Brantley nominated for Hank Aaron Award

Brantley3Michael Brantley just finished putting the final touches on one of the greatest all-around offensive seasons in the long, storied history of the Indians franchise. For his work, the Cleveland outfielder has been nominated for some hardware.

Brantley is the Tribe’s representative among Major League Baseball’s 30 nominees for this year’s Hank Aaron Award, which recognizes the most outstanding offensive performance in each league. The winners will be announced during the World Series after fan balloting and voting by a Hall-of-Fame panel that is led by Aaron.

“He’s a complete player,” Indians general manager Chris Antonetti said. “And we think he’s deserving of MVP consideration with the year he had. He was a huge part of our success and we think one of the best players in the American League.”

Among the other AL candidates for the Hank Aaron Award are Mike Trout of the Angels, Victor Martinez of the Tigers, Jose Abreu of the White Sox and Nelson Cruz of the Orioles, among others. In each of the past two seasons, Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera has taken home the award, which was first established for the 1999 campaign.

Fans can vote for a winner in each league through Oct. 5 on MLB.com.

In 156 games this season, Brantley turned in a .327/.385/.506 slash line to go along with 20 home runs, 45 doubles and 97 RBIs for the Indians. The left-handed-hitting outfielder also finished with two triples, 23 stolen bases, 52 walks, 56 strikeouts, 94 runs scored and 200 hits for the Tribe.

Among his AL peers, Brantley ranked second in hits, third in average and doubles, fourth in on-base percentage, sixth in runs, seventh in OPS (.890), 11th in stolen bases and 12th in RBIs. His 6.6 WAR (Fangraphs.com) ranked second to only Trout in the league.

“I actually don’t need the stat line,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “I know that backs up everything, but he has had a remarkable year in every way, shape and form. To play the amount of games he played. He hit third all year. He made an All-Star team. He was one of the best teammates you’ll ever see. He cares so much. He knows his responsibilities to our team.

“You’re seeing a kid grow up, and he’s always been a mature kid. You’re seeing a kid grow up as a baseball player right in front of our eyes and go from being a good player to one of the better players in the game. That’s really exciting.”

Brantley became the first batter in Indians history to have at least 20 home runs, 20 steals, 40 doubles and 200 hits in one season. That has only been done 11 times overall in the past 100 years in the Majors. Brantley joined Jacoby Ellsbury (2011), Larry Walker (1997), Ellis Burks (1996), Chuck Klein (1932) and Babe Herman (1929) as the only players in baseball history to also have at least a .320 average and 90 RBIs on that unique stat line.

This season, Brantley and Martinez were the only AL hitters with no more than 60 strikeouts and at least 50 walks. Brantley and Martinez also joined Cabrera (2010-13), Trout (2012-13), Adrian Gonzalez (2011) and Josh Hamilton (2010) as the only AL batters in the past five years to have a slash line of .320/.380/.500 or better.

Prior to Brantley, the last Cleveland hitter to hit at least .320 with at least a .380 on-base percentage and .500 slugging percentage was Roberto Alomar in 2001.

Asked what he learned from his breakout season, Brantley said recently that staying mentally strong was the biggest challenge.”[You have to] stay in each and every at-bat,” Brantley said. “In a season, it’s not just the physical tired, but the mental as well — maybe giving up on a pitch or taking a play off. I was just making sure I was in each and every play. I don’t want to give up any at-bats, still scratching and clawing. I have to make sure I come in next year and do the same thing.”

–JB

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