First-third awards: 2011 AL Rookie of the Year

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Wilson Ramos, who started off in the AL with the Twins, was my choice as the NL Rookie of the Year one-third of the way through the season.  Now on to the other league.

Just for the fun of it, we’ll look at the hitters first:

Mark Trumbo (1B Angels): .256/.306/.472, 10 HR, 28 RBI, 5 SB in 180 AB
J.P. Arencibia (C Blue Jays): .258/.319/.497, 8 HR, 26 RBI, 0 SB in 151 AB
Eric Hosmer (1B Royals): .283/.321/.515, 5 HR, 17 RBI, 2 SB in 99 AB
Hank Conger (C Angels): .233/.288/.369, 3 HR, 12 RBI, 0 SB in 103 AB
Elliot Johnson (INF Rays): .258/.306/.409, 2 HR, 8 RBI, 4 SB in 66 AB
Brent Morel (3B White Sox): .238/.256/.311, 1 HR, 13 RBI, 1 SB in 122 AB

It was a given that Arencibia would hit for power, but he’s managed a decent enough OBP and he ranks as the top rookie position player to date. Trumbo is on pace for 30 homers and 80 RBI, which would definitely get him some votes if he can keep it up. Hosmer, though, is coming on quickly and projects as the better player over the rest of the season.

Of course, it’s the pitching side that features most of the talent:

Michael Pineda (Mariners): 6-2, 2.42 ERA, 66/19 K/BB in 63.1 IP
Jeremy Hellickson (Rays): 6-3, 2.80 ERA, 46/27 K/BB in 64.1 IP
Zach Britton (Orioles): 5-3, 2.93 ERA, 38/24 K/BB in 70.2 IP
Tyson Ross (Athletics): 3-3, 2.75 ERA, 24/13 K/BB in 36 IP
Ivan Nova (Yankees): 4-3, 4.67 ERA, 27/24 K/BB in 54 IP
Kyle Drabek (Blue Jays): 3-3, 4.16 ERA, 42/42 K/BB in 62.2 IP
Tyler Chatwood (Angels): 3-2, 4.13 ERA, 27/32 K/BB in 56.2 IP

Jordan Walden (Angels): 0-1, 12 Sv, 3.20 ERA, 26/13 K/BB in 25.1 IP
Aaron Crow (Royals): 2-0, 1.33 ERA, 26/9 K/BB in 27 IP
Vinnie Pestano (Indians): 1-0, 1.35 ERA, 25/7 K/BB in 20 IP
Tim Collins (Royals): 2-2, 2.73 ERA, 31/24 K/BB in 29.2 IP

Pineda, Hellickson and Britton rank 8th, 10th and 12th respecitively in the AL in ERA.

And those three are pretty obviously the top candidates for the hardware. Here’s how Baseball-Reference’s WAR rates the candidates:

Britton: 2.3
Pineda: 2.2
Crow: 1.4
Arencibia: 1.2
Hellickson: 1.2
Drabek: 1.1
Ross: 1.1
Pestano: 1.0
Collins: 0.8
Trumbo: 0.7
Walden: 0.7
Hosmer: 0.6

WAR doesn’t see Hellickson matching up with the other two, even though he has a similar ERA. He probably has been luckier than the other two so far, given that he doesn’t have Pineda’s strikeout rate or Britton’s groundball rate. His .208 average against isn’t going to be sustainable unless he starts striking out batters.

The schedules for the three starts have been similar. One would think Pineda would have had it quite a bit easier than the other two while pitching in the AL West, but the numbers don’t reflect that, at least not yet. As a result, I am going to give Pineda the nod here. I think Hellickson might be the favorite for the full year, since he’s the better bet to end up somewhere around 200 innings. Britton is plenty good, too, but the starts against the Yankees, Red Sox, Rays and Blue Jays figure to wear on his numbers as time goes on.

AL Rookie of the Year
1. Pineda
2. Britton
3. Hellickson

New Jersey legislators call MLB’s request for a cut of gambling proceeds “laughable”

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As we’ve noted in multiple posts in recent weeks, the legalization of sports gambling across the country is imminent. Indeed, it could come as early as next week, once the Supreme Court rules on the case brought by New Jersey to overturn the decades-old sports gambling ban.

As we’ve also noted, MLB and the other leagues are pressuring states to get a cut of the proceeds once gambling is legalized. Their argument — which is spurious in the extreme — is that the leagues will have a much harder time maintaining the integrity of their sports once sinful gambling comes out of the dark and into the light. As such, they argue, it’s morally incumbent upon the states to throw some of that money to the leagues so they can, I dunno, hire chaperones or den mothers or something. It’s all very vague, but the leagues are calling their sought-after cut “integrity fees,” and they’re lobbying state legislatures hard to get the new gambling laws written to include them.

Last month I wrote about how in West Virginia, Rob Manfred’s effort to get that cut wasn’t going so well. Today at NJ.com, Brent Johnson writes about how things are going in New Jersey:

[New Jersey] legislative leaders have balked at the leagues’ request for a fee, three sources with knowledge of the situation told NJ Advance Media. One source called the proposal “laughable.”

This is shocking. I mean, what are the odds that a Park Avenue lawyer couldn’t walk into New Jersey and successfully shake down guys for gambling money? Woulda thought that’d go super successfully, actually. I’ve gotta rethink everything TV and movies have taught me about trying to get gambling money out of dudes from Jersey.

Laughs aside, in the end I suspect Manfred’s gambit will pay off in more places that it doesn’t, mostly because public officials have always been sort of star struck and strangely intimidated by professional sports figures. Many states will kick back some of that gambling loot to the leagues and the leagues, in turn, will kick it back to the team owners, because that’s where all of the money goes, always.

But I do hope state legislators continue to at least make it hard and somewhat embarrassing for Manfred and his friends to get their share. In the words of noted gambling expert Bernie Bernbaum,  “I wanna watch you squirm; I wanna see you sweat a little, and when you smart me… it ruins it.”