In most recent seasons, my selection process for the St. Louis Cardinals Player of the Year wasn’t a process at all. I would simply recount Albert Pujols’ numerous accomplishments while giving him award. Others would receive an honorable mention, but there was never any doubt as to the top position player on the team.
That changed in 2011. Pujols not only dropped back to the pack, but they also almost caught up with him. Of course, it is all relative. Despite his worst season statistically in his 11 years as a professional, Pujols still led the 2011 Cardinals in Wins Above Replacement (WAR).
Pujols’ 5.4 WAR was not only the lowest in his career, it was the third consecutive season of a lower WAR than the season prior. He was at 9.6 in 2008 and 9.2 the following season before dropping off to 7.1 last year.
On the other hand, newcomer Lance Berkman put together a season that rivaled Pujols in contribution. The WAR of the National League Comeback Player of the Year was just 0.2 behind Albert at 5.2. The next tier down includes Matt Holliday (4.1), whose numbers dropped off in the second half, and Yadier Molina (3.9), who had his best season at the plate to date.
Perhaps it is a bit unfair to say Pujols performed below expectations, but based on his past, that is what happened in 2011. On the other hand, Berkman delighted and surprised almost everyone, so for that reason, he is The Cardinal Nation/Scout.com St. Louis Cardinals Player of the Year for 2011.
Wins Above Replacement, 2011 St. Louis Cardinals
|Over 1 WAR
||Under 1 WAR
|* left-handed hitter
Some of the season highlights from the 35-year-old switch-hitting Berkman:
Among the NL leaders in home runs (31-T9th), RBI (94-T11th), walks (92-4th), slugging (.547-5th) and on-base percentage (.412-3rd).
His 31 home runs was second-most as a switch-hitter in Cardinals history behind Rip Collins (35).
Led the National League with 22 road home runs.
Logged his sixth career season with 30+ home runs and his eighth season with 90
or more RBI, but first since 2008.
Homered from both sides of plate twice this season (4/28 at HOU, 6/30 at BAL). Had four multi-HR games in 2011 and has 29 career multi-HR games.
Now fourth all-time among MLB switch-hitters in home runs (357).
Smacked 23 doubles, his 12th straight season with 20+ doubles.
Was a two-time National League Player-of-the-Week in April.
Was elected by fans to his sixth All-Star Game and made his third career start.
Played in 145 games, his most since 159 in 2008. Started 107 games in right field, 16 in left and made 16 starts at first base, including ten when Pujols was on the disabled list.
Was voted the 2011 National League Comeback Player of the Year.
Note: Link to article with links to all articles about previous award winners across the system club by club, schedule for upcoming announcements as well as 2011 team recaps, much of it exclusively for The Cardinal Nation subscribers. Not yet a subscriber? Join now!
Brian Walton can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also catch his Cardinals commentary daily at The Cardinal Nation blog. Look for his weekly minor league column on Thursdays at FOXSportsMidwest.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.
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