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.

Danny Espinosa reportedly skipped Nationals Winterfest because of Adam Eaton

WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 13: Danny Espinosa #8 of the Washington Nationals celebrates after teammate Chris Heisey #14 (not pictured) hits a two run home run in the seventh inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers during game five of the National League Division Series at Nationals Park on October 13, 2016 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
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According to Jorge Castillo of the Washington Post, Nationals infielder Danny Espinosa declined to attend the team’s annual Winterfest because of his dissatisfaction with management following their trade for outfielder Adam Eaton.

A source told Castillo that Espinosa’s unhappiness stemmed from a belief that the acquisition would jeopardize his starting role in 2017. With Eaton in center field, Trea Turner will likely return to his post at shortstop, leaving Espinosa out in the cold — or, as the case may be, on the bench. The move shouldn’t come as a big surprise to Espinosa, however, as Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo spoke to the possibility of trading the infielder or reassigning him to a utility role back in early November.

Offensively, the 29-year-old had a down year in 2016, slashing just .209/.306/.378 with 24 home runs in 601 PA. Defensively, he still profiles among the top shortstops in the National League, with eight DRS (Defensive Runs Saved) and 8.3 Def (Defensive Runs Above Average) in his seventh year with the club.

Espinosa will reach free agency after the 2017 season.

Nick Cafardo: Red Sox should deal Pomeranz, not Buchholz

BOSTON, MA - SEPTEMBER 18: Drew Pomeranz #31 of the Boston Red Sox pitches during the first inning against the New York Yankees at Fenway Park on September 18, 2016 in Boston, Massachusetts. The Red Sox won 5-4. (Photo by Rich Gagnon/Getty Images)
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The Red Sox might be trying to move the wrong pitcher, according to the Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo. Cafardo revealed that while the Sox have been trying to market right-hander Clay Buchholz, more teams would be interested in trades involving southpaw Drew Pomeranz.

The club appears reluctant to deal Pomeranz, especially because his price tag comes in at a cool $4.7 million to Buchholz’s $13.5 million in 2017. Those who have already expressed interest in the veteran hurlers, including the Twins, Mariners and Royals, also seem put off by Buchholz’s salary requirements as he enters his 32nd year.

Health could be another factor preventing teams from jumping to make trade offers, as Cafardo quotes an AL executive who believes the “medicals on both Pomeranz and Buchholz probably aren’t that great.” Neither pitcher suffered any major injuries during the 2016 season, though Pomeranz missed just over a week of play due to forearm soreness.

Pomeranz outperformed his fellow starter in 2016, pitching to a 3.32 ERA and career-best 9.8 K/9 through 170 2/3 innings with the Padres and Red Sox. He got off to an exceptionally strong start in San Diego, where his ERA dropped to 2.47 through the first half of the year before the Padres dealt him to Boston for minor league right-hander Anderson Espinoza. Buchholz, on the other hand, struggled with a 4.78 ERA and saw a decline in both his BB/9 and K/9 rates as he worked out a career-low 1.69 K/BB through 139 1/3 innings with the Sox.