What can you say about 2008? It truly was a season for the ages. We had 3 all-stars, two of them starters. We had a guy in the home run derby - who actually competed. We had 3 relievers who got the job done - and then some. We had a starting pitcher who hit a grand slam and had one of his better seasons. We had a veteran utility player who may have just given his career CPR.
We had joy, we had fun, we had seasons in the sun.
Seriously though, we had it all.
We had Jason Marquis, who continued his streak of 10-win seasons. He was 11-9 this year for the Cubs with a 4.53 ERA in 167 innings. At the plate, it was more of the same for Marquis. And by that I mean he was once again superb. In 59 ABs, he hit .203 with 2 HRs, 3 doubles, scored 8 runs, and had 10 RBIs. On occasion, Sweet Lou even used him as a pinch runner. Who says pitchers aren't athletes?
We had Scott Schoeneweis, who turned in his second best season in The Show. In 56 innings of work, this journeyman's ERA was 3.34. He had 15 holds, 1 save, and 2 wins. The fact of the matter is Scott was one of the few bright spots on a God-awful Mets bullpen.
We had John Grabow, who was lights out for the Pirates all year long. In 75 innings of work (a career high), his ERA was 2.88 (a career best). Overall, Grabow was 6-3 with 15 holds and 4 saves. Won't get much recognition because, well, he's on the Pirates, but on this blog I say, "Take a bow, Grabow."
We had Craig Breslow, who was out of his mind for the Twinkies this year, posting a 1.91 ERA in 47 innings of work. Gave up just 1 HR in those 47 innings. At the start of the 2008 season, Breslow was on the Indians' roster. After he was claimed off waivers by the Twins, his ERA was 1.63. Sick, sick, sick. He had 5 holds and 1 save. Has yet to record his first win, but with the stuff this Yale grad has, it's only a matter of time. My only question is why was this stud ever placed on waivers in the first place?!
We had Ian Kinsler, who should now be considered one of the premiere second basemen in the game. Kinsler set career highs in just about every statistical category in '08. In 518 ABs, Kinsler hit .319 (4th in the AL) with a .375 OBP (11th in the AL) and a .517 SLG, had 18 HRs, 41 doubles (11th in the AL), 4 triples, scored 102 runs (8th in the AL), and drove in 71 from the leadoff spot on the Rangers. He was also 26 for 28 in stolen bases (10th in the AL) and had a 25-game hitting streak. Unfortunately, Kinsler missed about a quarter of the season, due to a severe sports hernia that required surgery. Had he stayed healthy, he most certainly would have had his second 20-20 season in as many years. Last year, he had 20 HRs and 23 SBs. And how many runs would Kinsler have scored with Hamilton, Bradley, Young, Davis, and Murphy locked in behind him? As it is, Pedroia led the league with 118 runs scored. You have to figure Kinsler would have wound up with at least 125 runs, the way he was going. Also had a shot at the batting title. Also had a shot at driving in 100 runs - as a leadoff man. Also had a shot at 200+ hits and 50+ doubles. Would he have done all these things? Sadly, we'll never know. Still a phenomenal season for the 26-year old slugger. I have a feeling the best is yet to come.
We had Ryan Braun, who proved there's no such thing as a sophomore slump - at least not for this former Rookie of the Year. In 611 ABs, Braun hit .285 with a .335 OBP and a .553 SLG (5th in NL), had 37 HRs (4th in NL), 39 doubles, 7 triples (6th in NL), scored 92 runs, and drove in 106 (9th in NL). Braun also had 14 SBs and finished second to Pujols in total bases with 338, though he led the league for most of the season. He did, however, finish first in the NL in extra base hits with 83. Braun's average was down from the .324 mark he set last season, but that's mostly because of a September Swoon. Still, when the Brewers needed a big hit, Braun elevated his game and as a result the Brewers made the playoffs for the first time in 26 years. In the home run derby, Braun hit 14 HRs total in the first two rounds, finishing third overall in the derby. And if you didn't see it, none of them were cheapies; he really hit some mammoth shots. Braun also had a change of scenery this season, making the move from third base (where he struggled in '07) to left field. Though Braun is obviously still learning the position, he had 9 assists and didn't commit an error all year. The future looks bright for Braun. Very bright.
We had Gabe Kapler, who was a force this year for the Brewers in limited playing time. In 229 ABs, Kapler hit .301 (highest average since 2000) with a .340 OBP and a .498 SLG (a career best), had 8 HRs (most since 2001), 17 doubles (most since 2001), 2 triples, scored 36 runs, and drove in 38 (most since 2001). His .838 OPS was a career high, edging out the .833 OPS he had in 2000. Kapler was also the team's best pinch hitter, batting .323 with 2 HRs and 8 RBIs. And who can forget that game at Dodger Stadium where Kapler jumped into the stands and robbed Russell Martin of a home run? Catch of the year, IMO. And that walk-off home run off the left field foul pole in the bottom of the 13th against Washington... money. It was Kapler's first career walk-off home run. It was also his 2nd extra-inning walk-off hit this season. Finally, Kapler broke up Chris Young's bid for a perfect game with a home run in the 8th inning against the Padres. Braun and Kapler, all hail the Brew Jew Crew!
We had Kevin Youkilis, who was wicked good for Boston this season. In 538 ABs, Youkilis hit .312 (6th in AL) with a .390 OBP (6th in AL) and a .569 SLG (3rd in AL), had 29 HRs (12th in AL), 43 doubles (7th in AL), 4 triples, scored 91 runs, and drove in 115 (4th in AL). Additonally, Youkilis had 306 total bases (8th in AL). Like Kinsler, Youk set career highs in just about every statistical category. His name has even been floating around as an MVP candidate - and deservedly so. Other candidates include teammate Dustin Pedroia and Justin Morneau of the Twins. Youkilis beat Morneau in average, OBP, SLG, OPS, extra base hits, and home runs. The gold glover played mostly at first, but did a good job filling in for Mike Lowell at third for part of the season. One other thing: he hit .374 with runners in scoring position. Like I said, this guy is wicked good. Who needs Manny?
We had 8 greats in '08, 4 at the plate, and 4 aces.
From an historical perspective: Unless I'm mistaken, the last time 3 Jews made the all-star team was 1939, with Hank Greenberg, Harry Danning, and Morrie Arnovich. Ryan Braun and Albert Pujols are the only 2 players in MLB history to hit 30 or more HRs in each of their first two seasons. How cool is that! Other than Greenberg and Green, Youkilis and Kinsler are the only other Jews to hit 40 or more doubles in a season. Youkilis has done it twice now. Braun nearly did it with his 39 this season. Buddy Myer hit 38 in 1932. Green did it 3 times. Greenberg did it 5 times. And other than Greenberg and Green, Braun is the only other Jew to hit 30 or more HRs and 30 or more doubles in a season. I know, this one was a shocker for me, too. Rosen and Gordon were close, but couldn't quite do it. Youkilis needed only 1 more HR this year to do it. Greenberg and Green each did it 4 times. Of course, Greenberg and Green also hit 40 or more HRs and 40 or more doubles. Green did it once. Greenberg did it twice. Something else Braun nearly did this season. Youk, Kid Kinsler, and Braunsy have a long way to go before they even approach what Green and Greenberg accomplished in their distinguished careers, but you know something? I think we're going to enjoy the journey.