JEWISH BASEBALL NEWS — As Major League Baseball’s 2010 season winds down, Jewish fans everywhere are wondering: What are the chances that Minnesota Twins 3B Danny Valencia — who was batting .343 through Sept. 3 — will be named A.L. Rookie of the Year in 2010?

To answer this question, Jewish Baseball News drilled down into historical voting patterns and present-day player statistics. Here are some of our findings.

Baseball journalists — the folks who casts the votes for Rookie of the Year — aren’t all that impressed with those who play 3B. Sixty-two American League players have been named Rookie of the Year (ROY) since 1949, the first year separate awards were issued for each league. Of those, 18 were outfielders, 13 were pitchers, 13 were shortstops, and only four played 3B. (The remaining 14 awards went to those playing 1B, 2B, C or DH.) The last A.L. third baseman to win was Evan Longoria of the Tampa Bay Rays in 2008. Minnesota Twin 3B John Castino won the award in 1979. Valencia outlook: Neutral. Depending how you look at it, third basemen like Valencia either are overdue for a ROY award or doomed to lose again.

Journalists prefer relatively high batting averages. Since 1949, the batting average of A.L. ROYs has averaged .288, well above the overall league average. In 2010, Valencia is batting .343. The next highest average among rookies? OF Austin Jackson of the Detroit Tigers, at .305. Valencia outlook: Positive.

Journalists prefer power hitters. Of the 49 non-pitchers named A.L. ROY since 1949, the average player had 17 HRs, 74 RBIs, a .288 batting average, and a .454 slugging percentage. Only six of the 49 winners had fewer than 40 RBIs. (Valencia had 26 through Sept. 3.) Power isn’t an absolute necessity; 19 winners have had fewer than 10 HRs. But it sure helps with voters. On the bright side, despite having only 2 HRs, Valencia has the 2nd highest slugging percentage among A.L. rookies (.454). And hopefully baseball writers will understand that Valencia is at something of a disadvantage when it comes to RBIs, given that he bats 7th in the Twins’ order, behind some of the league’s top base-clearers. Valencia outlook: Negative.

Journalists prefer those who play nearly a full season. With only 27 games left in the Twins’ season, Valencia has had just 216 at-bats in 63 games. (He wasn’t called up from the minors until early June and didn’t become the starting third baseman until late July.) By comparison, the average ROY winner in the A.L. had 528 at-bats in 144 games, and only three had fewer than 400 at-bats. One of those with fewer than 400, DH Bob Hamelin of the Kansas City Royals, won during the strike-shortened 1994 season, and he hit 24 HRs anyway. The previous winner most like Valencia was OF Al Bumbry of the Baltimore Orioles, who finished the 1973 season batting .337 with 7 HRs, 15 doubles, 11 triples, 34 RBIs and 23 stolen bases in 356 at-bats. But Bumbry was an exception, not the rule. Valencia outlook: Negative.

Journalists like starting pitchers with lots of victories and excellent won/loss records. Nine starting pitchers have won the A.L. ROY award since 1949, including four over the past decade. Their average won/loss record was 16-9, with an unweighted average ERA of 2.78. In 2010, the only rookie starter with more wins than losses is Wade Davis of the Tampa Bay Rays, whose 11-9 record and 4.29 ERA are well outside the historical range for ROY winners. Valencia outlook: Positive.

Journalists like relievers with lots of saves and very low ERAs. Four relief pitchers have won the A.L. ROY award since 1949, including 2009 winner Andrew Bailey of the Oakland A’s and two others over the past decade. On average, they’ve gone 5-3 with 28 saves and an unweighted ERA of 2.10. The lone reliever to meet those averages in 2010 is Neftali Feliz of the Texas Rangers, who is 3-3 with 34 saves in 37 chances, a 3.26 ERA, and roughly one strikeout per inning. Valencia outlook: Negative.

Head-to-head matchups

  • Detroit Tigers OF Brennan Boesch. Boesch is as close to a power-hitter there is among A.L. rookies in 2010. He leads all A.L. rookies with 14 HRs and 62 RBIs and ranks 2nd in doubles (24). On the other hand, his .268 batting average is slightly below the historical average for ROY winners and a whopping 75 points below Valencia’s .343. Although Boesch’s run production (RBIs and runs scored) is far greater than Valencia’s, Valencia has a slightly higher slugging percentage (.454 vs. .447). As Baseball Daily Digest recently pointed out, Boesch’s numbers have petered out in the latter part of 2010. He hit .345 in May and .337 in June, then plummeted to .209 in July and .185 in August. Valencia, by comparison, hit .304 in June, .453 in July and .276 in August. Valencia outlook: Neutral.
  • Detroit Tigers OF Austin Jackson. On the one hand, Jackson looks quite beatable. Though his 511 at-bats are more than twice as many as Valencia has had, he has the same HR count (2) and only four more RBIs (30 vs. 26). His .305 average, while 2nd best among A.L. rookies, is well below Valencia’s. And he strikes out a lot — 141 times so far, or 6th highest among all A.L. players. But Jackson has great speed; he is tied for 2nd among all A.L. players with 9 triples, and he leads A.L. rookies with 21 stolen bases. Baseball Daily Digest says he is as exciting and acrobatic a fielder as Valencia is steady and reliable. Valencia outlook: Negative.
  • Tampa Bay Rays C John Jaso. Like Valencia, Jaso was called up mid-season from the minors and has a similar number of at-bats (271 vs. 216). While his batting average (.277) is considerably lower, Jaso has some distinct advantages. One is run production: Jaso has more RBIs (42 vs. 26) and substantially more runs (43 vs. 19). His plate discipline is excellent, too. Jaso has drawn three times as many walks as Valencia (49 vs. 15), and as a result his on-base percentage is a tad higher (.388 vs. .382). Valencia outlook: Neutral.

Conclusion: Valencia is a Top 5 contender for A.L. ROY. Based on numbers alone, Jewish Baseball News believes Danny Valencia is one of five players — along with OF Austin Jackson, OF Brennan Boesch, RP Neftali Feliz and C John Jaso — who can win the A.L. Rookie of the Year award in 2010. If he maintains his batting average for the remainder of the season, shows a little more power, and performs well in the playoffs, he has a decent shot at winning.