Monday, November 01, 2010

IBA Ballot: Rookie of the Year

Over the next few weeks I'll be posting the ballots I submitted to the Internet Baseball Awards, hosted by Baseball Prospectus. While I think too much is made about the post-season awards in general, I also can't deny that they are fun to discuss. Additionally, they present the opportunity to put theories about how to compare player's performance into action, and thus have the potential to stimulate a lot of interesting research and philosophical discussion that can be applied to more general questions (To be clear, that potential has not been fulfilled here.)

I approach the ROY the same way I do the MVP, except limited to rookies of course. I don't consider age, expected future production, or any related factor. I'm perfectly happy to vote for a 34 year old Japanese reliever if they were one of the five top-performing rookies.

Throughout my award posts, the fielding numbers I use are based on the average of Dewan's Runs Saved and Lichtman's UZR, regressed 50% towards zero; or (RS + UZR)/4. Looking at multiple metrics and regressing does not completely alleviate concerns about fielding metrics, but I would not feel comfortable throwing them out completely.

In the AL, the top position player is Austin Jackson, who I have at 27 RAR. Dewan's system loves his fielding (+21); UZR is not as enthusiastic (+4), but it's enough to push him past Brian Matusz for the top spot on my ballot. Matusz had 29 RAR, while Wade Davis had 30, but Matusz' DIPS/batted ball estimators are stronger, and so that puts him ahead on my ballot.

Neftali Feliz is getting some buzz as a candidate, thanks to his saves. I have seen Andrew Bailey's victory last year cited as a reason to support Feliz, but of course, that's a red herring. The comparison should not be of Feliz to a similar past winner, but of Feliz to this year's crop. Without considering leverage, it's not entirely clear that he deserves to rank ahead of another rookie reliever, Daniel Bard. With Jackson at 33 RAR, one would have to give Feliz a leverage multiplier of 1.57 to get them even. His 1.74 LI would suggest a multiplier of about 1.37, which brings him to 29 RAR, roughly equal to Matusz and Davis. I'm still uncomfortable with ascribing that much weight to LI and boosting a reliever who pitched 69.1 IP over a batter with 398 PA playing a demanding position (John Jaso).

Jaso will probably be overlooked by a lot of people, but a catcher with a .376 OBA is nothing to sneeze at. Danny Valencia played well, but he had nearly 70 fewer PA than Jaso, didn't have a significant offensive rate advantage (5.6 to 5.3 RG), and while it doesn't matter retrospectively, his offensive value was largely BA-driven (.313 BA, .205 SEC). I have it:

1) CF Austin Jackson, DET
2) SP Brian Matusz, BAL
3) SP Wade Davis, TB
4) C John Jaso, TB
5) RP Neftali Feliz, TEX

In the National League, the race comes down to Heyward and Posey, so I'll set them aside for a moment to discuss other candidates. Neil Walker checks in at 31 RAR, but -5 fielding and the possible over-adjustment for second baseman in my RAR methodology knocks him off the ballot. Ike Davis was the best rookie first baseman, as far as I can tell, on the basis of his superior OBA to Gaby Sanchez (.358 to .337) and high fielding marks. Chris Johnson's fielding is estimated at -5, which is enough to knock him out of contention, while Starlin Castro's season is more impressive for his age (20) than his performance (albeit not bad at all, 10 RAA and 23 RAR).

Among pitchers, Jaime Garcia stands out at 35 RAR. He will be somewhat overrated by mainstream analysis as just 77% of his runs allowed were earned, the lowest percentage of any NL starter. A 3.60 RRA is quite respectable, though, and his peripherals are similar. Madison Bumgarner was very good as well, turning in 28 RAR in just 110 IP.

I side with Heyward over Posey, largely on the basis of playing time: Heyward played 142 games and batted 611 times, while Posey played 108 games and batted 436 times. It also is important to note that Posey played 35% of his innings at first, which lowers his RAR to 33 versus Heyward's 42. After making that adjustment, Heyward's RG relative to position is 131 versus Posey's 140, which really cuts into Posey's rate stat advantage. Yes, it would have been nice if Posey had spent the whole season in the majors, but Brian Sabean prevented him from contributing for two months, and thus made this an easier choice for me than it seems to be for many others:

1) RF Jason Heyward, ATL
2) C Buster Posey, SF
3) SP Jaime Garcia, STL
4) 1B Ike Davis, NYN
5) SP Madison Bumgarner, SF

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