With another home run, Eric Hosmer continues his power surge and what looks like a late season run at collecting some hardware… Namely, the Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year Award.
In his last 10 games, Hosmer is hitting .350./430/.730 with five home runs and seven RBI. (Is it strange that he last hit a double on August 16? He hit just three doubles over the entire month.)
Anyway, as The Hos heats up, so inevitably does the talk of him being named the top rookie in the American League. But before we can bestow the accolades, we need to see how he measures among his peers.
To narrow down the candidates for the award, I created a table of the top position players with at least 200 plate appearances. I bolded the numbers that are leading the rookie pool in their respective categories.
One name is missing from this table that is certainly in the discussion – Desmond Jennings. You think the Royals waited too long to call up somebody like Johnny Giavotella? How in the world could the Rays have decided they needed to get Jennings more at bats in Triple-A?
If I’m going to arbitrarily set the cut off at 200 plate appearances for one table, I may as well do another at a similarly arbitrary cutoff of 150 plate appearances. Here’s how that one looks.
Well, that’s no fun. Going back to the first non-Jennings table, it would appear that the race would be run between Ackley and Carp. Ackley has the advantage in the on base department and the True Average, while Carp owns the batting average, slugging and wOBA. Of course, throwing Jennings into the mix simply adds another candidate. Jennings has been flat out awesome since joining the Rays. Had he played a full season at anything close to his current level, he’d be a stone cold lock for the honors.
But that’s the problem. Not only with Jennings’ candidacy, but with Ackley’s and Carp’s as well.
In the last 30 years, only one position player has won the Rookie of the Year award with fewer than 350 plate appearances. Ryan Howard appeared in 88 games for the 2005 Phillies and came to bat 348 times. Ackley will approach that number of plate appearances, while Carp and Jennings will certainly fall short.
I suppose that’s due to the reliance of voters on the old “counting” stats. Home runs and RBI have long been justification for this kind of exercise. And you can’t rack up those bombs and rib-eyes if you don’t play. If that’s the case, the favorite this year has to be Trumbo. His 24 bombs and 73 RBI lead all AL rookies. Ditto for his 58 runs scored. Notice from the table above, he does lead in one category I chose to cite… Plate appearances. Get the connection?
Anyway, the conventional wisdom has Trumbo as the front runner. Disagree. His sub .300 OBP disqualifies him in my mind.
Of course, I’ve ignored pitchers throughout this exercise. That’s because they’re sub-human. (Apologies… I’ve seen far too much of the Royals bullpen this week.)
For voters, three things count when making their selection for the rookie of the year. Saves, Wins and ERA.
I listed saves first, because only two starting pitchers have collected the AL Rookie of the Year since 1976… Justin Verlander and Mark Fidrych. Since then, Gregg Olson (27 saves), Kazuhiro Sasaki (37 saves), Huston Street (23 saves), Andrew Bailey (26 saves), Neftali Feliz (40 saves) have won the award as relievers. In the modern game, it is simply too difficult for starting pitchers to collect enough wins to be considered. This year, two rookies have double-digit wins, with a third one threatening. And there’s that closer lurking…
Ivan Nova – 14 wins, 3.96 ERA
Jeremy Hellickson – 11 wins, 3.01 ERA
Michael Pineda – 9 wins, 3.71 ERA
Jordan Walden – 2.70 ERA, 26 saves
Nova, supported by the Yankee offensive juggurnaut, has only four losses, while both Hellickson and Pineada are both just a game over .500 with their record. I point this out only because of the recent advancements in the sabermetric cause which has led to voters properly devaluing wins when selecting worthy candidates for post season hardware. In the past, voters would have discarded someone with a .500 record. Today, that’s doubtful. Walden doesn’t get consideration from me because I have closer bias and there is plenty to choose from among the candidates previously listed.
If I were ranking only the pitchers, I would place them in inverse order of wins. Pineda has a superior xFIP, strikeout rate and the best walk rate. He’s the cream of the rookie starter crop. (And please, don’t even talk to me about Walden. Rookie relievers should only get consideration if there are literally no other rookies who appeared in the league that year. I’m not kidding.)
So if I’m not going to vote for Trumbo and if voting closed today, (and I had a ballot) I would vote Jennings, Ackley and Carp. In that order. Maybe Pineda. That flies in the face of conventional wisdom (that you have to play a majority of your team’s games) but we need to work on expanding the pool of candidates to find the cream of the crop. Besides, if you play enough to lose your rookie eligibility for the following season, you’ve done enough to earn consideration. (That reasoning is why Brett Lawrie isn’t among my candidates, even though he’s hitting .326/.381/.674. With just 89 at bats, if the season ended today, he would still be considered a rookie in 2011.) Longevity does count though… There’s something about being consistent over more than a couple of months. I’m satisfied with the time Carp and Ackley have played… Jennings will ultimately play less than half a season. I struggle with this, but I think given how he’s outperformed the field, it’s enough. For now.
So where is Hosmer in all of this? He’s close. Fourth or fifth. That’s near enough that a few torrid weeks could catapult him into contention. He’ll need some help, though. The top three will need to experience a bad month. Remember, my ballot is based if the season ended today. It can (and probably will) change. I think the race is so close, the last 25 games (give or take) will be crucial to deciding this vote.
It can be done, though. Hosmer can force his way into the discussion. Ackley had a difficult August and Jennings can’t possibly continue his pace. At least I don’t think he can… He has a .386 BABIP and just a 17% line drive rate. Likewise, Carp has .389 BABIP and Pineda will be shut down after a couple more starts. Fingers crossed, right?
Really, it seems to me you can build an objective argument for any of the contenders. They all have negatives, as well. This could be the zaniest post season award vote we’ve seen in some time. Unfortunately, Nova’s wins, Walden’s saves and Trumbo’s home runs may just carry the day among real voters.
It’s possible Hosmer puts together a sweet September while his rivals falter and storms to the award. That would be ideal. There’s still plenty of baseball to be played…