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November 4, 2008

The 2008 Internet Baseball Awards

AL Results and Wrap-Up

by Greg Spira

Click here for the full results of the voting.

It's time to announce the winners of the 17th annual Internet Baseball Awards. More than 1,400 baseball fans from cyberspace participated in this effort to honor those players and managers whose performance in 2008 were most deserving.

The point system for the balloting was as follows:

  • Player of the Year ballots: 14 points for first-place votes, nine points for second-place votes, eight points for third-place votes, etc., down to one point for a tenth-place vote.
  • Pitcher of the Year ballots: Ten points for first-place votes, seven points for second-place votes, five points for third-place votes, three points for fourth-place, and one point for fifth-place votes. This is the one award where our point system always differs from the BBWAA point system, because we use a longer ballot.
  • Rookie of the Year ballots: Ten points for first-place votes, seven points for second-place votes, five points for third-place votes, three points for fourth-place, and one point for fifth-place votes. As with the Pitcher of the Year, we use a longer ballot than the BBWAA.
  • Manager of the Year ballots: five points for first-place votes, three points for second-place votes, and one point for third-place votes.

2008 IBA AL Player of the Year: Dustin Pedroia

Rnk Player                1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9  10 Ballots Points
 1. Dustin Pedroia      408 319 247 154 136  58  35  18  11   4  1390   12963
 2. Joe Mauer           423 240 163 138 102  43  34  25  10   6  1184   11416
 3. Grady Sizemore      160 187 176 154 112  76  57   38 28  12  1000    7871
 4. Alex Rodriguez      122 130 157 151 153 115  82   57 34  33  1034    7284
 5. Cliff Lee           131 123 138 132 113  69  66   50 29  13   864    6477
 6. Kevin Youkilis       93 122 124 134 140 111  86   58 58  32   958    6391
 7. Carlos Quentin       91 106 140 115 134 103  63   76 66  40   934    6124
 8. Josh Hamilton        54  69  79 123 137 137 143  116 86  58  1002    5527
 9. Justin Morneau       40 105 108 122 105  67  78   72 38  32   767    4824
10. Roy Halladay         16  75  62  91 120  68  61   71 46  20   630    3661
11. Evan Longoria        30  41  50  66  64  60  39   33 32  29   444    2683
12. Milton Bradley       11  12  26  26  38  45  51   50 58  55   372    1630
13. Ian Kinsler           3  10  19  29  35  43  46   46 44  47   322    1369
14. Francisco Rodriguez   7  14  20  25  22  23  19   11 23  25   189     986
15. Miguel Cabrera        3  10   9  18  23  18  19   22 32  27   181     791

After going hitless against Oakland on May 1, 2007, rookie Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia's batting average fell to .172. It looked to many fans and reporters that the young infielder wasn't ready for the major leagues. Despite Pedroia's success in the minor leagues, some observers thought that the diminutive player might never amount to much of a major league hitter. Pedroia's team, though, had confidence in Pedroia, and the rest of the second baseman's 2007 was a smashing success as the Sox won their second World Series in four years and Pedroia won Rookie of the Year honors from both the BBWAA and Internet voters. Still, on a team featuring big bats like those of David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez, no one expected Pedroia to do more than provide another productive bat in the lineup in 2008. However, with David Ortiz injured for much of the season and Manny Ramirez often elsewhere (first mentally, and later on physically), Pedroia ended up playing a far more important role for the Red Sox. Pedroia ended up slugging .493 in 157 games and provided above-average defense all year long. In the end, Pedroia was the biggest factor in a very different Red Sox team making it into the postseason once again. As a result of Pedroia's efforts, on-line voters selected him as their 2008 AL Player of the Year.

Pedroia's selection was no sure thing. He remained in second place during the first few days of balloting and in the end, only received the second highest number of first-place votes. But Pedroia showed up on 17 percent more ballots than any other AL player and received more second-place votes and third-place votes than anyone else, so while the vote was competitive, Pedroia was the clear winner in the end.

Pedroia is the second player in IBA voting history to win a Player of the Year the year after winning Rookie of the Year. The first player to do it was also a Red Sox middle infielder, though Nomar Garciaparra played shortstop, not second base, when he accomplished this feat in 1997 and 1998. Three other players have been voted both Internet Rookie of the Year and Internet Player of the Year, though none did it in consecutive years-Derek Jeter, Mike Piazza, and Albert Pujols.

Twins catcher Joe Mauer finished second in the Internet AL Player of the Year voting for the second time in his career; in 2006, Mauer finished second behind Yankee shortstop Derek Jeter. Those two second-place finishes are by far the best any catcher has done in Internet Player of the Year voting since Mike Piazza was a two-time Internet NL Player of the Year in the mid-1996 and 1997. Mauer earned more than 26 percent of all first-place votes in the balloting, more than any other player, but was left totally off the ballot by 27 percent of the voters.

Grady Sizemore, the center fielder of the Cleveland Indians, finished third after a season in which he was one of the few players in the Indians lineup who did not disappoint. Sizemore's previous three seasons, none of which was particularly different than his 2008 (Sizemore did have career highs in home runs and stolen bases in 2008, but his overall production level remained at the same level as it had been in previous years), had landed him 11th (2007), 9th (2006), and 21st (205) in the voting.

Alex Rodriguez, the oldest player (by far) to place among the top ten vote-getters, finished fourth. The Yankees may have had a down year, but the Yankees third baseman continued playing at the historically high level that has earned him four Internet Player of the Years and 10 finishes in the top 11 in Internet Player of the Year voting over the past 11 years. Cliff Lee's career had hit the skids after a career year in 2005 had earned him 24th place in that year's Internet AL Player of the Year voting. In 2008, however, he came back from nowhere with a spectacular season that earned him fifth place in the balloting, the highest rank, by far, of any pitcher in 2008's Internet Player of the Year voting

Kevin Youklis had never finished higher than 30th before in Internet Player of the Year voting, but a career year during which he and Dustin Pedroia were the stars of the Red Sox offense earned him sixth place. Carlos Quentin, another newcomer to the top of the Player of the Year charts, finished seventh. Quentin, a former top prospect who the White Sox acquired from the Diamondbacks in the offseason, looked like a contender for the top spot in the Player of the Year voting before an injury kept him out of action for virtually the entire last month of the regular season. Josh Hamilton, another newcomer to both the American League and Player of the Year candidacy, finished eighth after a season during which virtually every baseball writer in America wrote a story about the comeback he made after losing years of his career to drug addiction. Hamilton was also the highest-placing finisher in the voting to come from a team that finished below .500, but he was one of three Rangers to finish in among the top 13 vote-getters, as Milton Bradley finished 12th and Ian Kinsler 13th.

Ninth- and 10th-place finishers Justin Morneau and Roy Halladay both had one previous finish among the top 10 in Internet Player of the Year balloting. Evan Longoria, who finished 11th, was the highest-ranking rookie and had the second-highest finish of any (Devil) Ray in IBA voting history (Carlos Pena finished seventh in 2007).

No team placed more than two players in the top ten. The Red Sox placed six players in the top 30; no other team had more than three. Nine of the top 25 players in the voting came from playoff teams, while eight came from teams that lost more games.

2008 IBA AL Pitcher of the Year: Cliff Lee

Rnk Pitcher                    1      2      3      4      5   Ballots Points
 1. Cliff Lee                1164    281     24      7      2    1478   13750
 2. Roy Halladay              292    977     92     19      7    1387   10283
 3. Jon Lester                 16     52    547    141     71     827    3753
 4. Francisco Rodriguez        13     57    139    129     87     425    1698
 5. Daisuke Matsuzaka           7     39    133    129    102     410    1497
 6. Mariano Rivera              3     24    123    117     58     325    1222
 7. Ervin Santana               1      5    109    124     84     323    1046
 8. Mike Mussina                4     20     86    100    113     323    1023
 9. John Danks                  2      4     41    126     85     258     716
10. Joe Nathan                  0     10     23     28     28      89     297
11. John Lackey                 2      6     23     23     23      77     269
12. A.J. Burnett                3      1     26     18     28      76     249
13. Joakim Soria                2      2     15     28     43      90     236
14. James Shields               1      6     16     20     27      70     219
15. Scott Kazmir                2      6     13     14     16      51     185

In 2007, Cliff Lee fell about as far as a major league pitcher can fall. Lee's last major league start of 2007 occurred on July 26, at which point the Indians gave up on the idea that Lee, who had a 6.38 ERA at that point, could be of help, and sent him to the minors. Lee would return to the big leagues when rosters expanded in September, but was Indians barely used him. One year later, however, Lee completed a masterful season in which he pitched 223 1/3 innings while posting a league-leading 2.54 ERA, a season which has result in IBA voters choosing him as their AL Pitcher of the Year. Lee had just over 75 percent of the first-place votes and was named on 97 percent of the ballots. The pitcher's only previous appearance among the vote-getters came in 2005, when he finished eighth in the AL Pitcher of the Year voting.

On the other hand, Roy Halladay, who finished second in the voting, has been a mainstay at the top of the AL Pitcher of the Year Young charts. Halladay has been among the top six vote-getters in five of the last seven years, a run which has included winning the award in 2003 and a previous second-place finish in 2005. On the other hand, the third-place finisher, Jon Lester, had never been named on a single ballot before his remarkable season coming back from cancer. Francisco Rodriguez, the highest-ranking reliever, finished fourth after a season in which he set a new record for saves in a single season. Mike Mussina finished eighth, marking his first return to the list of top vote-getters since 2001, when he made his tenth straight appearance in the top eleven.

2008 IBA AL Rookie of the Year: Evan Longoria

Rnk Player                     1      2      3    Ballots Points
 1. Evan Longoria            1264    118     11    1393    6685
 2. Alexei Ramirez             51    359    210     620    1542
 3. Mike Aviles                50    334    191     575    1443
 4. Joba Chamberlain           20    182    184     386     830
 5. Jacoby Ellsbury            26    159    115     300     722
 6. Brad Ziegler                4     79    150     233     407
 7. Armando Galarraga           5     64     98     167     315
 8. Denard Span                 5     44     92     141     249
 9. Nick Blackburn              1     16     39      56      92
10. Chris Davis                 5     13     27      45      91

Despite starting off the regular season in the minors and missing more than a month late in the year as a result of a wrist injury, Tampa Bay third baseman Evan Longoria was voted the 2008 IBA AL Rookie of the Year vote in a landslide. Longoria finished the season with a .531 slugging average and a .343 on-base percentage, which helped him win 88 percent of all first-place votes, the highest total of any of this year's award winners, as he was named on 97 percent of the ballots. Longoria received more support for the award than any IBA Rookie of the Year Award-winner since Albert Pujols in 2001. Longoria's award also marks the first time a Tampa Bay player has won an Internet Baseball Award.

Alexei Ramirez, a former Cuban baseball star who left that country for the Dominican Republic in 2007, finished in second place after playing a solid second base and slugging .475 for the division-winning White Sox this past season. Ramirez received the greatest amount of attention this past season for setting the major league record for the hitting five five grand slam home runs in 2008, a major league record for a rookie in a single season.

Royals shortstop Mike Aviles finished a very strong third just behind Ramirez. Aviles wasn't called up to the majors by the Kansas City until May 29 but turned out to be one of the few bright spots in a disappointing campaign for the Royals. Despite having achieved considerable success in the minor leagues, Aviles has never been considered a significant prospect by scouts, and there are still doubts about his glove and his plate discipline, but it's safe to say that after a season in which he hit for a .321 batting average and a .469 slugging percentage he's forced the Royals and their opposition to pay more attention to him.

Two prospects with far greater hype finished fourth and fifth. Joba Chamberlain's fourth-place finish made him the highest-placing pitcher, and he actually had an excellent season, posting a 2.60 ERA in over 100 innings, but far more attention was paid to Chamberlain's health and usage in 2008 than his actual performance. On the other hand, the fifth-place finisher, Red Sox center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury, didn't live up to the pre-season hype. Ellsbury provided the Red Sox with speed in the outfield and on the bases but posted only a .331 on-base percentage in 145 games.

2008 IBA AL Manager of the Year: Joe Maddon

Rnk Manager                    1      2      3   Ballots Points
 1. Joe Maddon               1202    103     16    1321    6335
 2. Ron Gardenhire             52    417    160     629    1671
 3. Terry Francona             47    267    211     525    1247
 4. Ozzie Guillen              33    251    221     505    1139
 5. Mike Scioscia              30    244    253     527    1135

After leading the formerly woe-begotten Tampa Bay (formerly Devil) Rays, a team that had last at least 90 games in every year of their ten-year existence, to a first-place 97-win season, Joe Maddon was named the IBA AL Manager of the Year in a rout. Maddon had finished in eighth and then seventh in the voting during his first two years in the job, and won 86 percent of the first-place votes en route to his electoral romp.

Ron Gardenhire kept a Twins team that had lost its ace pitcher and star center fielder to richer teams during the offseason in the race for the AL Central title until the final weekend of the season, and he finished a distant second. Gardenhire has finished among the top three vote-getters in five of the seven years he has managed the Twins; he finished second in 2003 and 2006, and finished third in 2002 and 2004.

Red Sox manager Terry Francona finished third for the second consecutive year; he has never placed any higher than that in the voting. Ozzie Guillen finished fourth, his best finish since he won the 2004 balloting. Mike Scioscia finished fifth, marking the eighth time in nine years he's finished in the top six. Last year's winner, Indians manager Eric Wedge, finished tenth.

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