Monday, October 31, 2011

IBA Ballot: Rookie of the Year

I will admit up front that I have not paid much attention this year to the award debates, either in the mainstream or the sabersphere. This is good in the sense that I am coming into this cold, without having read many other perspectives that might bias me one way or another. It’s also bad for the same reason--while I don’t think I’ve ever found mainstream commentary on player value particularly useful, there are a lot of others out there worth reading.

I simply decided this year that I wasn’t going to waste any time thinking about awards until the season was over. Not that I ever obsessed over them previously, but I pretty much completely shut them out of my mind this year. So much so that when an acquaintance who knows I’m a baseball nut asked me who I thought should be the NL Cy Young winner a couple weeks ago, he was shocked when the best I could offer was “uh, probably either Halladay or Kershaw”.

In any event, let me start in the AL. This rookie crop belongs to the pitchers. My top three candidates are all starting pitchers. Michael Pineda got out the best start, Ivan Nova had the flashiest win-loss record, but Jeremy Hellickson was the AL’s most valuable rookie pitcher. Hellickson led the trio in innings (189 to Pineda’s 171 and Nova’s 165) and RRA (3.24 to 3.81 and 4.10). Combining the two, I have Hellickson at 52 RAR, Pineda 36, and Nova 30.

Hellickson’s BABIP was just .229, so from a strict DIPS perspective one could make a case for Pineda (or even Nova) ahead of Hellickson. But for a retrospective award, I stick to actual runs allowed and first-order component RA for the most part. If Pineda and Hellickson were close, I would consider moving the former ahead, but the gap is too big in this case.

For the remaining two spots on the ballot, the top position players are Dustin Ackley, Eric Hosmer, and Jemile Weeks. Ackley was the most productive hitter of the three, while Hosmer had 130 more PA than either of them. I have Ackley and Weeks both at 23 RAR with Hosmer at 21. Fielding and baserunning would seem to favor Weeks.

Greg Holland deserves a mention at least a mention as a reliever. Holland stranded 31 of 33 baserunners, the second-best performance of any AL reliever, and his peripherals were terrific as well. However, his 26 RAR is thanks in large part to the inherited runner performance, and thanks to Hosmer I wouldn’t be comfortable naming him the most valuable rookie on his own team. So I see it as:

1) SP Jeremy Hellickson, TB
2) SP Michael Pineda, SEA
3) SP Ivan Nova, NYA
4) 2B Jemile Weeks, OAK
5) 2B Dustin Ackley, SEA

You’ll note that I consider Mark Trumbo an afterthought. Yes, he hit 29 homers, but he also drew just 25 walks. His .290 OBA was second-lowest among AL first baseman with 300 PA, so despite the power, he ranks in the middle of the pack offensively at his position. He wouldn’t crack my top ten.

If Trumbo is the biggest source of divergence from my take on the award and the mainstream, his NL counterpart will certainly be Craig Kimbrel. Kimbrel was terrific by any measure, but in the end you have 77 innings pitched. I don’t believe in extreme leverage bonuses--or much of a leverage bonus at all. I’ll give him an arbitrary 25% boost to get to 25 RAR, but no more.

Among position players, the three standouts are Kimbrel’s teammate Freddie Freeman and Washington teammates Wilson Ramos and Danny Espinosa. I have them all essentially even in terms of RAR at 27. BP’s FRAA likes Espinosa’s fielding and baserunning, and that’s enough to put him in the lead. I suspect Freeman will get more support than Ramos, but the two aren’t that far apart as hitters, with Freeman creating 5.3 runs per game and Ramos 5.0. Freeman had nearly 200 more PA, but Ramos is a catcher. Freeman’s fielding reputation is good, but his FRAA was -5. It can go either way, but I prefer Ramos.

Josh Collmenter and Vance Worley were the top starters, with apologies to Cory Luebke, who I could certainly make a ballot case for, but will refrain lest I be accused of favoritism. Collmenter worked 23 more innings than Worley, which puts him 5 RAR ahead (36 to 31). Collmenter did have a BABIP of just .263 to Worley’s .293, but the dRA difference is not large enough (4.06 to 3.72) to convince me to put Worley ahead.

Depending on how you value Espinosa’s fielding, you certainly could conclude that he was more valuable than Collmenter--conservatively, I’ll stick with the later, and so my ballot is:
1) SP Josh Collmenter, ARI
2) 2B Danny Espinosa, WAS
3) SP Vance Worley, PHI
4) C Wilson Ramos, WAS
5) RP Craig Kimbrel, ATL

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