The two winners of this year's Comeback Player of the Year Awards are still playing. Coincidence? You decide.
Starting pitchers Francisco Liriano of the Twins and Tim Hudson of the Braves were named the 2010 Comeback Players of the Year for the American League and National League, respectively, chosen by MLB.com's 30 club beat reporters. Both will have significant roles as their teams compete in the Division Series.
The Comeback Player of the Year Award is officially sanctioned by Major League Baseball, and is presented annually to one player in each league who has re-emerged on the baseball field during the season.
Liriano went from huge question mark at the start of the season to staff ace, helping Minnesota win the AL Central. After a season that saw the 26-year-old set career highs in wins, starts, innings pitched and strikeouts, the left-hander will start Game 1 of the ALDS for the Twins on Wednesday against CC Sabathia and the Yankees.
Liriano, who went 14-10 with a 3.62 ERA and finished fifth in the league with 201 strikeouts, had a complete turnaround from his 2009 campaign. In '06, Liriano burst onto the scene, going 12-3 with a 2.16 ERA and finishing third in voting for the AL Rookie of the Year. After missing the '07 season because of Tommy John surgery, Liriano returned to make 14 starts in '08 and seemed ready to take off the next year. But he struggled with arm fatigue, threw just 136 2/3 innings and finished 5-13 with a 5.80 ERA in '09.
For his efforts, Liriano received 11 first-place votes in the balloting. That placed him ahead of Red Sox third baseman Adrian Beltre, who finished second, and third-place finisher Josh Hamilton of the Rangers. All 30 MLB.com beat reporters cast a ballot with 1-2-3 finishers, and the votes were tallied using a 5-3-1 scoring system.
Hudson, who is expected to start Game 3 of Atlanta's NLDS matchup with San Francisco on Sunday, tied with the Mets' R.A. Dickey with 13 first-place votes. Hudson won the honor thanks to receiving more second-place votes from writers. Hudson and Dickey were the clear standalone one-two finishers.
Hudson made just seven starts in 2009 after recovering from his own Tommy John surgery. He came back full strength this year, going 17-9 with a career-low 2.83 ERA over 34 starts, playing a key role in helping to extend Bobby Cox's managerial career when the Braves won the NL Wild Card.
Hudson's 17 wins are the most since he won 18 in 2001 with the A's. He finished sixth in the league in ERA and fourth in wins, including a crucial one Sunday to ensure the Braves made it to the postseason. He was tied for second in starts, fourth in innings pitched and ninth with a .229 batting average against.
Liriano and Hudson join a select group of players to have received this honor: Jason Giambi and Ken Griffey Jr. (2005); Jim Thome and Nomar Garciaparra (2006); Carlos Pena and Dmitri Young (2007); Cliff Lee and Brad Lidge (2008); and Aaron Hill and Chris Carpenter (2009). Four of those players -- Thome, Pena, Lee and Lidge -- are also participating in this year's postseason.