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.

Will Middlebrooks carted off field with injury

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Phillies third baseman Will Middlebrooks suffered a serious injury during Saturday’s Grapefruit League contest against the Orioles. The infielder was chasing down a pop fly in the eighth inning when he ran into left fielder Andrew Pullin, who inadvertently trapped Middlebrooks’ ankle under his leg. Middlebrooks was unable to put weight on his leg following the collision and was carted off the field and taken to a local hospital for X-rays.

Per MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki, not much is known yet about the severity of the ankle injury or the recovery time it will require, though it appears serious enough to set Middlebrooks back considerably as he seeks a backup/bench role with the team this spring.

The 29-year-old is currently seeking another opportunity to extend his six-year major-league career in 2018. He’s coming off of two down years with the Brewers and Rangers, during which he slashed a cumulative .169/.229/.262 with four extra bases through 70 plate appearances.