Rookie of the Year – National League
The Rookie of the Year is probably the least prestigious major award given out by major league baseball. What I mean is this: The Rookie of the Year has very little correlation with future baseball success. The Cy Young and MVP awards, though both have been won by fluke players, are primarily won by the game’s best. The ROY, on the other hand, has been won by a few greats and a lot of nobodies. The writers vote for their top three candidates.
Does it matter who will be the best player long term? No. Writers receive no instruction about projecting future performance into their consideration. This means that extraneous factors like luck should factor into voters’ plans. While a GM may want to pull luck out of a player’s stats in order to project future performance, the Rookie of the Year is based on on-field performance in a single season, regardless of flukiness. Given this preamble, here are my picks for the top three National League rookies:
1. Andrew McCutchen – McCutchen will get the biggest boost from people who factor in future possibilities. He had a wOBA of .368, and a WAR of 3.4, the highest of all NL rookies. While not as good a hitter this season as Jones or Chris Coghlan, he is already an excellent center fielder while the other two are below average left fielders.
2. Garrett Jones – Jones was the best hitter among NL rookies, with a wOBA of .396. His WAR of 2.6 was second among hitters, hurt primarily because he is an awful left fielder/right fielder/first basemen. He is also the most likely inheritor of the mantle of Angel Berroa, Pat Listach, and other players who were good as rookies but never again.
3. J.A. Happ – Led all NL rookie pitchers in innings pitched, strikeouts, wins, complete games, and shutouts. He probably got lucky, as hitters only hit .270 on balls in play, a number normally closer to .300. This hurts his future projection, but it does not make him less valuable this season. .270 is what really happened, not what is likely to happen next year. The vote should revolve around the former, not the latter.
Honorable Mention: Tommy Hanson was probably better than Happ, but I dock him for his lack of innings. Given that the award is for the year, it seems like a pitcher should be involved in more of the year than Hanson was.