Rookie of the year awards are always difficult to project. Voters have very different ideas about what makes a player a candidate for the award. Do you vote for the player who played the best, even if they didn’t play very much, or do you vote for a player who was consistently good (if not great) over a full season?
In the National League, that’s the conundrum we find ourselves in. There are three deserving candidates, one of which played outstanding ball for one month and two of which played great ball for five months. So who gets the vote?
Let’s break it down one player at a time. First, let’s start with the player who played outstanding ball, even if just for one month: San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey. Take a look at these numbers:
(This chart leaves out the month of May, when he only had 12 plate appearances.)
A batting average of .329, even if only over three months, has to catch your eye, but what really pops out at me is the .417 batting average and the incredible 1.165 OPS in July. Posey took one month to acclimate to the majors playing outfield for the Giants, but when he made the switch to catcher in July, he absolutely tore apart the league. Impressive, except that he took a nosedive in August, falling back to a line of .274/.324/.421. Not bad, clearly, but not especially remarkable, either.
So I got to wondering – what would Posey’s stats look like if we ignored that scorching hot month of July? Wouldn’t that give us a better idea of what kind of player we’re dealing with? Here’s what I found:
Suddenly, those numbers aren’t quite as impressive. Certainly there’s a lot to be excited about with Buster Posey. As a die-hard Rockies fan, I look forward to hating him for years to come. But I’m just not convinced that anyone deserves a Rookie of the Year award for just one outstanding month of ball. In my mind, there’s already an award for that – Player of the Month.
(Oh my goodness! You mean he already won that award in July? Gasp! Shock! )
At first glance, Heyward’s numbers are pretty similar to Posey’s, but with one major exception: instead of having one tremendous month, Heyward had four solid months and one terrible one. After struggling through most of June, Heyward landed on the DL with a strained ligament in his thumb. Once he came back, he resumed his assault on the NL East, helping the Braves cruise to the division lead.
So let’s do the same thing we did with Buster Posey. How would Heyward’s numbers look if we just removed that one terrible month? Wouldn’t that be more indicative of his talent?
And just like that, we’ve got a pretty impressive player on our hands. That OBP of .413 is especially impressive to me (getting on base 41% of the time? Yikes!), but a batting average of .300 certainly isn’t anything to sneeze at. A quick look at some advanced stats show us that Heyward has an UZR of 8.8, meaning he allows nearly 9 runs fewer than a replacement-level player (for a bit more on UZR, take a look here), and a WAR (wins over replacement) of 3.5. That means he personally was good for an extra 3.5 wins for the Braves, who, considering they lead the Phillies by just two games, have to be pretty thankful.
And yet, somehow, he’s not my pick for Rookie of the Year. Call me crazy, but I think I know someone who has made a bigger impact this season for his team – Cardinals starting pitcher Jaime Garcia. Take a look at the stats he’s put together:
I know hitting stats are sexier than pitching, but still… yikes. During the months when Ubaldo Jimenez was posting a sub-1.00 ERA, Gardia wasn’t too far behind. That 4.50 ERA in June took some of the bloom off the rose, but all Garcia has done this year is quietly rack up win after win as the fourth arm in the rotation.
That’s right. Fourth. There are 20 clubs that would love to have a guy like Garcia anchoring their rotation, but he gets to pitch behind Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright (who we’ll hear more about on Wednesday). And all this as a rookie.
The 12-6 record probably scares a few people off from considering him, but think about this for a second: this season, he’s only had two losses by more than just one run. When the Cardinals lose, it’s certainly not because Garcia let them down.
So it’s a tight race. Personally, I expect Heyward to win the award because he hits a lot of home runs and has been in the spotlight since April. But that doesn’t mean I think he’s the better player.
Then again, maybe I’m just a sucker for pitching.
You can follow Sam on Twitter at @TheRealSamOrme.