Why Chris Coghlan?

Yesterday, major league baseball announced the results of the Rookie of the Year balloting in both leagues. Neither of my top picks won, but the American League results closely mirrored my own thinking. Andrew Bailey won, and I had him in second. Elvis Andrus finished second, and I wanted him to win. Rick Porcello finished third both times. National League voters, though, differed wildly from my ideas. Why? What different measures were we looking at?

My preferred candidate for the NL ROY, Andrew McCutchen, finished fourth. My second pick, Garrett Jones, finished seventh. My third pick, J.A. Happ, came in second. My honorable mention, Tommy Hanson, came in third. Let me start with Happ and Hanson. I help Hanson back solely because of the small portion of the year he played. Clearly NL ROY voters did not hold that against him. Happ finished closely enough to where I placed him to make explanation rather trivial. But why the differences on Coghlan, McCutchen, and Jones?

McCutchen’s value is primarily seen in sabermetric statistics. He led all National League rookies in WAR at 3.4. Coghlan trailed at 2.3. Coghlan played a horrific left field, with a UZR of -14.5. McCutchen was better in the more difficult center field, at -1.0. They had similar wOBA, Coghlan .372 to McCuthen’s .369. But these numbers don’t drive ROY votes. Coghlan had a .321 batting average; McCutchen’s was a mere .281. Coghlan played 128 games to McCutchen’s 108. Coghlan also played on the more competitive team, as Florida stayed in the wild card race into September while Pittsburgh did their annual mid-season fire sale. Garrett Jones only played 82 games, and nobody noticed that he led NL rookies in wOBA at .396 or that he totaled 2.6 WAR, 0.3 more than Coghlan. Surprisingly, Jones’ 21 home runs were overlooked.

If you want to predict award results, focus on the more traditional stats. Coghlan was not a bad pick, but I worry about the primary focus on batting average as the key to determining who deserves an award. The measure I am most sympathetic to that supports Coghlan is his vast superiority in games played. I must say, though, that it seems odd to support Coghlan, because of how much of the season he participated in, and on the same ballot support the brief season of Tommy Hanson. Such are the vagaries of baseball writers.

What about you? Surprised? What, if any, conclusions should draw from these results?

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