Monday, November 15, 2010

2010 AL and NL Rookies of the Year

The results of the 2010 Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year awards are in and have been released to the masses. Congratulations to Neftali Feliz and Buster Posey for winning the American and National League Rookie of the Year award (respectively). According to the BBWAA website, the ballots were cast by two writers in each league city and the points were based on the 5-3-1 tabulation system. Voting was conducted before the start of the postseason. Both awards had very exciting young players in the running and the voting results has cause quite a bit of controversy. Let's start with the A.L.

Neftali Feliz of the American League Champion Texas Rangers received 20 of 28 first-place votes for a total of 122 points (20-7-1). Detroit Tigers outfielder Austin Jackson finished second with 98 points (8-19-1) and Danny Valencia of the Minnesota Twins came in third with 12 points (0-1-9). ***AUTHORS NOTE, The numbers in the parenthesis are the votes given for first-second-third places by the baseball writers.

Some feel that giving a closer who played in less than half of his team's games the award over an everyday player is wrong. One such view is seen with John Parent with his blogpost Austin Jackson Robbed of AL Rookie Vote on the Motor City Bengals website. Here is some of what he has to say:

Feliz had a fine season for the Rangers, to be sure. Never before has a rookie saved 40 games in a season, which Feliz did in 2010. I would have to assume the writer put a ton of stock into that useless statistic. I also am left to assume that they wanted to vote for a player who was in a pennant race.

All Jackson did in 2010 was lead American League rookies in hits, runs, doubles, triples, stolen bases, extra-base hits, and total bases. He batted .293/.345/.400 for the season. Though he hadn’t appeared in the majors before Opening Day, Jackson played in 151 games, logging over 1250 innings in centerfield, and did so while playing exceptional defense. He is the highest finishing Tiger position player since Lou Whitaker won the award in 1978.

While I agree with most of what Parent says about Jackson's worthiness, I don't agree with his discounting a save as a useless statistic. As we saw in the World Series, Texas manager Ron Washington's hesitation to use his closer to try and shut down the San Francisco Giants cost him a game and maybe the series. Feliz was one of the main reasons why the Rangers won the A.L. West and it can be argued that he was the second-best pitcher on the staff (behind Cliff Lee). I believe the biggest chink in Austin Jackson's armor was his league leading 170 strikeouts with a very low 47 walks. I think that if Jackson was a bit more selective at the plate, thereby lowering his strikeouts, he'd have been a slam-dunk for the Rookie of the Year. It also seems to me that the Rangers would not have won the division without Feliz while the Tigers wouldn't have been any worse without Jackson. Both players have the potential to be perennial All-Stars for years to come.

The National League Rookie of the Year was a bit more heated in terms of differing voices. Catcher Buster Posey if the World Champion San Francisco Giants is the 2010 Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year for the National League. Posey received 20 first-place votes out of a total of 32 votes for a total of 129 points (20-9-2). Outfielder Jason Heyward of the Atlanta Braves received nine first-place votes for a total of 107 points (9-20-2). Pitcher Jaime Garcia of the St. Louis Cardinals came in third with 24 points. 29 of the 32 potential first place votes were earned by Posey and Heyward. Here lies the controversy. Many people in cyberland feel how was it that both Posey and Heyward were unable to get the other three votes. In addition, two voters completely left Posey and Heyward off of their ballots. I'll touch on who got the other first-place votes then I'll go into who didn't vote for the favorites.

The other first-place votes went to third-place finisher Garcia who had one vote and Florida Marlins third baseman Gaby Sanchez who received two first-place votes. I believe that both players were deserving of their first-place votes since they were integral players on their respective teams. 

The next issue is a bit trickier. I'll start with Posey being left off first. Andrew Baggarly of the San Jose Mercury News reported on his Twitter feed that the only voter to omit Buster Posey was Yasushi Kikuchi of the Kyodo News, LA-Anaheim Chapter. Kikuchi's vote breakdown was as so: 1. Sanchez, 2. Heyward, 3. Garcia. According to the Twitter feed of Henry Schulman who is a beat writer for the San Francisco Chronicle states: 

Yasushi Kikuchi, the LA-based writer to left Posey off his ballot, said the May 29 promotion was the reason why.....“Obviously it was a tough decision,” Kikuchi said. “To me, Rookie of the Year is the best rookie player throughout the whole season.

This scenario plays out similar to last year's A.L. MVP voting where winner Joe Mauer failed to garner a unanimous award by getting 31 of 32 first-place votes. The other vote went to Detroit Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera. The vote was placed by Kyodo News' Keizo Konishi, who covers the Seattle Mariners. Konishi said that he voted for Cabrera since he played a full season, as well as logging time for the Venezuelan team in the World Baseball Classic and Joe Mauer missed the first five weeks of the season (Mauer was on the disabled list causing him to miss the beginning of the season). Konishi and Kikuchi place the value of aiding the team for a full season and I have no problem with that point of view. In Posey's defense, it was the team that held him in the minors until late May and played up to all the hype once he did arrive in the majors. I also had that point of view when comparing Posey and Heyward since Heyward played since Opening Day. But after comparing their offensive statistics, both players had similar numbers with Posey achieving his in a third less at-bats (223 to be precise) while playing the hardest and most demanding position in the game. 

In terms of Heyward being left off the ballot, the scenario gets a little trickier. The only voter to omit Jason Heyward was Dejan Kovacevic of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. He had Posey first, and Pittsburgh Pirates Neil Walker and Jose Tabata in second and third places (respectively). While at first Kovacevic's voting smells of hometown favoritism, he makes his defense on his Twitter feed. Here is some of what he said:

No one else cast a vote for Walker, an easy-to-make case for a top-three ROY performer. That, to me, underscores importance of local views.

Local writers will see/appreciate things a player can do that others might not. That counts, for a player's good facets and bad.

Felt firmly that my first-hand view of Walker/Tabata merited their ROY votes. I also respect right of anyone to disagree/vote differently.

I think this highlights a very important issue. In my opinion I believe that the national media tends to get hung up on the favorites and fails to look at other candidates. In the case of Kovacevic, I respect his choices and reasoning for voting for Walker and Tabata. He is able to see these players play on the field rather than through 30-second highlights or on a spreadsheet. The question is how can teams that play in smaller and largely ignored markets have the national media spotlight shine on their players alongside the favorites. Are they allowed to do a grassroots campaign to draw attention to their players? Can the teams contact the writers with information about the players? To be honest I don't know but it sounds like a good way to get these players out there. I'll look into it and update it accordingly. 

For a little trivia tidbit: Posey winning the NL Rookie of the Year ended a 36-year drought for the San Francisco Giants in the ROY awards. The last being pitcher John "The Count" Montefusco who won the award in 1975. Other Giants to win the award were a couple of guys named Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, Orlando Cepeda and Gary Matthews. On the AL Rookie of the Year side, Neftali Feliz's winning of the award ended the longest drought of a team not winning a ROY. Rangers Mike Hargrove was the last Texas Rangers player to win the AL Rookie of the Year doing so in 1974.

Up next, NL Cy Young. 


For Further Reading
- Click Here for the official voting results for the 2010 AL and NL Rookie of the Year awards from
- Click Here for the list of all AL and NL Rookie of the Year Award winners since 1947
- Click Here for John Parent's defense of Austin Jackson for ROY from
- Click Here for Pittsburgh Blogger Richard Humes analysis of Dejan Kovacevic's votes for Neil Walker and Jose Tabata from This Is Getting Old Blogpage
- Click Here for Tyler Kepner's blogpost Belatedly, Voter Explains Why He Chose Cabrera Over Mauer for M.V.P. from the dated March 3, 2010 for Kezio Konishi's reasons for voting for Miguel Cabrera for MVP over Joe Mauer

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