Marlins right-hander Jose Fernandez was announced as the winner of the National League Rookie of the Year Award by the BBWAA this evening, beating out finalists Yasiel Puig and Shelby Miller. Fernandez received 26 out of 30 first-place votes while Puig received the other four.
Fernandez becomes the first Cuban-born player to win the National League Rookie of the Year Award. Tony Oliva won the American League Rookie of the Year Award in 1964 as a member of the Twins.
The National League produced an impressive crop of rookies this season — and the vote likely would have been much closer if Puig was around for the entire season — but Fernandez was the best of the bunch. While the Marlins surprised many around the game by including him on their Opening Day roster despite no experience above High-A, he quickly established himself as a legitimate ace, finishing second in the majors (behind the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw) with a 2.19 ERA to go along with a 187/58 K/BB ratio over 172 2/3 innings. He ranked first in the majors with a .182 batting average against while his 9.75 K/9 was second-highest in the National League behind the Pirates’ A.J. Burnett.
Fernandez got better as he adjusted to major league lineups, putting up a 1.50 ERA over 18 starts after June 1. Nobody was better in that time. He also thrived at the spacious Marlins Ballpark, going a perfect 9-0 with a 1.19 ERA. And given the lack of offense from the Marlins this past season, that’s pretty impressive. His ERA was the lowest by a rookie since Dave Righetti (1981) and the lowest by a pitcher in his age-20 season since Dwight Gooden (1985). As a result of his historic rookie campaign, Fernandez is a finalist for the National League Cy Young Award, which will be announced on Wednesday. While Kershaw is considered a near-lock for the award, Fernandez should be a serious threat in future seasons if his health cooperates.
Complete voting results for the National League Rookie of the Year Award can be found at BBWAA.com.
Alcides Escobar finished with a .292 OBP this year. He came in at .246 in 117 at-bats in August and .257 in 109 at-bats between September and October, so he wasn’t exactly flying high entering the postseason. Still, that didn’t stop Ned Yost from putting him into the leadoff spot for Thursday’s Game 1 against the Astros.
Yost finally did reconsider hitting Escobar first in September. It took Alex Gordon‘s return to health, plus the previous addition of Ben Zobrist to the lineup, in order to make that happen. However, it didn’t stick. Escobar hit ninth in each of his starts from Sept. 7-26, batting .236 with a .276 OBP during that span. With five games left to go, he was suddenly returned to the leadoff spot. The Royals went on to win all five games. Yost saw it as a sign, even though Escobar went 5-for-22 with no walks in those games.
Escobar went 0-for-4 in Thursday’s loss to the Astros. He did not swing at the first pitch of the game, which probably explains the defeat.
It’s been difficult to argue with Yost since last year’s World Series run and this year’s incredible run out of the game. The blind spot with Escobar, though, gets rather infuriating. One can defend hitting him leadoff against the Astros’ lefties. His career OBP against southpaws is .319 (.316 this year). Against righties, he’s the most obvious No. 9 hitter alive, with a career .258/.290/.342 line (.252/.284/.314 this year). He’s not a pace-setter. He’s not a spark plug. He’s a liability.
After shutting out the Yankees in the AL Wild Card game on Tuesday, the Astros beat the Royals 5-2 in Game 1 of the ALDS on Thursday at Kauffman Stadium. Road teams are now 4-0 to begin the 2015 postseason.
The Astros grabbed an early 3-0 lead against Yordano Ventura through two innings. Chris Young took over for the Royals after a 47-minute rain delay and was very effective for the most part, allowing just a solo homer to George Springer over four innings while striking out seven batters. Colby Rasmus, who homered in the Wild Card game, took Ryan Madson deep in the eighth inning to give the Astros’ bullpen some extra breathing room.
Collin McHugh stayed in after the rain delay and ended up tossing six innings while allowing just four hits and one walk. Kendrys Morales did all the damage against him with a pair of solo homers. He’s the first Royals player to hit two home runs in a postseason game since George Brett in the 1985 ALCS.
The Royals’ offense showed some signs of life in the bottom of the eighth inning with back-to-back two-out hits against Will Harris, but Oliver Perez got Eric Hosmer to foul out to end the threat. Luke Gregerson tossed a scoreless ninth inning to finish off the victory.
Consistent with their identity during the regular season, the Astros won despite striking out 14 times. The same goes for the Royals, as they struck out just four times. Despite putting the ball into play more often, the Kansas City lineup wasn’t able to muster anything aside from the home runs by Morales.
Game 2 of the ALDS will begin Friday at 3:45 p.m. ET. Scott Kazmir will pitch for the Astros and Johnny Cueto will get the ball for the Royals.
After Kendrys Morales brought the Royals within one run in the bottom of the fourth inning with his second solo home run of the game, George Springer took Chris Young deep in the top of the fifth to extend the Astros’ lead to 4-2 in Game 1 of the ALDS.
According to Statcast, the ball traveled an estimated 422 feet and left Springer’s bat at 109 mph. Royals fans are happy it was just a solo home run. It could have been worse, as Jose Altuve singled to lead off the fifth inning before being thrown out trying to steal second base during Springer’s at-bat.
The Royals will try to answer as we move to the bottom of the fifth inning at Kauffman Stadium.