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Ian Casselberry

He wuz robbed! Tigers' Jackson deserved AL Rookie of the Year

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Austin Jackson(notes) was robbed.

Neftali Feliz(notes) had a great season for the Texas Rangers. He racked up 40 saves and struck out 71 batters in 69 1/3 innings, helping the Rangers' drive toward their first AL West division title in 11 years.

Pitching for a playoff team was apparently very persuasive to Baseball Writers Association of America voters, who awarded Feliz with AL Rookie of the Year honors on Monday.

Yes, Feliz set a rookie record for saves, but was he even as good as last year's winner, Andrew Bailey(notes)?

Bailey threw more innings (83 1/3), had more strikeouts (91) and a lower ERA (1.84 to Feliz's 2.73) for the Oakland Athletics. Bailey had fewer saves (26), but pitched for a fourth-place team that won 15 fewer games than the Rangers did this season.

But let's get back to Jackson. The Detroit Tigers center fielder hit .293/.345/.400 in 675 plate appearances while playing some of the best defense at his position in the majors. He also led all AL rookies in — take a deep breath — hits (181), stolen bases (27), runs scored (103), doubles (34), triples (10), extra-base hits (48) and total bases (247).

That performance also put Jackson in some rather exclusive company. Only three other players in major league history — Shoeless Joe Jackson (no relation), Juan Samuel and Hanley Ramirez(notes) — put up 180 hits, 100 runs, 30 doubles, 10 triples and 25 stolen bases in their rookie seasons.

(Jackson also led all AL hitters in strikeouts, with 170. So when he wants to finish on top of a hitting category, he does it.)

All of that while playing in 151 games, or more than twice the number that Feliz appeared in (70).

No rookie began the season under more pressure than Jackson. From day one, he had to justify the trade that brought him to Detroit, the one that sent away one of the Tigers' most popular players in Curtis Granderson(notes).

Yet Jackson didn't just step into Granderson's shoes, he made center field at Comerica Park his own with spectacular defense and a bat that hit .300 or above until the very end of the season.

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OK, Feliz pitched under pressure for a playoff contender. But by Aug. 1, the Rangers had an eight-game lead in the AL West and seemed in no danger of being challenged. From that point until the end of the season, Feliz accumulated 11 of his saves.

And it's not like Jackson didn't play meaningful games, either. He was the everyday center fielder and leadoff batter for a Tigers team that was only a half-game out of first place in the AL Central at the All-Star break and didn't fall out of contention until early August.

Jackson's fellow players certainly thought his accomplishments were worthy of recognition. He won the Sporting News and Players Choice awards for top rookie in the American League.

Major league peers didn't seem to care that Jackson wasn't on a division-winning team. So why did it seemingly matter so much to the writers?

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