Monday, November 05, 2012

IBA Ballot: Rookie of the Year

Over the next few weeks I'll be posting the ballots I cast (with some explanation) for the Internet Baseball Awards sponsored by Baseball Prospectus (and held in memory of the late Greg Spira).

The American League Rookie of the Year race is not particularly interesting to discuss. It wouldn’t even be that interesting to discuss if it was a vote for Rookie of the Decade. If it was Rookie of the Century, that might be a fun debate. There’s no hyperbole here--Mike Trout was that good.

The down ballot for any award is always a lot less interesting than who you choose for the top spot, but when you are engaging in a vote with a group of people, it’s important to still take it seriously in order to preserve the integrity of the vote (of course, the IBAs are voted on by a large enough pool that you can safely assume your vote will have no impact on the outcome…sort of like another vote in the news). In theory, though, your fifth place vote can help determine who ends up winning.

But that nagging sense of responsibility is not strong enough to stand up to a slam dunk vote. Trout will be ROY, and no one really cares about who finishes second or third in the ROY vote, as opposed to the MVP where there is mild interest.

I believe that I have deviated a bit from the consensus by slotting Jarrod Parker second. Parker pitched just ten fewer innings than Yu Darvish, and he leads him in RRA 3.51 to 4.16, resulting in 11 more RAR (44 to 33). Darvish does perform better in eRA and dRA, but my primary consideration for pitchers is their actual runs allowed rate. Parker and Darvish look much closer in terms of RA than RRA (Parker’s lead is 3.50 to 3.91), but Darvish received the best bullpen support of any AL starter. He bequeathed 25 runners, but only 2 scored, five and a half fewer than one would expect. Parker was on the poor support side with 7 of his 18 bequeathed runners scoring (2 more than expected).

The only other position player in the mix (Jarrod Dyson ranked second in RAR among AL hitters) is Parker’s teammate Yoenis Cespedes. Cespedes had a fine season with 36 RAR, but the fielding and baserunning numbers don’t suggest a big shift, and so he only comes out as the A’s second-best rookie.

The final spot on the ballot comes down to a gaggle of solid starters--Scott Diamond, Tommy Milone, Miguel Gonzalez, Wei-Yin Chen, Jose Quintana, Hishashi Iwakuma, Matt Moore, AJ Griffin. There’s little to distinguish these guys in terms of 2012 performance; Diamond leads them in RAR with 32 and I don’t see a compelling reason to pick one of the others instead. I don’t think much of Diamond’s long-term prospects thanks to his poor strikeout rate (4.8), but he had a nice little season in 2012:

1. CF Mike Trout, LAA
2. SP Jarrod Parker, OAK
3. LF Yoenis Cespedes, OAK
4. SP Yu Darvish, TEX
5. SP Scott Diamond, MIN

The NL race is competitive, although if you insert any sort of future projection/historical significance/age factor into your thinking, it becomes a runaway as well. I don’t though; I attempt to make an honest evaluation of each player’s value for the season in question and use that as the criteria for my ROY ballot. I might allow those considerations to seep in if it’s a virtual tie and one player clearly has the edge in the other factors.

During the summer, as Todd Frazier surged and Bryce Harper tailed off, it appeared as if Frazier might pass Harper as the NL’s top rookie hitter. But Frazier got inconsistent playing time in September and Harper blew by him with a 39 to 28 lead in RAR. Norichika Aoki (27), Yonder Alonso (26), and Wilin Rosario (25) were in the mix as well. However, Rosario’s fielding appears to have been dreadful behind the plate, and it’s tough to move Alonso up on the basis of fielding and baserunning. Aoki versus Frazier is closer; Frazier’s RAR figure treats him as a full-time third baseman, but he played about a third of his games on the other corners. In the end, I kept Frazier ahead, but you can certainly argue the other way.

Wade Miley is Harper’s closest competitor, compiling 40 RAR in 195 innings. His peripherals (3.73 eRA, 3.72 dRA) were a little less impressive but by no means out of line with his 3.35 RRA. Harper’s 39 RAR don’t give him any credit for fielding or baserunning, though, and most metrics indicate that some is due to him. I think that you can make this case without letting age seep in.

The last spot on my ballot went to Lucas Harrell over Mike Fiers. Both are 27 year old starters; Fiers had a lower RRA (4.02 to 4.19) and a big advantage in dRA (3.61 to 4.31) thanks to his .329 %H, but Harrell’s 66 additional innings carry the day:

1. CF Bryce Harper, WAS
2. SP Wade Miley, ARI
3. 3B Todd Frazier, CIN
4. RF Norichika Aoki, MIL
5. SP Lucas Harrell, HOU


  1. I've voted in the IBAs three years running, and I think the first two categories (Rookie and Manager of the Year) are far and away the most difficult. In the AL, I had Trout, Cespedes, Darvish, Moore, and Will Middlebrooks. I thought about "those A's pitchers," but, if I'm being honest, the fact that there was this whole gaggle of them made it a little intimidating, so I went with these other five.
    In the NL, I went Harper-Miley as 1-2, as well. I had Aoki third, and then I had another Brewer (Martin Maldonado) fourth. Then, while you had Frazier as a Red, I, too, included a Red. But I included Zack Cozart. To me, nothing meaningfully separated Frazier and Cozart, and I just went with the "other one." Mike Fiers and Lucas Harrell were also considered.
    Honestly, though, I find the down-ballot voting for MVP and Cy Young (which are hard enough) to be easier than Rookie and Manager. The former is difficult because it's guys you've never heard of, often not playing full seasons. The latter is difficult because, what do you judge them on?
    Anyway, looking forward to the rest of the series.

  2. My approach is based largely on runs above replacement, so I definitely tend to favor full season players, even if they don't play particularly well. Someone like Maldonado with around 250 PA is not going to fair well by that approach.

    I no longer vote for Manager, because I have no idea how to evaluate managers. I think if you look at this blog's archives, the last time I voted for Manager was in 2005, and I simply voted by which teams exceeded my pre-season expectations by the most, which is really an unsatisfactory method. So I've skipped it since.


I reserve the right to reject any comment for any reason.