Baseball Writers have spoken and they have awarded Texas closer Neftali..."/> Baseball Writers have spoken and they have awarded Texas closer Neftali..."/>

Austin Jackson Robbed of AL Rookie Vote

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The Baseball Writers have spoken and they have awarded Texas closer Neftali Feliz as the top rookie in the American League. Tigers centerfielder Austin Jackson finished as runner-up.

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. Fangraphs calculated his WAR at 3.8.

Feliz joins a list of now three closers to win the AL honor in the past six seasons. While his campaign was impressive, Feliz only appeared in 70 games and only logged 69.1 innings. Though he didn’t accumulate enough service time to disqualify him from the 2010 honor, Feliz did appear in 20 games (31 innings) as a Ranger in 2009 as well. Fangraphs calculated his WAR at 1.7 for 2010.

Now, I understand that I may be writing this in anger a bit. As I stated above, Feliz had a tremendous season and his impact as the closer of the Rangers shouldn’t be understated. But I’m not of the opinion that his impact should be overstated, either. In giving him this honor, the BBWAA is doing exactly that, just as agents who represent closers overstate the value of saves.

Feliz had an impact, good or bad, on exactly 70 games out of a possible 162. Jackson appeared in all but 11 of his team’s games. Feliz was the winning pitcher four times while saving his 40 games. He was the losing pitcher three times while also blowing three save chances. Without going back and looking it up, that means that he cost the Rangers a minimum of three wins this year (assuming his three losses came in games in which he blew the save). This is where WAR comes into play. I’m sure there were more than three games this year that Jackson did little to help his club, but overall he was worth over twice as many Wins Above Replacement than Feliz was.

Feliz faced just 269 batters this season, and performed quite well against them. Jackson faced a pitcher 675 times in 2010. Jackson had far, far more opportunities to fail, but he was able to turn in one of the more impressive rookie campaigns for any rookie, ever.

Maybe I’m being a homer here, I won’t deny that possibility, but I cannot fathom an instance where a good closer is more important to team success than a good defensive outfielder who also happens to bat lead-off effectively. We are talking about the difference between a guy who plays in nearly every game versus a guy who pitches one inning in less than half of the games.

I also realize that the award isn’t for the most valuable rookie, but the most impressive. It’s a subjective award voted upon by writers. Subjectively, I feel the writers got this one wrong.