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2011 AL Willie Mays Award

September 27, 2011

It is that time, once again, to start taking a look at each of the major year end awards. As I did last year, I will be submitting a ballot here on the blog for each of the awards selected by the BBWAA. However, as a member of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance, we use a different selection of names for our awards – our own tribute to some of the game’s greats and because the BBWAA has actually asked us to do so (to avoid confusion, I presume). Over the past two seasons the BBA and BBWAA have chosen the same recipient for nearly every award.

We’ve already taken a look at the Connie Mack Award (given to the league’s top manager) and now we’ll turn our attention to the top rookies. The 2011 American League Willie Mays Award goes to …..

On the mound there were numerous performances worth taking note of. Seattle’s Michael Pineda led all rookies with 173 strikeouts in 171 innings of work. A quartet of relievers – Kansas City’s Greg Holland (1.80) and Aaron Crow (2.76), Chicago’s Chris Sale (2.61), and Cleveland’s Vinnie Pestano (2.21) – each pitched more than 60 innings with ERAs under 3.00. Baltimore’s Zach Britton (11) and Tampa Bay’s Jeremy Hellickson (13) each managed double digit wins.

But, it was Ivan Nova of the Yankees who proved to be the top rookie pitcher in AL this season. In 27 starts he posted a 16-4 record with a 3.70 ERA. While not a big strikeout pitcher (just 98 Ks in 165.1 innings of work), Nova’s emergence helped solidify a Yankee rotation that needed a boost and now he’s lined himself up for a start in the playoffs.

Offensively, Oakland’s Jemile Weeks was the only rookie to bat over .300 (he hit .305) with a minimum of 200 plate appearances. Minnesota’s Ben Revere led the way with 34 stolen bases. Toronto’s J.P. Arencibia lived up to his power potential, bashing 23 HR.

Yet, the top offensive performers in the AL were both first baseman. Kansas City’s Eric Hosmer started the season in Triple-A where he dominated opposing pitching and batted .295/.337/.470 with 19 HR and 78 RBI in 515 at bats once he was called up. Meanwhile, Mark Trumbo of the Angels fell into an everyday role after Kendrys Morales proved unable to play this year and he awarded the Angels with a stellar season. In 539 at bats he hit .254/.291/.477 with a rookie leading 29 HR and 87 RBI.


2011 AL Willie Mays Award


Eric Hosmer


Mark Trumbo


Ivan Nova

In the end, my choice for the top rookie will go to Hosmer. Trumbo’s power and run producing numbers cannot be overlooked, especially as the Angels held on until the final week of the season before being eliminated from playoff contention. However, Hosmer ultimately had the bigger impact on his team, in my opinion, as he was the first in a long wave of prospects to reach the Majors this year for the Royals. We’ve long heard of the talent coming through their farm system, Hosmer was the first of that talent to arrive and find immediate success, somewhat proving that there is hope in Kansas City.

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