The Pirates and Awards Voting

This afternoon, the National League Rookie of the Year Award was announced. As expected, Buster Posey won easily. As expected, Jason Heyward finished second by a wide margin. Unexpectedly, both Posey and Heyward were left off of one ballot apiece. As it turns out, the ballot that Heyward was left off of was Dejan Kovacevic’s and he was left off because DK placed Neil Walker second and Jose Tabata third on his ballot. 

As you can probably imagine, DK’s been taking a ton of flack from all sides for putting two Pirates ahead of Heyward. That’s certainly justified: I can’t think of any objective way to say either one was better than Heyward and when I did my own BBA ballot for Rookie of the Year I didn’t put Walker or Tabata on it. Kovacevic, though, has been gamely defending himself on his Twitter account and his overall point can be summed up thusly: 

Feeling always has been with voting that broadest variety of perspectives bring best results. Few can argue final overall tally, I’d think.

Reading some more of his posts, I boil that down to basically mean that Heyward wasn’t going to catch Posey and Tabata and Walker were certainly among the five or ten best rookies in the NL and if he didn’t vote for them, no one else would. Since his votes were the only votes cast for Tabata and Walker, he was right about that. I’m still not entirely sure if I agree with the votes, Kovacevic certainly has a point that playing in Pittsburgh is a great way for deserving players to get ignored by the national media. Let’s do a thinly veiled blind player test. 

Player A rookie season: .286/.365/.471 with 12 homers, 26 doubles, 9 triples, and 22 stolen bases in 27 attempts over 108 games

Player B rookie season: .305/.357/.505 with 18 homers, 23 doubles, 2 triples, and 0 stolen bases in 2 attempts over 108 games

Player B is Buster Posey, who won this year’s NL Rookie of the Year Award going away over Jason Heyward, who had similar rate stats (a higher OBP but a lower slugging percentage) over about 35 more games. Player A is Andrew McCutchen, who finished fourth in last year’s voting behind Chris Coghlan, JA Happ, and Tommy Hanson, with the ostensible reason being that McCutchen played in only 108 games and therefore didn’t deserve the consideration that Coghlan (slightly better OBP thanks to a high batting average but almost an identical OPS+ and slightly better counting stat thanks to a 20-game head start on the season), Happ (not really that good but spent the whole year in a good team’s rotation), or Hanson (not that many starts, but a big-time prospect, pitched for a team not located in Pittsburgh). 

Maybe McCutchen deserved to win Rookie of the Year last year and maybe he didn’t (I think he did; he and Coghlan were more or less the same at the plate and Coghlan was a defensive disaster at second base in left field), but that’s not really the point here. The point is that he had a great rookie year that was very similar to the ones Posey and Heyward had that made them the runaway favorites this year and there was no moral outrage from anyone other than people like me that he finished fourth and was left off of about half of the ballots. Meanwhile, you’d think it was the end of the world that Heyward and Posey were left off of one ballot each. But of course the Pirates are the Pirates and they didn’t make a playoff run and no one on the national stage ever even thinks once about them unless something happens to disrupt the larger overall narrative the way Kovacevic’s vote did today. Many of the people that are accusing Kovacevic of being biased in his voting are likely people that skimmed over McCutchen last year because of their own biases. 

I’ll reiterate that don’t know if I agree with DK’s logic in casting his vote (Digression: He’d never admit to it being a message vote, but I think that it was and while I understand the purpose of it I also kind of feel like that kind of voting is using two wrongs to make a right. I think that the best solution here is just to expand the ballots to five players instead of just three, because three is a very short ballot that makes it easy to overlook players) or I if I would’ve done the same thing if I had a ballot, but I’m happy he did it. I watched Jose Tabata as much as anyone this year and the kid blew me away. He’s got amazing bat control for a 21-year old and he’s got unreal instincts and he plays the game at a different speed than just about anyone other than the guy he shares the outfield with. No one knows it except for Pirate fans right now, but I really do think he might turn out to be something special. And Neil Walker came up to Pittsburgh and learned a new position and still knocked the crap out of the ball consistently for just as many games as Posey did in San Francisco. These guys had great rookie years and deserve to be recognized for them if only in a small way. It makes me sad and angry that they’ve been consigned to footnotes in a debate about bias and the voting process. 

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.