Tuesday, October 07, 2008

IBA Ballot: Rookie of the Year

Presented below is my ballot (and some justification) for one of the categories in the Internet Baseball Awards hosted at Baseball Prospectus. I’m just one person, and the whole point of having a vote like the IBA is to get a wide variety of (intelligent) perspectives, and so I will not feel in the list bit slighted if you don’t give a flip about this.

In the American League, it should not be much of a debate. Evan Longoria led all AL rookies with +37 RAR. He did this while being limited to 122 games because of injury and early season promotion shenanigans, hitting in the middle of the order for a playoff team, and playing solid defense.

One other position player makes my ballot: Mike Aviles of the Royals. His long-term prospects are not great as he is 27 and hit .325 with a .198 secondary average, but based on this year’s performance, he was +32 RAR.

The rest of my ballot is filled with pitchers, who seem to be often overlooked in ROY discussions (seriously, Alexei Ramirez over these guys?). Brad Ziegler had a great start to his big league career and then started losing steam in September. Regardless, in 59 innings he compiled some eye-popping numbers, like a .99 RRA and a 1.08 ERA. It will be interesting to see how he fares going forward, with his low %H as a warning flag but his extreme groundball, underhand style perhaps marking a pitcher who will be better than his peripherals.

Ultimately, though, second place on my ballot comes down to Armando Galarraga and Joba Chamberlain. Galarraga pitched 178 innings with a 4.18 RA, +36 RAR, but his .246 %H leads to a dRA (the DIPS, BsR-based stat I’m using) of 5.42. Chamberlain pitched just 100 innings, but they were brilliant, with a 2.78 RRA, +28 RAR, and supporting peripherals.

This is a case where the binary pools of starter and reliever that I force pitchers into can be misleading. I use a replacement level of 111% for relievers and 125% for starters, and Joba’s +28 is versus a reliever. However, he pitched 65 innings as a starter and 35 as a reliever (12 appearances as a starter, 30 as a reliever). If I use the weighted average of the corresponding replacement levels (120%), Joba moves up to +33, just three runs behind Galarraga. I think the wide gap in peripherals plus the higher leverage situation Chamberlain faced as a reliever justify bumping ahead. And so this is how I see it:

1) 3B Evan Longoria, TB
2) P Joba Chamberlain, NYA
3) SP Armando Galarraga, DET
4) SS Mike Aviles, KC
5) RP Brad Ziegler, OAK

In the NL, the choice is even clearer. Geovany Soto was a full-time catcher, hitting .280/.359/.494 and, to the extent that you value it, catching for the NL’s top defensive team (the Cubs led at 4.01 RA/G). At +44, he is ten runs in front of the next rookie in RAR, and should be one of the easier award choices in 2008.

Behind him, Joey Votto had a very good rookie season in Cincinnati, creating 92 runs for +34 RAR. The next position player in the RAR ranking was my pre-season choice for NL ROY, Soto’s teammate Kosuke Fukudome. Obviously, he will be getting no votes from the writers, and with his final tally of +15 RAR and -5 RAA, he doesn’t deserve to.

That leaves pitchers to fill out the rest of the ballot. The Tigers may have found a good rookie pitcher in Galarraga, but they also cast one away last winter in the Renteria trade: Jair Jurrjens, a very solid +32 for the Braves. Hiroki Kuroda was +29 and John Lannan +27. Given Lannan’s 5.17 dRA, I don’t see any reason to change the order at all, and so my NL ballot looks like this:

1) C Geovany Soto, CHN
2) 1B Joey Votto, CIN
3) SP Jair Jurrjens, ATL
4) SP Hiroki Kuroda, LA
5) SP John Lannan, WAS

NOTE: This year the IBA limited ROY ballots to three players. I realize that this is how the actual vote is conducted, but I seem to recall that they [IBA] carried it out to five places in the past. Anyway, you got some bonus prattling as a result of my ignorance of this.


  1. Armando Galarraga.

  2. Indeed. Andres was one of my least favorite players, but that's a weak excuse.



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