BBA General Chapter Announces Vote for NL 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’ve looked at the American League so let’s move on to the National 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.
While there were a number of impactful rookie performances in the AL this year, the National League saw even more. Washington’s Stephen Strasburg made his debut in early June after being one of the most highly touted prospects in decades and didn’t disappoint, striking out 14 Pirates. He’d finish 5-3 with a 2.91 ERA over 12 starts before being shut down with an injury that may keep him out for all of the 2011 season. Ike Davis arrived in New York and quickly became a fan favorite with his all out defensive efforts. He’d also tie for second in the league amongst rookies with 19 HRs. Houston’s Chris Johnson got off to a slow start but finished strong to end with a .308/.337/.481 line.
St. Louis’s Jon Jay and Pittsburgh’s Jose Tabata arrived mid-season, quickly won starting roles, and finished with nearly identical lines (Jay – .300/.359/.422 and Tabata – .299/.346/.400). In Milwaukee John Axford pitched well enough (8-2, 24 saves, 2.48 ERA) to push one of the greatest closers in baseball history out of the job.
Meanwhile in Cincinnati a trio of young hurlers had impacts. Mike Leake skipped the minors and started the season in the Reds starting rotation. He’d win his first five decisions and would finish 8-4 with a 4.23 ERA. Travis Wood arrived in June and went 5-4 with a 3.51 ERA. Then Aroldis Chapman burst onto the scene in September and blew everyone’s expectations away by consistently topping 100 MPH on the radar gun.
Despite those performances, not one of the aforementioned players received any consideration for this award.
Pittsburgh not only had Tabata arrive to fill a hole in their outfield but also saw the emergence of third baseman Pedro Alvarez and starting pitcher Brad Lincoln. Yet it was Neil Walker who truly stole the show for the Pirates. A converted catcher who struggled in a brief 2009 callup took over the second base job and flourished. He’d put up a .296/.349/.462 line with 12 HRs and eliminated one hole for the organization going forward. A midseason trade brought Daniel Hudson to Arizona and he’d thrive in the desert (and National League) putting up a 7-1 record and 1.69 ERA over the last half of the season. Meanwhile in Chicago Starlin Castro didn’t waste any time making himself known with a historic debut. A home run, triple, and record setting 6 RBI impressed many and he’d go on to finish at .300/.347/.408 over just under 500 at bats.
Like Cincinnati and Pittsburgh, Florida also had an impressive group of rookies arrive this season. Logan Morrison hit a solid .283/.390/.447 while learning the outfield. Highly touted Mike Stanton lived up to the hype, hitting 22 HRs after debuting in June with a .259/.326/.507 line. But it was first baseman Gaby Sanchez that stole the show for the Marlins. Making the Opening Day roster, Sanchez played solid defense while hitting .273/.341/.448. He’d tie Davis for second in the league in HRs amongst rookies.
Then there was Jaime Garcia who opened a number of eyes while giving the Cardinals are legitimate third starter. Having missed the 2009 season due to injury there were few that expected the production Garcia provided. He went 13-8 over 28 starts with a 2.70 ERA.
Ultimately, however, the honor of top rookie from the NL would come down to Atlanta’s Jason Heyward and San Francisco’s Buster Posey.
Heyward thrived throughout Spring Training leaving the Braves with no choice but to place him on the Opening Day roster and he wasted little time in showing the world why when he crushed a three-run home run in his first at bat. Highly touted as one of the top prospects across Major League Baseball prior to the season, Heyward would live up to the expectations. He’d play strong defense in right field, clubbed 18 HRs, stole 11 bases, and hit .277/.393/.456 in his first season.
Equally as touted prior to the season was Posey, who many feel should have started the season in San Francisco rather than spending additional time in the minor leagues. However, it wouldn’t take long before he made his arrival by the Bay. With a myriad of timely hits, solid defense, 18 HRs, and a final line of .305/.357/.505 it became clear why Posey was at the top of a long list of rookie catchers to reach the Majors this season.
While both Heyward and Posey made very convincing arguments to win this award the voting would finish remarkably close. In the end, the General Chapter of the BBA has named Posey the winner of the NL Willie Mays Award by a mere 2 points.