Sunday, November 9, 2008

2008 American and National League Rookie of the Year

For some strange reason, the BBWAA decide that the Rookie of the Year awards are the least important of all the post-season awards. Given that the awards are presented together, on the first day of the awards season, rather then on individual days, as is the case with the other player awards.

In any event, the American and National League Rookie of the Year award will be presented tomorrow, and as the first post-season awards post, I will explain how things will play out here.

First, I will re-provide my top 3 candidates for each award (5 for MVP). Recalling back to my 2007 Awards,
When selecting who will win the awards, I take into account several factors. The first, is how a player performs in respect to their position. For the record, I am not going to pick a player who performed at a high level at a brutal position, but wasn't even in the top 5 or 10 in 'win' stats.

The second criteria is 'Win' stats? The Hardball Times owns a stat for this, as does Baseball Prospectus; called Win Shares Above Bench (WSAB) and Value over Replacement Player (VORP) respectively. I will reference these stats in and out of my writings, for the most part, utilizing both.

Next, I will look at exceptional play of a player. A streak, a record, or really something they did on an individual level to lift the team to higher levels. That is not to say a player from a losing team can not win an award, although admittedly, those players are at a slight disadvantage.
In addition to the aforementioned criteria, I will also include fielding, which WSAB touches on. While Adam Everett is not going to get the nod over David Ortiz, it is something to be considered at a certain level.

Another factor to consider, and one I pointed out at the end of the regular season, is a players value relative to his team. To the BBWAA, a player on a playoff caliber team is rewarded because he helped his team get over the hump. But how often is it the play of a single player that pushed a team into the playoffs? How few players are not interchangeable with another at the same position?

I'm thinking specifically of Dustin Pedroia here. Would the Red Sox be that much worse off had Ian Kinsler been their everyday second basemen?

In addition to this, we've all heard the speculation that a players play is affected based on the players around him, how about adding in a winning clubhouse? Or playing in games that matter? Fact is, it's as easy to argue that a player on a playoff caliber team was positively influenced by his surrounding cast as it is to argue that the specific player is the reason the team is as good as it is.

The second aspect of these posts will be to predict who the BBWAA will pick as their award winner. I will provide some evidence, however the majority of the reflection will occur once the awards are provided.

A couple weeks ago, I posted my AL and NL Rookie Picks as a part of a poll held at Baseball Digest Daily. Here is further analysis of those picks:

American League

At first look, Evan Longoria appears to be the clear cut favorite for AL ROY. He hit in the heart of the order for the eventual American League champions. However, upon further inspection, things begin to tighten between he and Mike Aviles.

The major argument supporting Aviles is his production relative to position. That is, Aviles' .833 OPS was over 140 points higher then the American League average production from a short stop. What makes this 140 that much more valuable is the fact that Aviles is arguably the best fielding short stop in the American League.

By comparison, third base is a substantially more productive position, where the AL average OPS is nearly 80 points higher then that of the league's average for shortstop.

Longoria, while not as superior relative to league average, still posted an OPS nearly 120 points higher then American League average. Thus, the -20 points in league average OPS that Longoria provided compared to Aviles is not significant enough to discredit the +40 points in OPS that Longoria holds over Aviles heads up.

While the fielding is still an issue to be considered, that Longoria was superior to Aviles in 3 of 5 win and value categories is reason for me to hand this award to Longoria. The following table provides the categories utilized and where one player outperformed the other:
To me, the Rookie of the Year in the American League is a two horse race. I gave my third place vote to Brad Ziegler. Ziegler's season was nothing short of phenomenal. He took over as the closer in Oakland, and despite having a low strikeout rate, coupled with a brutal strikeout to walk ratio, Ziegler managed to avoid allowing runs.

Despite a legitimate argument existing for Mike Aviles to win the ROY award, it will come as no surprise to me if he isn't even in the American League's top five among the BBWAA. With players such as Jacoby Ellsbury and Alexei Ramirez providing writer friendly statistics, such as home runs, stolen bases, and playing on playoff caliber teams, it isn't difficult to imagine Aviles being left off of many writers ballots.

Considering that two of seven BDD writers left Aviles off of their top three ballot altogether, seeing Aviles on the outside of the top five-while unjustifiable-is something I expect.

Here's how I anticipate the BBWAA writers to screw this thing up:
  1. Evan Longoria - Has all the things voters look for,
  2. Alexei Ramirez - Flashy, and on a playoff team,
  3. Jacoby Ellsbury - Broke team record for steals by a rookie,
  4. Joba Chamberlain - If healthy, could have ran away with this award, and
  5. Denard Span - There actually isn't any rationale for him in the top 7 or 8, so he's a perfect pick for the BBWAA.
With Brad Ziegler, Armando Galarraga, Chris Davis, as well as homer picks such as Ben Francisco, and Justin Masterson, there is a chance that Aviles falls out of the top 10.

National League

By not having a substantial second half swoon, Geovanny Soto made it easy for voters to get this one right. There really is not any other player that a writer could legitimately argue for over Soto, and if a writer did in fact try to, there is an argument for that writer to lose their BBWAA membership.

Where is gets interesting is with the next 2-4 spots. In fact, by having such a solid season, Soto actually ruined what would have been a very exciting NL ROY ballot. With Joey Votto, Jair Jurrjens, Hiroki Kuroda, Kosuke Fukudome, among others, there is not another clear cut next in line.

I decided to put Votto as the second best rookie from the 2008 season in the National League. Admittedly, it is because Votto is Canadian, but statistically, I can back this argument up through utilizing Baseball Prospectus' VORP measure, where Votto puts up a mark of 34.0 to Jurrjens' 33.0. In other words, it is a toss-up.

As I previously mentioned, there are specific stats which the BBWAA prefer. One of those stats, how the players team performed. Because of this, Fukudome and Kuroda will receive an unnecessary amount of votes, however I don't feel they will crack the top 3.

The BBWAA will get this one right and take the following top 5:
  1. Geovanny Soto - No more obvious of a pick league-wide,
  2. Jair Jurrjens - Not missing 'significant' time helps his case,
  3. Joey Votto - If the season was another month or two, he eclipses Soto,
  4. Hiroki Kuroda - Not really a rookie, but the BBWAA has never cared, so why start now? and,
  5. Jay Bruce - A hot start coupled with improvement during the second half, those are stats, right?

As was the case with the Gold Gloves, I will post the actual results as they become public. Reactions and reflections will also be provided, so stay tuned for those.

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