Michael Pineda

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.

Royals pay tribute to late Yordano Ventura during spring training opener

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - AUGUST 12: Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals delivers a pitch against the Minnesota Twins during the first inning of the game on August 12, 2016 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
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The Royals honored former pitcher Yordano Ventura prior to their first Cactus League game against the Rangers on Saturday. Ventura was killed in a car accident in his native Dominican Republic in late January.

Rangers’ third baseman Adrian Beltre and center fielder Carlos Gomez paid their respects to the pitcher with a floral arrangement that was laid on the mound. Both teams stood along the foul lines during a pregame video tribute that highlighted Ventura’s tenure with Kansas City. Following the game, Gomez spoke to the media about his relationship with Ventura, describing their frequent conversations during the season and commending the pitcher for having “the same passion that I had early in my career” (via WFAA.com’s Levi Weaver).

A plaque dedicated to the 25-year-old was also presented to club manager Ned Yost as a more permanent commemoration of Ventura’s contributions to the sport. Blair Kerkhoff of the Kansas City Star reports that the plaque will be mounted in the club’s spring training facilities alongside tributes to members of the Royals’ 2014 and 2015 playoff teams.

The full text of the plaque is below, via MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan:

A brother and a teammate, Yordano Ventura, passed away on the morning of January 22 in his native Dominican Republic, at the age of 25. He signed with the Royals as a 17-year-old, eventually making the big league team in 2013 as a 22-year-old. On most days, he could be found laughing and joking with his baseball family in the clubhouse. However, on days when he pitched, that smile was replaced by a quiet confidence and an intense fire, which he brought to the mound for every start. He had many highlights in his abbreviated career, not the least of which was throwing eight shutout innings in Game #6 of the 2014 World Series to force a Game #7 vs. San Francisco.

Gerrit Cole named Pirates’ Opening Day starter

BRADENTON, FL - FEBRUARY 19: Gerrit Cole #45 of the Pittsburgh Pirates poses for a photograph during MLB spring training photo day on February 19, 2017 at Pirate City in Bradenton, Florida. (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)
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Right-hander Gerrit Cole is set to take the mound for the Pirates on Opening Day, according to a team announcement on Saturday. It’s a spot that was most recently occupied by former Pirate Francisco Liriano, who made three consecutive Opening Day starts for the club before getting dealt to the Blue Jays last August.

The 26-year-old produced career-worst numbers during his fourth run with the Pirates in 2016, due in large part to bouts of inflammation in his right elbow. He finished the year with a 3.88 ERA, 2.8 BB/9 and 7.6 SO/9 over 116 innings before getting shut down in September to avoid further injury to his elbow. When healthy, however, Cole has been lights-out for the Pirates. Prior to his injury-laden campaign last year, he touted a career 3.07 ERA, 2.2 BB/9, 8.5 SO/9 and cumulative 10.2 fWAR from 2013 through 2015.

Cole will go toe-to-toe with the Red Sox during Boston’s home opener on Monday, April 3. Right-hander Jameson Taillon is scheduled to make the second start of the year, while fellow righty Ivan Nova will cover the Pirates’ home opener against the Braves on April 7. The Pirates’ third and fifth starters have yet to be announced.