The second installment in the FanSided end-of-season MLB awards was released Tuesday: Call to the Pen‘s Blaine Blontz compiled the results, and the Royals’ Eric Hosmer and the Braves’ Craig Kimbrel took home the honors. The Rays’ Jeremy Hellickson and the Angels’ Mark Trumbo finished second and third to Hosmer in the AL, while the Braves’ Freddie Freeman and the Nationals’ Danny Espinosa were the top runners up in the NL. For full breakdowns of the voting, I highly recommend checking out Blaine’s posts (AL, NL).
In the past, I’ve been a very outspoken opponent of anonymity for these kinds of awards—getting to vote for the BBWAA is a privilege, not a right, and given that the people who cast their ballots all write about baseball for a living, they should be willing and they should definitely be able to publicly explain and defend their choices. So it’s only fair that I be upfront in revealing and explaining how I cast my ballot.
Before I do, though, I should explain my philosophy for Rookie of the Year voting. I didn’t necessarily choose the players who had the best seasons, as I would for the MVP or Cy Young; instead I weight my choices more evenly between season-long performance and simple quality of play. If two rookies put up roughly equal rate stats but one played 150 games and the other played 50 I go with the former, but I’d take a guy who played like a superstar for 50 games over an average talent who played 150.
1. Dustin Ackley, Mariners. Ackley will be forever known as the man who got picked behind Stephen Strasburg, but two years after being the No. 2 overall draft pick he’s already established himself as a fantastic player. He hit .273/.348/.417 while walking over 10 percent of the time and posting nearly three wins above replacement in 90 games. His rate stats compare favorably with Hosmer and Trumbo while playing a harder position.
2. Brett Lawrie, Blue Jays. If I were to vote again today, I’d put Lawrie at the top of my list. He hit .293/.373/.580 for an insane 163 wRC+ while playing solid defense at third base. In just 43 games, he posted 2.7 fWAR—tied with Ackley for AL rookie position players (in less than half the games). On-pace calculations in situations like this might not have too much predictive power, but it’s still worth noting that, at that rate, he would have accumulated 10.2 fWAR over 162 games.
3. Vinnie Pestano, Indians. This one, I admit, is homerism, but I voted for Pestano because he truly has had a phenomenal rookie season and I figured he wouldn’t get any support from anyone else (I was right: this was the only point he got). In 62 innings for the Tribe this year, he posted a 12.2 K/9 rate. Opposing hitters hit just .184 against him, and his 2.32 ERA and 1.05 WHIP were backed up by a sterling 2.23 SIERA. He’s the Capone of Cleveland’s “Bullpen Mafia.”
A few thoughts on the winners: Since I didn’t pick any of the Top 3 finishers on my ballot, I thought it would be appropriate for me to explain why I snubbed Hosmer, Hellickson, and Trumbo.
Hosmer had a decent rookie campaign, but it wasn’t great by any stretch. His .293/.334/.465 triple-slash put him at 14 percent better than the average MLB hitter (per wRC+), but when you consider that he plays the easiest position on the diamond his value takes a hit (especially since his defense is subpar). FWAR is far from the end-all be-all, but for what it’s worth, Hosmer ranks ninth among AL rookie hitters, behind such notable names as Ben Revere and Craig Gentry.
I left Hellickson off my ballot because his numbers really aren’t that impressive if you look beyond his 2.95 ERA. In 29 starts for the Rays, he struck out just 5.6 K/9 and posted a mediocre 1.6 K/BB ratio while allowing 65 percent of balls hit off of him to come as flies or line drives. His 4.44 FIP, 4.72 xFIP, and 4.78 SIERA suggest some other factors were in play in his success—maybe it wasn’t all luck, but in all likelihood most of the discrepancy was because of factors that are out of Hellickson’s control. ERA said he was 26 percent better than the average pitcher this year; xFIP has him at 16 percent worse.
Trumbo’s problem is similar to Hosmer’s. The 29 homers are very nice, but they make his offensive profile look a lot better than it actually is—he hit just .254, and thanks to his inability to take a walk (4.4-percent BB rate) his OBP was under .300. That’s far from elite production for a first baseman, even though Trumbo’s glove is solid. In addition to Ackley and Lawrie, guys like Desmond Jennings and Jemile Weeks hit at least as Trumbo while playing harder positions.