BBA General Chapter Announces Vote for AL Willie Mays Award
Each year the Baseball Bloggers Alliance votes on and chooses our own winners for each of the year’s major awards. As President of the General Chapter, it is my privilege to announce the Chapter’s choice for each award winner. Today we’ll look at the Willie Mays Award, given to the top rookie for each league. We’ll begin with the American League.
First place votes were awarded 5 points. Second place votes were awarded 3 points. Third place votes were awarded 1 point. Each blog within the General Chapter of the BBA was invited to submit a ballot for the award. Ballots were subsequently submitted by the following members: 85% Sports, TG Sports Thoughts, Wezen-Ball, The Straw That Stirs The Drink, Rhino Rant, Off Base Percentage, Jason’s Baseball Blog, The Golden Sombrero, Going Yard, The Flagrant Fan, Call to the Pen, and Blogging From The Bleachers.
In the American League this year there were a number of impressive rookie performances. Boston’s Daniel Nava made headlines by hitting a grand slam to right field on the first pitch of his first career at bat. Minnesota’s Wilson Ramos became the first catcher to debut with a 4 hit game. He’d have 3 more hits the next day before eventually getting traded in July to Washington. Cleveland’s Carlos Santana lived up to the hype when he arrived in early June before having his season cut short by a broken leg. Tampa Bay’s Jeremy Hellickson wowed scouts as he climbed through the minor leagues and then impressed in four September starts. Yet, none of them received any consideration for this award.
In addition to Hellickson, Tampa Bay also saw impressive performances from an additional pair of rookies – pitcher Wade Davis and catcher John Jaso. Davis flourished in his first full season in the Majors by posting a 12-10 record and 4.07 ERA. Jaso got his break in mid-April due to an injury and hit well enough to supplant the team’s starting catcher almost immediately. He’d put up a .263/.372/.378 line while showing a solid ability to handle being behind the plate. Chicago’s Sergio Santos more than held his own working in out of the White Sox bullpen. In 56 appearances he put up a 2-2 record, 2.96 ERA, and had a K/9 ratio of 9.8.
Meanwhile, Baltimore’s Brian Matusz failed to win a decision in May and June yet still managed to finish with a 10-12 record and a 4.30 ERA. For a rookie in the league’s toughest division on a team that provided him little run support that’s not really a bad showing. Then there is Detroit outfielder Brennan Boesch who got off to a scorching start to the season, batting .342/.397/.593 in the first half of the season. However, a dismal second half (.163/.237/.222) not only hurt his chances at winning this award but also put his starting role in jeopardy for the 2011 season. Finally, Minnesota’s Danny Valencia arrived in early June and wasted no time in staking his claim to the starting third baseman position. Solid defense and a .311/.351/.448 line won him praise across the league from scouts and media alike.
Ultimately, however, the race for the top rookie in the American League comes down to two players – Detroit’s Austin Jackson and Texas’s Neftali Feliz.
Acquired in an offseason trade from the Yankees, Jackson started in center field on Opening Day for the Tigers and went 1 for 5 with a double and two strikeouts. Strikeouts would continue to be a problem for Jackson as he’d lead the AL with 170 by season’s end. However, his overall performance was outstanding. He’d man center field for the Tigers all season, appearing in 151 games. In 675 plate appearances he’d post a .293/.345/.400 line, good enough for the 16th best batting average in the league. Jackson wasn’t flashy by any means, but he was consistent and put up solid numbers from Day 1.
Feliz, meanwhile, was an intriguing story to start off the season. The Rangers debated whether to work him into the starting rotation or move him into the bullpen to take advantage of his lively arm. After deciding to have him fill the setup role, he quickly took over the closer job before the end of April and never looked back. Over 70 appearances he’d pitch a total of 69.1 innings with a 4-3 record, 2.73 ERA, and a K/9 ratio of 9.2. Most notably were his 40 saves, which set a new AL rookie record. One of the big questions Texas faces this offseason is whether to keep Feliz in the closer role or move him back into the starting rotation.
The voting was close, but ultimately the General Chapter of the BBA voted in favor of Jackson winning the Willie Mays Award by a slim 8 point margin.