NL Rookie of the Year ballot

This ballot is for the Baseball Bloggers Alliance, a group of baseball bloggers (duh) who are pooling votes together to give out our own post-season award.

This is an incredibly tough vote for me, for two reasons. The first is that two Pirates are prominently involved here, which means that it’s not exactly easy for me to stay objective. The second is that I’m never entirely sure what the Rookie of the Year award really is rewarding. Is it the player that had the best rookie season, or is it a player that had a good rookie season that’s going to be a really good player down the road? Some part of me can’t look at rookies without projecting their futures; it’s what makes rookies exciting and hey, as a Pirate fan it’s pretty much all I have going for me. If I were judging by the second criteria, my ballot would probably go 3.) Colby Rasmus, 2.) Andrew McCutchen, and 1.) Tommy Hanson.

But that can’t be what Rookie of the Year is all about because we just don’t know what’s going to happen in the future. It’s not fair to punish Garrett Jones or Randy Wells just because their ceilings aren’t as high as McCutchen or Hanson. They had great rookie years and they deserve consideration just the same as everyone else on the list. Click after the jump to find that consideration (or, depending on if you agree with me, that flimsy rationalization).

So let’s start by narrowing the ballot down to the top three. This is an impossible task starting from the following list: Andrew McCutchen, Garrett Jones, J.A. Happ, Randy Wells, Tommy Hanson, Chris Coghlan, Casey McGhee, Colby Rasmus, and maybe even a few others who deserve consideration. Starting from this list of eight, though, I’m going to leave five guys out that deserve votes. This would be much easier if it were like the MVP and I got to list ten.

So let’s pick three that stand out. My personal biases aside, Andrew McCutchen lead NL rookies in WAR, showed power, speed, got on base, and played center field. He makes the top three. Of the three pitchers, Hanson, Happ, and Wells finished with almost identical ERA+ (146 for Happ, 144 for Hanson, 143 for Wells) and it’s not easy to separate them. Hanson was spectacular; 8.2 K/9 as a 22-year old rookie is amazing and his 1.183 WHIP leads the group. He only threw 127 2/3 innings, though, so I’m inclined to leave him off the ballot. Happ and Wells threw a similar amount of innings (166 for Happ, 165 1/3 for Wells), while Happ had a slightly better strikeout rate and Wells had a better walk rate. Both guys probably pitched a little over their heads, but the advanced metrics say Wells was better; his WAR is 3.0 compared to Happ’s 1.8 and his xFIP is 4.28 compard to Happ’s 4.58. Wells got more ground balls, pitched more innings as a starter, and pitching out of Wrigley negates any advantage Happ might’ve had pitching in Citizen’s Bell. Wells makes the ballot, too.

The last spot, for me, comes down to the position players. Hanson’s inning count and Happ’s time in the bullpen leave them out, so we’re down to Rasmus, Coghlan, Jones, and McGhee. Rasmus played great in center field (UZR of 10.2), but was not so great at the plate, hitting .251/.307/.407. He showed some flashes, but wasn’t consistent at all. Coglhan was awesome at the plate, but a butcher with the glove as he learned left field, hitting .321/.390/.460 but going -9.7 in 123 games in left field. McGhee has a similar story to Coghlan, .301/.360/.499 but -7.1 at third base, where he spent most of the year. Jones was spectacular hitting .293/.374/.567 with 21 homers in just 82 games without being a real butcher anywhere in the field, but that just 82 games part weighs heavily against him the way Hanson’s low inning count hurts him. For me, this one comes down to Coghlan and Jones and Coghlan gets the vote because of playing time and because I’m like that Little League coach that’s harder on his own kid (that’s a warning to you, FutureSon).

And now, I’m agonizing. I’m going to put Coghlan second, you see, and if it was so close between him and Jones, shouldn’t Jones be third? And if I’m putting McCutchen first (which I am, oops, there goes the drama) and he only played 108 games, then why am I punishing Hanson and Jones, who had the most impressive stat lines, albeit in shorter seasons? But no, I’ve reasoned my way down, and I’m sticking with the ballot I’ve justified to myself. Wells, the best rookie pitcher this year once all things are considered, goes third. Coghlan, who had a great season at the plate and who I’m not punishing as much for his defense because he’s never played outfield before this year, goes second. And McCutchen, who did everything well and nothing poorly, who hit .286/.365/.471 with 12 homers and 22 stolen bases and who had a nearly even UZR (-0.8) while playing in PNC, with it’s giant left-center gap, goes first.

So here’s my ballot, which comes with one plea: Dear BBA, let’s expand the ballot next year.

1. Andrew McCutchen, CF, Pirates
2. Chris Coghlan, LF, Marlins
3. Randy Wells, SP, Cubs

Pat Lackey

About Pat Lackey

In 2005, I started a WHYGAVS instead of working on organic chemistry homework. Many years later, I've written about baseball and the Pirates for a number of sites all across the internet, but WHYGAVS is still my home. I still haven't finished that O-Chem homework, though.