Wednesday, October 12, 2011

2011 BBA National League Rookie of the Year

This year, the National League saw a number of rookies make significant contributions to their teams.  The playoff teams alone saw huge contributions from players such as John Mayberry, Jr. (15/49/8/.273, 133 w/RC), Allen Craig (11/40/5/.315, 158 w/RC), Danny Espinosa (21/66/17/.236, 104 w/RC), and Josh Collmenter (10 wins, 3.38 ERA, 2.2 WAR).  Brandon Beachy, Cory Luebke and Wilson Ramos also had impressive rookie seasons and give their teams, and fantasy owners, something to look forward to next year.  Three rookie seasons, however, stand out in my mind.

When this year is remembered in Braves history, it will unfortunately be for a couple of blown saves in the last week of the season, including a painful one on the last day of the year, which kept the Braves out of the playoffs (and essentially got the Phillies eliminated from the NLDS by the Cardinals).  It should, however, be remembered for the emergence of Craig Kimbrel.  Kimbrel’s 79 appearances and 77 innings pitched led the National League.  Kimbrel’s 46 saves led the league as well, and set a new record for rookie saves.  His 3.2 WAR is tops among rookie pitchers and second among all National League rookies.  Kimbrel pitched in 38 consecutive games without giving up an earned run.  His 14.84 strikeouts per nine innings were second only to Kenley Jansen.  Quite a season from Kimbrel; query where the Braves would have been without him (taking nothing away, of course, from Venters).

Speaking of the Braves, Freddie Freeman appeared at the plate 635 times…quite a bonus for both the Braves and for fantasy owners.  Freeman posted a 21/76/4/.282 line, with a 118 w/RC and a 1.0 WAR (per Fangraphs, and diminished due to his horrific fielding WAR under Fangraphs’ rating system).  Really key to the season Freeman’s durability and consistency; 157 games played is rare for a rookie.  His BABIP of .339 suggests the average should have been higher, but he did post a 23% line-drive rate to support it.

When the season began, the Phillies expected to have Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, Roy Oswalt and Joe Blanton as their starters.  A couple of months and a couple of injuries later, however, and Vance Worley found himself entrenched amongst the aces.  Worley finished with an 11-3 record, with a 3.02 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, .230 average against and 2.5 WAR, second among National League starters behind Brandon Beachy.  Worley posted an xFIP of 3.66 which bodes well for next year; he is not an ace, but on the Phillies, he does not need to be.  His impact on the Phillies during a tough stretch while Oswalt was away from the team due to personal matters and then injury was significant.

Kimbrel is a run-away winner here.  The numbers speak for themselves, and they speak loudly.  The Braves are likely nowhere near the playoffs without him, and he accomplished things no rookie closer has done before.  As for Freeman and Worley, well, this is a close race, but, in the end, it is difficult to ignore Worley's 2.5 WAR in 125 innings and the fact that he outpitched Roy Oswalt all season long (painfully discovered in Game 4 of the playoffs).

The Vote: 1) Craig Kimbrel 2) Vance Worley 3) Freddie Freeman.

1 comment:

Toz said...

In case you missed it, the official BBA voting went as follows: Kimbrel (65), Freeman (35), Espinosa (17), Worley (10), Ramos (5).

Kimbrel appeared to me to be a no-brainer, but the Espinosa over Worley aspect is what caught my interest (along with the entire American League vote): despite the advanced metrics available to us now, the "traditional numbers" still hold a great deal of sway.

If I had a vote in the AL, I would have been tempted to use it on Lawrie...he is penalized for his minimal plate appearances, but, wow, those numbers are eye-popping.