Awards up for grabs in final week (cont.)
1. Neftali Feliz, RHP, Rangers (1)
Season Stats: 2.85 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, 9.4 K/9, 4.06 K/BB, 38 SV
Feliz set the rookie record for saves on Saturday, nailing down the final four outs in the Rangers division-clinching victory over the A's. Since the All-Star break, he has carved nearly a run off his ERA, converted 15 of 16 save chances, posted a 1.57 ERA and struck out 27 men in 28 3/3 innings against just four walks (that's a 6.75 K/BB). Opponents have hit .160/.200/230 against him during that stretch, and while their batting average on balls in play has been abnormally low, Feliz has also posted a line-drive rate of just eight percent in the second half (against a league average of 19 percent), so he deserves considerable credit for that low BABIP.
2. Austin Jackson, CF, Tigers (2)
Season Stats: .298/.350/.407, 4 HRs, 39 RBIs, 26 SBs
Jackson's batting average, which is the majority of his value at the plate, dipped below .300 in the past week for the first time since the season's opening week, and his slugging percentage continues to hover just above .400. Setting aside the relative importance of an every-day center fielder and a one-inning closer, there has been just one American League rookie this year who has played at an All-Star level all season, and that is Neftali Feliz.
3) Danny Valencia, 3B, Twins (N/A)
Season Stats: .324/.364/.471, 7 HRs, 40 RBIs
Never mind the Rookie of the Year, Valencia deserves some sort of Nobel Prize for finally making the Twins realize how much better they could be by replacing Nick Punto in the lineup with someone who can actually hit. Since July 24, Valencia has started all but five games at third for the Twins while Punto has started just two games at any position, and the Twins have gone 40-16 (.714) over that span. Valencia can't take all of the credit for that (among other contributors, defending AL MVP Joe Mauer has hit .389/.471/.531 during that run), but he has absolutely been a huge part of Minnesota's late-season surge which has put them in the running for the best record in baseball. Having played just 78 games, however, he has no real shot at this award, nor does any other third-place candidate in the league.
1. Buster Posey, C, Giants (3)
Season Stats: .317/.368/.513, 16 HRs, 64 RBIs
2. Jason Heyward, RF, Braves (1)
Season Stats: .280/.395/.463, 18 HRs, 71 RBIs, 10 SBs
By hitting six home runs this month, Posey has rediscovered his power stroke and made this a real race down the stretch, one that could hinge on both the performances of these two hitters over the final week as well as which one of their teams makes it into the postseason (though both could, rendering that tie-breaker irrelevant for many voters). In the past week, Heyward has slumped (3-for-22 with no extra-base hits) while the Braves have slid, going 1-5 and falling from two games up in the wild card race to a half-game back. The Giants, meanwhile, have gone 4-2 and taken over first place in the NL West, but while Posey has homered twice in the last week, he still only hit .182 (4-for-22) and drove in just three runs. Nonetheless, Posey has a huge lead in average and slugging percentage and his counting stats are alarmingly close to Heyward's on the season given that Heyward has played in 34 more games. Adjust for the wide gulf between the production of the average catcher (.250/.320/.382) and average right fielder (.270/.343/.444) and Posey becomes the clear leader in this race.
3. Jaime Garcia, LHP, Cardinals (2)
Season Stats: 13-8, 132 Ks, 2.70 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, 7.3 K/9, 2.06 K/BB
That is Garcia's final line. He won't start again this season after throwing 163 1/3 innings in 28 starts. It's an impressive showing for a rookie, but ultimately falls short of what will be required to win the Rookie if the Year given the strength of the NL's rookie class this season. It also makes one wonder if the emerging trend of innings ceilings on rookie starters will make it increasingly difficult for starting pitchers to win this award given the resultant limit on their counting stats and overall impact.
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