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10/26/09 10:00 AM EST

Ballot boxes open for 2009 TYIB Awards

Categories include season's top hitters, pitchers, moments

Every year, the passage into October marks the beginning of baseball's postseason, when some of the game's greatest heroes and moments are born.

It also marks the opening of the ballot boxes for the This Year in Baseball Awards.

Voting for this 2009 TYIB Awards has begun, as fans across the globe have until Dec. 11 to cast their votes make their voices heard.

Last year, a record 12 million votes were cast, shattering the previous mark of 9.6 million, set in 2007.

What began as a fun way to get fans involved in honoring the best players and performances of the season in 2002 has turned into an annual online staple, as winners receive their awards on field during the ensuing campaign.

What has made the TYIB Awards so popular among fans of the grand old game?

For one thing, the voting for isn't limited to an exclusive fraternity; everyone gets the chance to weigh in. Those who feel strongly that the manager or the star rookie on their favorite team deserves to be honored can state their case by voting as many times as they like.

The TYIB Awards also branch out to honor some of the categories that aren't covered in the more "traditional" awards.

After all, a baseball season isn't strictly defined by its best players.

It's also defined by breathtaking glovework (Play of the Year), dominant games (Performance) and even bizarre moments (Oddity).

To that end, the TYIB Awards aim to encompass all that deserves to be remembered from the preceding months of action.

Here are the 13 categories up for voting:

Hitter of the Year: The spirit of St. Louis himself, Albert Pujols headlines the nominees once again, but Milwaukee mashers Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder figure to make an impact in the balloting.

Starter of the Year: Kansas City's Zack Greinke was outstanding from start to finish, but fans also witnessed truly regal efforts from Seattle's Felix Hernandez and defending National Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum.

Rookie of the Year: From Tigers ace-in-the-making Rick Porcello to Marlins hit machine Chris Coghlan, another impressive crop of youngsters popped up to ensure the game is in good hands for years to come.

Manager of the Year: From the Dodgers Joe Torre to the Twins' Ron Gardenhire, these men somehow make the difficult moment-to-moment decisions of the job seem easy.

Closer of the Year: Hard-throwing firemen in the mold of Boston's Jonathan Papelbon dominate this role, though there's still plenty of room for even-keeled artistes such as the Yankees' Mariano Rivera and the Brewers' Trevor Hoffman.

Setup Man of the Year: With San Francisco's Jeremy Affeldt and Minnesota's Matt Guerrier leading the way, the bullpen's unsung heroes get their moment in the spotlight once again.

Defensive Player of the Year: Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins and Angels center fielder Torii Hunter were among the players who demonstrated how strong defense is vital to a winning ballclub.

Performance of the Year: Baseball may be a team game, but White Sox lefty Mark Buehlre (perfect game) and Rays speedster Carl Crawford (record-tying 6 SB) showed that a dominant individual effort can sometimes dictate the action.

Play of the Year: A full array of defensive gems are up for consideration here, from Mariners outfielder Franklin Gutierrez's wall-rattling catch to Mets first baseman David Murphy's behind-the-back flip.

Moment of the Year: The 2009 season produced its share of statistical milestones, such as career win No. 300 for the Giants' Randy Johnson, and it also gave us touching moments, such as the Angels' tribute to fallen teammate Nick Adenhart.

Oddity of the Year: Those who love blooper highlight reels will undoubtedly enjoy these clips, which showcase some of baseball's strangest moments, so find out what what can happen when wildlife and mascots are left free to wreak havoc on the ballfield.

Executive of the Year: From Rockies general manager Dan O'Dowd to Red Sox GM Theo Epstein, the brains behind winning teams get their just desserts for making the right moves.

Unsung Star of the Year: Even in this era of 24-hour media coverage, some of the game's great players get overlooked. Toronto's Aaron Hill and Adam Lind are among the stars who've somehow flown under the radar.

Postseason Moment of the Year: No baseball awards ceremony would be complete without paying tribute to the magical moments of the playoffs. With this chapter of the season still being written, voting for this category won't open until after the World Series ends.

The TYIB ballot boxes are open through Dec. 11, so there's plenty of time to make your voice heard. And remember, you can vote as many times as you'd like.

With the 2009 regular season in the books and the postseason under way, it's time to duly commemorate the year's top performers and its most memorable moments.

Tim Ott is a writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.