Monday, October 02, 2006

Rookies of the Year

With the regular season over, it's time to look at awards. Well, maybe not, but I feel like it. So the rest of this week, I'll make myself write about all the awards and the postseason. Today we start with the most meaningless: rookie of the year.

In the AL, it's all about pitching. Kenji Johjima had a great introduction to American baseball, but he is a distant fifth to the four pitchers: Francisco Liriano, Jonathan Papelbon, Justin Verlander and Jered Weaver.

Liriano: 121 IP, 2.16 ERA, 89 H, 144 K, 32 BB, 9 HR, 50.5 VORP
Papelbon: 68.1 IP, 0.92 ERA, 40 H, 75 K, 13 BB, 3 HR, 38.2 VORP
Verlander: 186 IP, 3.63 ERA, 187 H, 124 K, 60 BB, 21 HR, 46.2 VORP
Weaver: 123 IP, 2.56 ERA, 94 H, 105 K, 33 BB, 15 HR, 46.1 VORP

Verlander's numbers look downright pedestrian in comparison to the others. He was very good, to be sure, but something less than dominant. Verlander also had the benefit of pitching in a great pitcher's park with the best defense in the league behind him. A lot of his low ERA can be attributed to Brandon Inge & Co.

Choosing between Liriano and Weaver is easy. In almost the same number of innings, Liriano has a lower ERA, more strikeouts, fewer hits, fewer walks, and fewer home runs. There's no debate here.

Papelbon makes things interesting. He was lights-out as a closer this year; as dominant as anyone. The essential question is, does the added importance of a closer push him ahead of Liriano? It's a matter of taste, but I say no. So, my ballot would be:

1. Liriano
2. Papelbon
3. Weaver
Meanwhile, over in the NL...

There were some fine rookie pitchers in the 4-A league. Matt Cain, Josh Johnson, Clay Hensley, Anibal Sanchez, etc. But I think the top 3 rookies were all position players: Hanley Ramirez, Dan Uggla and Ryan Zimmerman.

Ramirez: .292/.353/.480, 51 SB, 15 CS, 55.9 VORP
Uggla: .282/.339/.480, 6 SB, 6 CS, 40.0 VORP
Zimmerman: .287/.351/.471, 11 SB, 8 CS, 28.3 VORP

That seems pretty open-and-shut, no? They all have similar numbers at the plate, so they get ranked by position: SS, then 2B, then 3B. Ramirez also gets a big boost from his work on the basepaths.

Of course, things can't be that simple. Defense counts and Zimmerman has it in spades. He's arguably the NL's top third baseman (though I'm sure Rolen will get the hardware again) and clearly the class of the rookies with the leather. There isn't a doubt in my mind that his defense is good enough to vault him past Uggla and near Ramirez.

With their numbers being near identical, the debate is really what's more valuable: a below-average defensive shortstop with oodles of stolen bases, or a great defensive third baseman?

That VORP difference is huge, but I have to go with the glove on this one. Zimmerman is so far superior in the field that no amount of stolen bases can overcome it. So, we have:

1. Zimmerman
2. Ramirez
3. Uggla

Tomorrow: playoff preview and predictions.


Jeteupthemiddle said...

I don't know, I think Verlander gets a huge edge over Liriano and Papelbon because the number of innings.

50 IP sounds fairly significant.

I know that Liriano started the year in the bullpen, but he also got hurt...maybe if he was a starter he gets hurt earlier?

My AL ROY ballot would be Verlander, Liriano, Weaver, and Papelbon. (I was shocked to see Weaver threw so many innings. Apparently I don't pay enough attention to the left coast).

Anthony said...

I'm just of the opinion that if you put Verlander in an average park with an average defense, his ERA is double Liriano's. That outweighs the extra innings, in my opinion.

Verlander will most likely win it though. He's not a terrible choice.

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