My ballot: American League Rookie of the Year

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Later today the Baseball Writers Association of America will announce their choice for AL Rookie of the Year, but first here’s how my ballot would look:
1. Andrew Bailey, Oakland
2. Elvis Andrus, Texas
3. Jeff Niemann, Tampa Bay
4. Gordon Beckham, Chicago
5. Rick Porcello, Detroit
Honorable mention: Brett Anderson, Ricky Romero, Nolan Reimold, Matt Wieters
I’m not all that keen on giving the award to a reliever, but Andrew Bailey was arguably the best relief pitcher in the entire American League this season. He went 6-3 and converted 26-of-30 saves with a 1.84 ERA and 91/25 K/BB ratio in 83 innings.
Among relievers with at least 60 innings Bailey led the league in opponents’ batting average (.167) and WHIP (0.88) while ranking second in ERA behind only Mariano Rivera. Bailey wasn’t on the field as much as the other top candidates, but he dominated like no other rookie, his 83 innings were the third-most of any AL reliever, and his outings came in higher-leverage situations than the rookie starters.
Gordon Beckham will almost surely get the most votes among position players because his raw offensive numbers are the best, but Elvis Andrus had a more valuable rookie campaign. Beckham hit .270/.347/.460 with seven steals, which made him five percent above average at third base. Andrus hit .267/.329/.373 with 33 steals, which made him almost exactly average at shortstop.
Beckham was slightly better than Andrus relative to their positions, but that edge quickly vanishes when you consider that Andrus had 25 percent more plate appearances and played spectacular defense at shortstop. I’ll take 541 plate appearances of average offense and great defense at an up-the-middle position over 430 plate appearances of slightly above average offense and average defense at a corner spot.
This season featured a high number of rookie starting pitchers making impacts, but Jeff Niemann stood out by going 13-6 with a 3.94 ERA and 125/59 K/BB ratio in 181 innings. Five rookies logged at least 150 innings, and Niemann had the biggest workload and a lower ERA than Ricky Romero, Rick Porcello, Brett Anderson, and Trevor Cahill. Niemann also tied for third in the AL with two complete-game shutouts, behind only Roy Halladay and Zack Greinke.

Bud Norris exits outing with right knee soreness

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Angels’ right-handed reliever Bud Norris made his 23rd appearance of the season on Friday, and after just three pitches, he was done for the night. He worked a 2-1 count to Marlins’ Dee Gordon in the eighth inning, then promptly exited the field after experiencing some tightness in his right knee. Neither Norris nor manager Mike Scioscia believe the injury is cause for major concern, and the 32-year-old right-hander admitted that it may have had something to do with his lack of stretching before he took the mound. For now, he’s day-to-day with right knee soreness, with the hope that the issue doesn’t escalate over the next few days.

While the Angels are lucky to have avoided serious injury, they’ll need Norris to pitch at 100% if they want to stay competitive within the AL West. They currently sit a full nine games behind the league-leading Astros, and haven’t been helping their cause after taking five losses in their last eight games. Friday’s 8-5 finale marked their third consecutive loss of the week.

 

When healthy, Norris has been one of the better arms in the Angels’ bullpen. Through 23 2/3 innings, he’s pitched to a 2.66 ERA, 3.4 BB/9 and an outstanding 11.8 SO/9 in 23 outings. The righty hasn’t allowed a single run in four straight appearances, recording three saves and helping the club clinch four wins in that span. This is his second setback of the year after sustaining a partial fingernail tear on his pitching hand during spring training.

Video: Max Scherzer sets record with 13-strikeout outing

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Max Scherzer is a force to be reckoned with. The Nationals’ right-hander delivered a season-high 13 strikeouts against the Padres on Friday, locking down his fifth win and his fourth double-digit strikeout performance of the year.

More remarkably, it was also the 53rd double-digit strikeout performance of Scherzer’s career, tying Clayton Kershaw for the most 10+ strikeout appearances by an active major league pitcher. Chris Sale is a distant third, with 43 to his name, though he’s been making considerable strides to catch up so far this spring.

Scherzer took the Padres to task on Friday night, whiffing 13 of 31 batters during his 108-pitch outing. He started strong, catching Allen Cordoba swinging on a 1-2 count to start the game and keeping the game scoreless until Ryan Schimpf unleashed a home run in the fourth inning. That was the first and final run the Padres managed off of Scherzer, who retired 14 consecutive batters following the blast and came one out shy of a complete game in the ninth inning. (Fittingly, Koda Glover polished off the win with a final strikeout, bringing the total to 14 on the night.)

It’ll take more than one stellar start to advance Scherzer and Kershaw on the all-time list, however. Their 53-game record ranks 13th, about 159 games behind second-place Hall of Fame hurler Randy Johnson and a full 162 games shy of the inimitable Nolan Ryan.