Rookie of the year

Summer. Damn. It moves too fast. Seems like just yesterday I was at the SkyDome watching the Jays thump the Twins in the season opener.

But it wasn’t really yesterday. It was long enough ago that now I’m getting emails reminding me (and rightly so, since I often have trouble remembering which day of the week it is) that it’s time to vote on the 2011 Baseball Bloggers Alliance awards.

First up is the Willie Mays Award, which the BBA bestows upon the best rookies in each league.

Ballots for this award use a 5-3-1 point system and for a ballot to count, it must include three names. Since this is a Blue Jays blog, I can only vote for the American League award. So my choices, in ascending order, are as follows:

3. Chris Sale, Chicago White Sox

While not the sexiest of choices, Chris Sale led all American League rookies in WPA this year. For those unfamiliar with the stat, WPA stands for Win Probability Added or, basically, by what percentage did a player add to his team’s chance of winning over the course of the season. A good explanation of the stat can be found here.

Anyway, working out of the bullpen and in only 71 innings pitched, Sale piled up a WPA of 3.53. He also posted an ERA of 2.79 and a FIP (like ERA, but with fielders taken out of the equation as much as possible) of 3.12. Overall, a great year for the Pale Hose rookie.

2. Desmond Jennings, Tampa Bay Rays

The Tampa leftfielder made his first appearance in the Rays’ lineup this year on July 23 and proved he belonged immediately, going 2-for-3 with a double and a triple and drawing two walks in his first game. He’d go on to post a slash line (BA/OBP/SLG) of .259/.356/.805 and give Blue Jays fans further proof that the road back to the playoffs is not going to be an easy one as long as the schedule stays unbalanced.

I mean, really, Tampa may not have any money but, NEWSFLASH, the team’s got some amazing player development going on.

1. Brett Lawrie, Toronto Blue Jays

I fully expect flack for this choice and (probably justified) accusations of homerism but, to my mind, Brett Lawrie is definitely the rookie of the year.

In only 150 at-bats, Lawrie hit nine home runs. He posted a slash line of .293/.373/.580. He showed patience and poise at the plate and an eye that at times seemed to rival that of Jose Bautista.

Now, it would be reasonable to say that, with such a small sample size, there’s a good chance that opposing pitchers would adapt and figure out ways to get him out. Totally possible, but his incredible eye would help to offset that a bit as he seems unlikely to chase after bad pitches and get himself out. There are two more reasons he’s got my vote though:

  • Before his call-up, there were a lot of questions about his defence, but not only did he not look out of place playing third on the SkyDome’s artificial turf, he was downright impressive.
  • While his offensive output may have slowed had he played more, how incredibly productive he was during his stint has to be taken into consideration. Despite only 171 plate appearances, Lawrie’s WAR (wins above replacement) came in at 2.7 — tied for first among non-pitching rookies and that is just insane.


So there you have it, my Wille Mays Award ballot for the rookie of the year. There are many other great rookies this year who could have (and maybe should have) cracked my Top 3, with Eric Hosmer, Michael Pineda, Alexei Ogando and Dustin Ackley chief among them. So who’s your rookie of the year? Let me have it in the comments.

8 thoughts on “Rookie of the year

  1. wow, the fact that you left ivan nova, jermey hellickson, and mark trumbo off your list or even on your honarably mention list, demonstrates a lack of knowledge of the game and its players… and as a Jays fan Arencibia will be more votes than Lawrie,, i apoligize that i did not waist my time reading this article when i scolled down and saw your picks…unbeilable,,,please do more homework befroe wirting these articles!

    • While I admit my choices are not the most common, I did make arguments for each of my choices. It’s unfortunate that you did not “waist” your time to read them before commenting.

      And yes, you’re right that Arencibia will likely receive more votes than Lawrie, but the fact that others are more likely to vote for the catcher is no reason to vote for him.

      • So in all honesty you do think that any of the three you picked will finish ahead of nova, hellickson, or trumbo? you picked a barely above average middle reliever, a outfielder who barely hit over the Mendoza line and a player that barely even qualifies as a rookie this year..though i give props to lawrie being a fine player, he has no chance at ROY. if my three picks are not 1-2-3 (all of which didnt make you honorable mention list) id be surprised, if chris sale gets a single vote, i would also be surprised! hwo do you not include a 16 game winner a guy that through 189 innings with a era below 3, and a guy that put up a 65/29/87 line in your “honorable” mention line if not as top 3? still a little baffled and would like to hear your thinking there! thanks!

        • Your choices will, in all likelihood, be the players that the BBWAA decides to give the most votes to. The point of this post was not to try and guess who might win the award, it was to say who I think the best rookies are/were this year. As such, when I’m evaluating players, I’ll look at stats like WPA and WAR first — as explained in the post.

          As far as wins and RBI go, they don’t enter the equation at all. Both are functions of the team the player is on and not of the player himself. I know that makes me sound like a geek sitting in my mom’s basement as I type this, but I assure you I’m not.

          Another way to put it: If you’re building a team for the future and you can have one of either Mark Trumbo or Brett Lawrie to build around, which player are you choosing?

  2. Pingback: Kimbrel, Hosmer, Hellickson Selected As Top Rookies From BBA « Baseball Bloggers Alliance

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