Adrian Gonzalez keeps on producing

Adrian Gonzalez keeps on producing

Playing on a team that struggled and without as much lineup protection as other sluggers received, San Diego first baseman Adrian Gonzalez kept on producing in 2008.

Gonzalez, in his third season with the Padres, managed to set career bests in home runs (34), RBIs (111) and walks (69) while playing for a team that struggled almost from the start of the regular season.

"He's had a very big year. I can't emphasize that enough," San Diego manager Bud Black said. "The numbers speak for themselves. He's been incredible."

"Without him, I do not know where we would be. He's played pretty much every day. He's been tremendous, with the power, the RBIs, the defense, he's been an All-Star performer, no doubt. He's been our best player."

Others have noticed, as Gonzalez made his first National League All-Star team in '08. He's also the Padres' candidate for the 2008 MLB Hank Aaron Award, presented by Sharp.

This coveted honor is awarded annually to the best overall offensive performer in each league, with each club having a nominee.

Fans can vote here until Sunday, Oct. 12 to select the winner in each league. The winners will be announced prior to Game 4 of the World Series on Sunday, Oct. 26.

Last year's winners were Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez and Brewers first baseman Prince Fielder.

Gonzalez managed to better several offensive statistics from '07 when he hit .282 with 30 home runs and 100 RBIs for a team that won 89 games. In '08, he continued to have big hit after big hit while playing for a last-place team.

So how did he do it?

"I think he's always had a great feel for what he's trying to do each and every at-bat. He studies pitchers, he's on video, he watches them during the game. He recalls previous at-bats. He has a great knack for his approach, every at-bat, pitch-to-pitch," Black said.

"He has an understanding of what a pitcher is going to try and do to him. ... He's able to, more often than not, win the battle."

Originally introduced in '99 to honor the 25th anniversary of Hank Aaron breaking Babe Ruth's all-time home run record, the Hank Aaron Award was the first major award to be introduced in 30 years.

Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.