Greinke, Wainwright named top pitchers
Missouri-based hurlers dominated opposing batters in 2009
Zack Greinke, who started the 2009 season with a string of scoreless innings and kept mowing down hitters all summer, and Adam Wainwright, who took command of the strike zone and the Cardinals' surge to first place in the NL Central, were selected by their peers for 2009 Players Choice Awards as the top pitchers in their leagues.
The Outstanding Pitcher awards were announced on Wednesday in a segment of ESPN Radio's Mike & Mike in the Morning, show that was sponsored by Upper Deck.
On Monday, Gordon Beckham of the White Sox and J.A. Happ of the Phillies were named the outstanding rookies in their leagues. On Tuesday, Chris Carpenter of the Cardinals and Aaron Hill of the Blue Jays were named the outstanding comeback players in their league. The awards for the outstanding player in each league will be announced on Thursday.
The Players Choice Awards announcements culminate Friday with the Marvin Miller Man of the Year, which goes to the player whose on- and off-the-field performance most inspires others to higher levels of achievement, and the overall Player of the Year.
The 6-foot-7 Wainwright went 19-8 with a 2.63 ERA in 34 starts -- including 25 quality starts -- in his fourth big league season, leading the NL in wins, innings pitched (233) and starts (34).
The 29-year-old right-hander, whose specialty is a breaking pitch that he commands on either side of the plate, anchored the rotation while Carpenter was recovering from an early-season oblique tear and then went 9-3 with a 2.10 ERA in the second half, when the Cardinals pulled away to the NL Central championship.
Wainwright told Mike and Mike in the Morning hosts Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic that fellow finalist Carpenter "sets the bar, and he makes you just want to keep up right there with him. The great thing about Chris is he's so talented. He's really a good teacher, too.
"I felt like I was locked in every time from about a quarter of the season on," he said. "At the beginning of the season, I really battled, man. I was struggling mechanically. I was all over the map and having to get out of a bunch of jams."
Wainwright's season came together after Carpenter sat him down for a marathon video session, and they worked on his mechanics, specifically his arm slot, and pitching coach Dave Duncan helped refine his approach in the middle innings.
Grienke, who turned 26 last week, gained national attention right away this spring when he extended a 14-inning scoreless streak from 2007 another 24 innings into this season. The streak presaged an incredible season.
Despite pitching for a club that tied for last in the AL Central with a 65-97 record, the lean right-hander went 16-8 over 33 starts, appeared in his first All-Star Game and led the majors with a 2.16 ERA. His 1.07 WHIP and rate of just .43 home runs per nine innings led the AL.
Greinke's six complete games and three shutouts were both second in the Majors behind Roy Halladay's nine complete games and four shutouts.
"I wanted to thank my fellow players for recognizing my year by voting me the 2009 AL Outstanding Pitcher," Greinke said in a prepared statement. "It is quite an honor, especially considering the likes of such worthy pitchers as Roy Halladay and CC Sabathia -- they and a number of others had fantastic years, too.
"I am proud of my year and want to recognize my teammates and staff in Kansas City for being as much a part of the success as anyone."
Each 2009 Players Choice Award winner recommends the charity of his choice to receive a grant from the Major League Baseball Players Trust. Since 1992, the Players Trust has contributed more than $3.5 million to charities around the world in honor of Players Choice Award winners.
"It is a thrill to be able to reward the Boys and Girls Club of Kansas City with this donation, generously funded by the Major League Baseball Players Trust," Greinke said. "I know the Players Trust has been a great resource for many charities in the past, and I am grateful I can help the youth of Kansas City on a number of levels."
Wainwright will split his Players Trust grant between the Fellowship of Christian Athletes in Southeast Georgia and Catch-A-Dream, a foundation which provides hunting and fishing experiences for kids who face life-threatening illnesses.
The Players Choice Awards are selected by the players themselves in balloting conducted in September under the supervision of the accounting firm KPMG. The 2009 Players Choice Awards are being presented by Upper Deck.
The 2009 Players Choice Awards finalists are [winners in bold]:
Outstanding Rookie: Elvis Andrus (Texas), Gordon Beckham (Chicago White Sox), Jeff Niemann (Tampa Bay)
Comeback Player: Russell Branyan (Seattle), Aaron Hill (Toronto) , Scott Podsednik (Chicago White Sox)
Outstanding Pitcher: Roy Halladay (Toronto), Zack Greinke (Kansas City), C.C. Sabathia (NY Yankees)
Outstanding Player: Derek Jeter (NY Yankees), Joe Mauer (Minnesota), Kendry Morales (LA Angels of Anaheim)
Outstanding Rookie: Chris Coghlan (Florida), Tommy Hanson (Atlanta), J.A. Happ (Philadelphia)
Comeback Player: Aaron Boone (Houston), Chris Carpenter (St. Louis) , Nick Johnson (Florida)
Outstanding Pitcher: Chris Carpenter (St. Louis), Tim Lincecum (San Francisco), Adam Wainwright (St. Louis)
Outstanding Player: Prince Fielder (Milwaukee), Albert Pujols (St. Louis), Hanley Ramirez (Florida)
Marvin Miller Man of the Year: Curtis Granderson (Detroit), Torii Hunter (LA Angeles of Anaheim), Albert Pujols (St. Louis)
Player of Year: Joe Mauer (Minnesota), Albert Pujols (St. Louis), Hanley Ramirez (Florida)
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.