2012 midseason awards: NL Rookie of the Year

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If the NL is going to narrow the talent gap with the AL in the coming years, it doesn’t really show up here. Sure, there’s a likely superstar playing well in Bryce Harper, but the AL can seemingly cancel him out with Mike Trout, who is playing a whole lot better. Beyond Harper, it’s a weak class of rookies in the NL.

The candidates:

Zack Cozart (Cin): .250/.298/.403, 8 HR, 16 RBI, 2 SB in 308 AB
Yonder Alonso (SD): .257/.338/.355, 3 HR, 21 RBI, 2 SB in 276 AB
Kirk Nieuwenhuis (NYM): .275/.335/.414, 7 HR, 25 RBI, 3 SB in 244 AB
Bryce Harper (Was): .276/.349/.478, 8 HR, 23 RBI, 8 SB in 228 AB
Norichika Aoki (Mil): .292/.355/.440, 4 HR, 17 RBI, 10 SB in 209 AB
Todd Frazier (Cin): .273/.342/.552, 8 HR, 27 RBI, 1 SB in 165 AB
Wilin Rosario (Col): .247/.280/.533, 14 HR, 36 RBI, 3 SB in 182 AB
Andrelton Simmons (Atl): .323/.364/.495, 3 HR, 14 RBI, 1 SB in 99 AB

Lucas Harrell (Hou): 7-6, 4.56 ERA, 65/35 K/BB in 102 2/3 IP
Wade Miley (Ari): 9-4, 2.87 ERA, 66/19 K/BB in 94 IP
Randall Delgado (Atl): 4-8, 4.52 ERA, 64/39 K/BB in 79 2/3 IP
Michael Fiers (Mil): 3-2, 2.29 ERA, 41/8 K/BB in 39 1/3 IP
Jared Hughes (Pit): 2-0, 1 Sv, 2.20 ERA, 21/14 K/BB in 41 IP

And here’s how Baseball-reference WAR ranks them:

2.2 – Miley
2.2 – Simmons
1.6 – Cozart
1.5 – Harper
1.4 – Fiers
1.2 – Aoki
1.2 – Frazier
0.8 – Nieuwenhuis
0.7 – Rosario
0.4 – Hughes
0.3 – Harrell
-0.2 – Delgado
-0.4 – Alonso

Yeah, WAR is that wild about Simmons’ defense. Most seem in agreement that he’s already one of the game’s best glovemen at short, and he’s been surprisingly productive offensively. Still, he’s played in all of 28 games this season, so I don’t think he belongs on the Rookie of the Year ballot just yet.

Like WAR, I think it comes down to Miley, Cozart and Harper. Frazier and Rosario are putting up great power numbers, but they’ve received only limited action and both could be called defensive liabilities. While Rosario has been above average at throwing out basestealers, he’s committed a major league-high eight errors behind the dish.

Miley gave up eight runs last time out, but he’s allowed one or no runs in eight of 13 starts. The Diamondbacks have scored a total of five runs in his four losses.

Cozart is miscast as a top-of-the-order hitter, but he’s been solid enough offensively and defensively. I don’t think he has much of a ceiling, but just being an average regular is good enough to get him a spot on the ballot right now.

And then there’s Harper. He’s not a superstar yet, but he’s been a whole lot better than I figured he’d be as a 19-year-old. He’ll probably show a bit more power in the second half, and he has to be regarded as the favorite to win the hardware in the end-of-season balloting. Right now, though, he’s the runner-up.

My ballot
1. Miley
2. Harper
3. Cozart

2012 midseason awards: AL Rookie of the Year

World Series Game 1 will feature Dallas Keuchel vs. Clayton Kershaw

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The Dodgers and Astros have selected their starters for Game 1 of the World Series. Left-hander Dallas Keuchel will open the series for the Astros, while fellow lefty Clayton Kershaw will take the mound for the first of two home games at Dodger Stadium.

Keuchel, 29, has been a steady presence for the Astros this postseason. He clinched Game 2 of the ALDS with 5 2/3 innings of one-run, seven-strikeout ball against the Red Sox and returned for his second postseason win with seven scoreless innings against the Yankees in Game 1 of the ALCS. He was outmatched in Game 5 of the Championship Series, however, scattering four runs and eight strikeouts across 4 2/3 innings while the Yankees worked their way up to a 5-0 shutout. Nevertheless, he’s perhaps the Astros’ strongest arm behind ALCS MVP Justin Verlander and has not surrendered a single home run in 17 1/3 consecutive innings this postseason.

Kershaw, on the other hand, has had a less consistent track record in the playoffs. While his postseason yips have been well-documented thus far, his struggles on the mound haven’t always led to disaster — at least not this time around. The Dodgers are 3-0 in all three of Kershaw’s starts this month and enjoyed a quality start from their ace during Game 5 of the NLCS last Thursday. The 29-year-old southpaw recorded his second win of the playoffs with a run, three hits, a walk and five strikeouts over six innings. Unlike Keuchel, he’s given up a home run in each of his outings to date (and four homers in Game 1 of the NLDS).

Game 1 is set for Tuesday evening at 8:00 PM ET. The Dodgers have home field advantage through Games 1 and 2 before the series moves to Houston, and will try to capitalize on that advantage in order to extend their postseason winning streak at Dodger Stadium. They’re 4-0 at home and 3-1 on the road this October, while the Astros boast a 6-0 advantage in Houston and a significantly less impressive 1-4 record away from home.