 - a figure beaten only by Chase Utley among NL 2B. With the glove, he continued to vacuum up balls at second-base, the .985 fielding percentage Orlando posted there, his best since becoming a full-time player. Hudson was forced from the lineup, after snapping a ligament in his thumb stealing third-base on September 4. But even though Hudson was unable to play any part on the field in the playoffs, he was almost always to be found on the top step of the dugout, right beside Bob Melvin.
Chris Snyder It was generally expected that this would be the year Miguel Montero took over the reins: Snyder thought otherwise, and earned more starts in August and September than any other month. He had a particularly productive second-half, batting .292 with an .889 OPS, good enough for second in the majors among catchers after the break, better than McCann, Martinez and Martin. But his defense was rock-solid too, with only one error in 106 games, and he threw out 35.8% of base-stealers - a better percentage than Gold Glove winner Russell Martin, and third-best in the league (50 or more games). He also called and caught almost all of Webb and Davis's starts, including the vast majority of the former's 42-innings scoreless streak. He has a lock in the position for Opening Day 2008, and since he's under Arizona control through 2010, promises to be a valuable commodity.
Brandon Webb Anchoring the pitching staff was Brandon Webb, who delivered another tremendous season, to follow up his 2006 Cy Young campaign. Even after that fabulous year, Webb dropped his ERA by nine points, struck out more hitters, won more games, and opponents' OPS facing him was down by twenty points. Of particular note, right-handed batters were sub-Ueckerian against Webb, batting only .199, with just four home-runs off him in 461 plate-appearances. The year will, of course, be remembered for the 42 scoreless innings streak in July and August, including back-to-back-to-back complete game shutouts, the first pitcher since 1998 to perform such a feat. He set the tone for the NL Division Series, allowing one run over seven innings against the Cubs, and finished second in the Cy Young, as well as getting his first National League MVP votes.
Chris Young In a season where some of our young players didn't deliver quite what was promised, Young provided a welcome blast of optimism. And quite a few other blasts too, swatting 32 homers to lead the team by a full eleven in his first full season at the major-league level. He spent most of the season batting leadoff, though his on-base percentage, which struggled (and failed) to reach .300, probably isn't what he'd have wanted, and will likely need to be improved next season. However, for raw speed, he likely had now equal in the regular lineup. Young stole 27 bases, being caught just six times, and also used his wheels to great effect in the outfield, covering the capacious center field at Chase to make any number of great catches. The highlight there was taking away a grand-slam from the Padres' Cameron, one of our Play of the Year nominees.