The year of 2011 showcased the talents of several good players and strong performances in each of the major professional sports- basketball, football, baseball and hockey. From Steve Nash to Larry Fitzgerald and everyone in between, the state of Arizona had its fair share of star players performing well and making impacts on their respective organizations . With 2011 now gone, it's time to continue the SB Nation Arizona Awards Series and name the 2011 Player of the Year.
Upton returned to form in 2011 after a down 2010 campaign. Overall, Upton led the Diamondbacks in pretty much every single batting category. He played in a team best 159 games (out of 162) while leading the way with a .289 batting average, 31 home runs, 88 RBIs and 171 hits. Perhaps even more importantly, Upton played his best game as the season progressed. He hit 22 of his 31 home runs and drove in 64 of his 88 RBIs over the final four months of the season.
Upton helped push Arizona to its best season since 2002 (94-68 overall) and an NL West division title. Even more impressive, Upton's resurgence helped push the Diamondbacks from a last place finish in the division one year ago to first place and a playoff berth just one year removed from a last place finish in the division.
For his contributions this year, Upton won the Silver Slugger Award in October and made his second All-Star appearance. He also finished fourth in the National League in MVP voting, behind only the likes of Ryan Braun, Matt Kemp and Prince Fielder. Behind Upton, the Diamondbacks have a shot to continue being successful in the years to come.
Fitzgerald and the Cardinals haven't had as big of a year as Upton's Diamondbacks have, but Fitzgerald still deserves some consideration for Player of the Year. Why? He continued to produce even with inconsistent play at quarterback while putting up his best receiving year of his past three seasons (1,262 yards on a career-best 17.8 yards-per-catch and eight touchdowns).
Even more importantly, Fitz committed to the Cardinals for the long term with an eight year, $120 million contract extension this year, which is huge for a franchise that has struggled to find continuous success. He has singlehandedly restored hope in the franchise's future (just imagine what the Cardinals would be like if Fitz decided to leave), and although the inability of the Cardinals to live up to the preseason hype this year hurts him, his impact on the psyche of the Arizona sports fan earns him 2011's Honorable Mention.