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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

BBA Awards Ballot: Rookie of the Year (NL)

The BBA Manager of the Year Awards were today. Check it out. And, thanks to some abbreviated Division Series, there is no baseball for a couple of days, so it's as good a time as any to post my thoughts on the NL Rookie of the Year. Several of the major media outlets, particularly ESPN, have been resoundingly supporting Chris Coghlan, who is a legitimate contender, and, moreover, have been creating the impression that there are only three good candidates: Coghlan, J.A. Happ, and Tommy Hanson. These are certainly three reasonable choices, but they are hardly the only ones. One should not treat ROY voting like MVP voting. There shouldn't be any bonus based on team performance. Coghlan, Happ, and Hanson played on winning franchises and that seems to be the only thing significantly separating them from another set of reasonable choices, including Garrett Jones, Casey McGehee, and Randy Wells.

First off, here are some statistics for the three primary hitting and pitching candidates (apologies for the crappy formatting):

Tommy Hanson 11-4 2.89 21 128 8.18 1.18 660 2.6
J.A. Happ 10-4 2.99 23 144 6.36 1.26 735 1.8
Randy Wells 12-10 3.05 27 165 5.66 1.28 680 3.0

Chris Coglan .321 850 504 9 47 8 6.97 2.4
Garrett Jones .293 938 314 21 44 10 7.56 2.6
Casey McGehee .301 859 355 16 66 0 5.99 2.1
Andrew McCutchen .286 836 433 12 54 22 6.64 3.4

WAR or Wins Abover Replacement is a stat I will be leaning heavily on (although not exclusively) in my discussion of MVP, Cy Young, etc. because it takes into consideration defense, ballpark, run support, level of competition, and position scarcity.

3. Randy Wells - Chicago Cubs

Wells didn't get as much press as Happ and Hanson, but as you can see, he won just as many games and was very much their equal as a pitcher. He also got the most starts and threw the most innings (as a starter) of the trio, and led the way in WAR. Wells made 18 quality starts this season (66.7%) for the Cubs, but took a loss or a no decision in 7 of them. Perhaps more tragically, his teammates never bailed him out. He was 0-7 in starts that he allowed four or five earned runs (impressively, he never allowed more than five). Happ, on the other hand, made fourteen quality starts (60.9%) and lost only two of them. Three times he went less than six innings and still secured a win. He allowed four or more runs on five occasions and lost only two of them.

I don't mean to imply that Happ wasn't great this season and doesn't deserve serious consideration for Rookie of the Year, but I think Randy Wells was minutely better and got very little attention because his record was depressed by the sad status of his team.

2. Tommy Hanson - Atlanta Braves

He allowed three homers and six earned runs in his first start. After that he never allowed more than one homer and four earned runs in any of his next twenty starts. Over the course of that stretch he had an ERA of 2.59. The Braves only allowed him the throw more than 105 pitches on two occasions and yet he consistently pitched deep into ballgames (57.1 QS%) while striking out hitters in bunches (nine starts with more strikeouts than innings pitched).

Hanson stabilized the Braves rotation and was a critical factor in their late-season run (6-2, 2.56 ERA in August and September). It is possible that I'm giving him a bit of a boost because his potential is so much higher than either Wells or Happ, but the fact is, he matched or surpassed most of their numbers with less opportunities.

1. Andrew McCutchen - Pittsburgh Pirates

This makes me at least the second BBA member to support McCutchen (see the other ballot). And, like him, I may be swayed by the fact that I watched McCutchen play as much or more than any other rookie in 2009. That said, his WAR indicates that it isn't a purely subjective opinion. McCutchen put up very good offensive totals in a putrid lineup (30th in MLB!!!) and played solid defense in center field (10 A, 2 E, -0.8 UZR [I expect this will go up significantly in his first full season]). Like most rookies, he was a bit streaky. After hitting .330 with 18 RBI in his first twenty games, the league adjusted to him a bit and he went .240 with 5 RBI in his next twenty. The good news for Pirates fans is that McCutchen also demonstrated the ability to make adjustments and he finished the season on an absolute tear, hitting .354 with 17 R, 6 SB, 9 XBH, and a 962 OPS in his final 21 games.

I certainly wouldn't blame anybody for voting for Coghlan, but, like Hanson, McCutchen really exudes that unquantifiable "entertainment factor" (i.e. 4-for-6, 4 R, 3 HR, 6 RBI on 8/1 or 1-for-3, 3 R, 2B, 3 BB, 3 SB on 8/11), You are willing to watch Pirates games just to see what he does, which is lucky for Pittsburgh, because reinforcements do not appear to be on their way.

AL ROY (If I were so inclined): 3. Brett Anderson, 2. Andrew Bailey, 1. Elvis Andrus

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