Another look at the AL Rookie of the Year race

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Yesterday, I posted an entry dismissing Jordan Walden as an American League Rookie of the Year candidate without really looking at the race as a whole.  So, let’s do that this time around.

Here are how the candidates rank according to Baseball-Reference’s WAR:

1. Jeremy Hellickson: 2.7
2. Michael Pineda: 2.6
3. Desmond Jennings: 2.5
4. Dustin Ackley: 2.3
4. Aaron Crow: 2.3
6. Mark Trumbo: 2.1
7. Ivan Nova: 1.9
7. Greg Holland: 1.9
7. Chris Sale: 1.9
10. Jordan Walden: 1.8
11. Vinnie Pestano: 1.7
12. Casper Wells: 1.6
13. Josh Reddick: 1.5
14. Mike Carp: 1.2
14. Al Alburquerque: 1.2
16. Zach Britton: 1.0
17. J.P. Arencibia: 0.9
17. Jemile Weeks: 0.9

And according to Fangraphs’ WAR:

1. Michael Pineda: 2.9
2. Dustin Ackley: 2.5
3. Desmond Jennings: 2.3
4. Mark Trumbo: 2.2
5. Zach Britton: 2.1
6. Ivan Nova: 1.9
7. Josh Reddick: 1.8
7. Jordan Walden: 1.8
9. Jeremy Hellickson: 1.6
9. Ben Revere: 1.6
11. Casper Wells: 1.5
11. Greg Holland: 1.5
13. J.P. Arencibia: 1.3
13. Jemile Weeks: 1.3
13. Vinnie Pestano: 1.3

There are some big disparities there, particularly in how Fangraphs views Hellickson vs. Pineda.  Hellickson has a 3.01 ERA in 149 1/3 innings, while Pineda has a 3.71 ERA in 153 innings, but Pineda has the much stronger peripherals.  Since Fangraphs goes off FIP, instead of ERA, it rates Pineda as the far superior pitcher.

Fangraphs also says Walden has been the most valuable reliever because his innings have come in higher leverage.  B-Ref’s WAR doesn’t really care that Walden is pitching the ninth, while guys like Crow, Pestano and Sale have mostly been tasked with the seventh and eighth innings.

Personally, I’m more on B-Ref’s side of the argument in both of these cases.  Yes, Pineda has better peripherals than Hellickson.  However, I don’t think the Rays’ defense is much better than Seattle’s.  Plus, Hellickson has faced the tougher schedule.  Hellickson has been lucky to strand 81 percent of the runners to reach against him, but that luck has translated into real results for the Rays.  I think he’s the class of the pitching rookies, at least to date.

Things are also complicated with the hitters.  Trumbo has been a bit above average all year, Ackley has been more than a bit above average since his callup June 16 and Jennings has been nothing short of fabulous since his callup July 27.

Ackley and Jennings have already overtaken Trumbo in value according to both versions of WAR, and I’m not going to argue against it.  Still, I think there’s a lot to be said for the Rookie of the Year actually having contributed for the entire year.

Regardless, Ackley doesn’t have a shot at the real award.  While his .831 OPS is excellent for a second baseman playing in Safeco, his triple crown line is .291-5-30 and that’s simply not going to get it done.  Jennings is likely a big long shot, too.  He’ll have played in a maximum of 64 games this year.

Trumbo, meanwhile, is poised to finish with 27-30 homers and around 90 RBI.  His .296 OBP is unacceptable, and I’m not optimistic about him for the long haul.  However, he’s been an asset for the Angels from day one this year.

So, my (non-existent) Rookie of the Year ballot would have to go Hellickson-Pineda-Trumbo at the moment.  However, I was too quick to dismiss the alternatives Monday and the race is definitely close enough for things to change in September.

Matthew Stafford audibles with “Kershaw! Kershaw!”

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Last night the Detroit Lions played the New York Giants. During the game Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford called an audible. The call itself referenced Stafford’s childhood friend and high school baseball teammate, Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw. From the Freep:

Matthew Stafford stepped to the line of scrimmage late in the third quarter and surveyed the Giants defense.

With five pass rushers across the front and three Giants cornerbacks showing a press-man look, Stafford looked at his two receivers to the left and invoked the name of his childhood friend, Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw.

“Give me Kershaw here, Kershaw,” Stafford said, repeating his friend’s name two more times as he spun around at the line of scrimmage.

The audible did not result in a pick-4 to Aaron Altherr. It called for a run up the middle. And it worked nicely, gaining eight yards.

You may suggest the results of other starting pitcher-themed audibles in the comments. I’ll start: “Harvey! Harvey!” is where the QB fakes a handoff, drops back, looks deep and then his arm falls completely off. Damndest thing.

Matt Harvey has a 13.19 ERA since coming back from the disabled list

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Matt Harvey‘s season was mostly a loss due to extended time on the disabled list. He’s been given a chance, however, to end the season strong and make a case for himself in the Mets’ future plans. Unfortunately, he has been unable to make that case. He was shelled again last night, and his late season opportunity has been a disaster.

Last night Harvey gave up seven runs on 12 hits and struck out only two batters in four innings against a Marlins team that, until facing him anyway, had been reeling. It was his fourth start since going on the shelf in mid-June and in those four starts he’s allowed 21 runs, all earned, on 32 hits in 14.2 innings, for an ERA of 13.19. In that time he’s struck out only eight batters while walking seven. His average fastball velocity, while ticking up slightly in each of his past four starts, is still below 95. Back when he was an ace he was consistently above that. His command has been terrible.

Injury is clearly the culprit. He had Tommy John surgery just as he was reaching his maximum level of dominance in 2013. While he came back strong in 2015, he was used pretty heavily for a guy with a brand new ligament. Last year he was felled by thoracic outlet syndrome and this year a stress injury to his shoulder. Any one of those ailments have ended pitchers’ careers and even among those who bounce back from them, many are diminished. To go through all three and remain dominant is practically unheard of.

Yet this is where Matt Harvey is. He’s 28. He’s still arbitration eligible, for a team that is, to put it politely, sensitive to large financial outlays. While his 4-5 start opportunity to end the year may very well have been seen as a chance to shop Harvey to another team, his trade value is at an all-time low. It would not be shocking if, on the basis of his recent ineffectiveness, the Mets considered non-tendering him this offseason, making him a free agent.

Someone would probably take a chance on him because famous names who once showed tremendous promise are often given multiple chances in the big leagues (See, Willis, Dontrelle). But at the moment, there is nothing in Harvey’s game to suggest that he is capable of taking advantage of such a chance. All one can hope is that an offseason of rest and conditioning will allow Harvey to reclaim at least a portion of his old form.