Tuesday, October 11, 2011

2011 BBA American League Rookie of the Year

Last year, the pool for A.L. Rookie of the Year was rather thin. This year, there are a lot of good choices...but no clear-cut favorite.

2011 A.L. Rookies (sorted by Fangraphs WAR)

Alexi Ogando
Michael Pineda
Dustin Ackley

Brett Lawrie

Ivan Nova
Zach Britton
Desmond Jennings
Mark Trumbo
Greg Holland

Ben Revere

Jemile Weeks

In 2010, only three players cracked a 2.0 fWAR: Austin Jackson (4.1), Danny Valencia (2.7), and John Jaso (2.7).

The crowded field makes this vote hard for a number of reasons. Without a standout candidate, it's tempting to lean more on traditional stats and go with someone like Eric Hosmer, Mark Trumbo or Jeremy Hellickson. That would be the wrong call.

Hosmer (523 AB, 19 HR, 78 RBI, 11 SB, .293 BA) was solid, and perhaps should get brownie points for doing what he did as a 21-year-old. But his defense was subpar while his OBP was nothing special. He put in a solid season, but others were more deserving.

Trumbo (539, 29, 87, 9, .254) is even more problematic. Those HR/RBI sure look pretty, don't they? But that 291 OBP is an eyesore. If Trumbo had played for a weaker team and had 10-15 fewer RBI, I don't think he'd have as much support as he does, even with those 29 dingers.

While there are a lot of good hitters who are higher up on the charts, all are penalized for not playing for a full season. Lawrie was great when he played, but I'd have a hard time handing the ROY to someone with 171 plate appearances. Jennings (287) and Ackley (376) have the same problem to a lesser degree. To win the hardware with fewer AB or innings pitched, you have to be so far ahead of the rest of the field that it's academic.

That leaves the pitchers at the top of the fWAR charts and Hellickson.

Hellickson 13-10, 189 IP, 117 K, 72 BB, 21 HR, 2.95 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 4.72 xFIP
Pineda 9-10, 171 IP, 173 K, 55 BB, 18 HR, 3.74 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 3.53 xFIP
Ogando 13-8, 169 IP, 126 K, 43 BB, 16 HR, 3.51 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 3.94 xFIP
Nova 16-4, 165 1/3 IP, 98 K, 57 BB, 13 HR, 3.70 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 4.16 xFIP

Hellickson has the prettiest ERA, but his xFIP tells an entirely different story. I suspect if he weren’t on the Rays, everyone would be screaming about how he’s a regression candidate like they did about J.A. Happ in 2009.

That leaves Ogando, Pineda and Nova. It's pretty close between these three pitchers, but I'm inclined to give Ogando to edge for pitching in an extremely tough park for a team in contention. Nova gets some credit for this as well, while Pineda gets dinged for both the park and the lack of meaningful games. These types of mental gymnastics are worthless when it's not that close, but with Pineda, Ogando and Nova it's very close and I like these pitchers in this order for the A.L. Rookie of the Year:


Eugene Freedman said...

This is the first time I've seen Ogando listed as a rookie. He didn't have the IP to loose his rookie quals last year, but he may have hit the service time minimum. Not sure.

And, where's Hosmer on that chart? Did his dWAR drag him down that much?

blue8505 said...

Thats the problem with using geek stats alone without common sense. If you had actually watched Eric Hosmer play defense you would see why SCOUTS says he will win the gold glove multiple times. He is a stud with the leather. Also, he is very good at many categories across the board.

JEM1776 said...

Just a saber query: shouldn't you be using FIP instead of xFIP? xFIP is the windshield of the car as we gaze at the future, i.e. the 2012 season, while xFIP is our rear view window looking at what actually happened in 2011. We're deciding about what actually happened in 2011, not what should happen in 2012.
Speaking of next season, the real problem is not knowing each hurler's rate of regression or progression toward xFIP?

Toz said...

I always enjoy reading The Hardball Times' definitions. Fielding Independent Pitching, a measure of all those things for which a pitcher is specifically responsible. The formula is (HR*13+(BB+HBP-IBB)*3-K*2)/IP, plus a league-specific factor (usually around 3.2) to round out the number to an equivalent ERA number. FIP helps you understand how well a pitcher pitched, regardless of how well his fielders fielded. FIP was invented by Tangotiger.

Expected Fielding Independent Pitching. This is an experimental stat that adjusts FIP and "normalizes" the home run component. Research has shown that home runs allowed are pretty much a function of flyballs allowed and home park, so xFIP is based on the average number of home runs allowed per outfield fly. Theoretically, this should be a better predicter of a pitcher's future ERA.

I don't know if I subscribe to the windshield analogy, though I do appreciate it (I'm not sure I've read it before). I actually prefer xFIP, since it does the home run normalization as part of the formula. Otherwise, I would be doing it manually just looking at FIP and looking to see if it is outside career norms for that particular pitcher.