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Tuesday, October 12, 2010

BBA Ballot: AL Willie Mays Award

Playing time was already a sizable factor when considering the differences on the NL side of ballot between Jason Heyward and Buster Posey, and between Jaime Garcia and Jhoulys Chacin.  On the AL side, it becomes an even more crucial aspect of the conversation, as only two AL rookies got enough at-bats to qualify for a batting title, and two more qualified for the ERA title.

Honorable Mention: Austin Jackson (Tigers), John Jaso (Rays), Brian Matusz (Orioles), Brennan Boesch (Tigers)

Third Place: Wade Davis (Rays)

Davis' season did not get off to a great start.  At the All-Star Break he was 5-9 with a 4.86 ERA and rumors swirled that he might soon be replaced by the Rays phenom, Jeremy Hellickson.  Whether something or someone lit a fire under him, or Davis merely adjusted after his first tour through the AL, he solidified his job in the second half by going 7-1 with a 3.22 ERA and 1.21 WHIP.

Second Place: Danny Valencia (Twins)

Valencia didn't come to Minnesota until June, but his presence solidified a position which had been the Achilles heel for the Twins since 2005.  Valencia had the highest OPS (799) of any AL rookie who got more than 200 plate appearances.  He also led the way in batting average, by a long shot, with a .311 clip.  It is true that Austin Jackson got more than twice as many at-bats and was therefore superior to Valencia in most of the counting categories, but Jackson's extraordinary good fortune (.396 BABIP), extremely high strikeout rate (27.5%), and precipitous second-half slide (86 OPS+ in August and September) made him difficult to vote for.

First Place: Neftali Feliz (Rangers)

Andrew Bailey won the AL Rookie of the Year last season with 26 saves and a 1.84 ERA in 83 innings.  22-year-old phenom, Neftali Feliz, has not been quite as good, but on a superior ballclub, he's piled up nearly twice as many saves, setting a new rookie record with 40.  His other numbers were none too shabby either.  Feliz's triple-digit heat helped him strike out 71 in 69 innings.  His 0.88 WHIP was bested by only Mariano Rivera, Rafael Soriano, and Joaquin Benoit among AL relievers.  It's not particularly exciting to vote for a reliever, but Feliz is a pretty special pitcher, so I feel somewhat better about it.

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