I do these “who should win”/”who will win” posts for the major awards every year, but never have I had one where there was no argument whatsoever. Tonight when the Rookie of the Year Award for each league is announced (6PM Eastern, MLB Network), it will be Cody Bellinger in the National League and Aaron Judge in the American League. They both should win and both will win, and it should be unanimous.
Nothing against the other finalists, of course. In the NL Josh Bell (.255/.334/.466 26 HR 90 RBI) and Paul DeJong (.285/.325/.532 25 HR, 65 RBI) each had the sorts of seasons that have, in the past, won Rookie of the Year Awards. In the AL, preseason favorite Andrew Benintendi (.271/.352/.20 HR, 90 RBI) and Trey Mancini (.293/.338/.488 25 HR, 78 RBI) did the same. It’s just that they didn’t have historically great seasons like Bellinger and Judge, eliminating all suspense whatsoever.
Bellinger, who was not called up until late April and who did not have a set position until a couple of weeks after making his debut, went on to lead the NL Champion Dodgers in home runs with 39, RBI with 97 and slugging percentage at a hefty .581. He trailed only Giancarlo Stanton in homers in the senior circuit, setting a new rookie record for homers in the NL as well. The previous mark — 38 — was held by Frank Robinson (1956) and Wally Berger (1930). He finished in the top ten in the NL in slugging (6th), adjusted OPS (9th), extra base hits (8th), intentional walks (6th), and at bats per homer (2nd). He was the NL Player of the Week twice. He didn’t turn 22 until the dang All-Star break.
Judge’s rookie resume was even more impressive. It’s one that gives him a good shot at not just the Rookie of the Year Award, but MVP honors as well.
Judge led the American League with 52 homers, breaking Mark McGwire’s record of 49 rookie homers, set in 1987. He led the American league in homers, walks, and runs. He was second in bWAR, second in on-base percentage, second in slugging, third in total bases, second in RBI, first in OPS, second in adjusted OPS, fourth in extra base hits, second in intentional walks, first in at bats per homer, and fourth in putouts for a right fielder. He was likewise in the top 3-5 in a host of other, more esoteric sabermetric categories. He just won the Silver Slugger Award. He was the June and September AL Player of the Month. He led the league in strikeouts too, but we’ll let that slide.
So, no, there will be no suspense in the runup to this evening’s Rookie of the Year Award announcement. But it was worth admiring Bellinger and Judge’s seasons once again all the same. If you want to argue about an award, come back this time tomorrow when we argue about the Manager of the Year trophy.