First-quarter awards: AL Rookie of the Year

5 Comments

austin jackson catch.jpgThe NL rookie class is leaps and bounds better than the AL group so far, with the Senior Circuit boasting the game’s top three first-year players. The American League class is largely pitching dominated. Only two AL rookies have served as regulars throughout the entire first quarter of the season and one of those, Lou Marson, has just one RBI to show for it.
Here are the candidates:
Austin Jackson: .329/.383/.447, 1 HR, 10 RBI in 161 AB
Brennan Boesch: .387/.397/.680, 3 HR, 19 RBI in 75 AB
John Jaso: .302/.424/.415, 1 HR, 12 RBI in 53 AB
Mitch Talbot: 5-2, 3.23 ERA, 19/21 K/BB in 47 1/3 IP
Wade Davis: 3-3, 3.38 ERA, 27/21 K/BB in 40 IP
Brian Matusz: 2-3, 4.18 ERA, 39/18 K/BB in 47 1/3 IP
Neftali Feliz: 1-1, 11 Sv, 3.43 ERA, 23/4 K/BB in 21 IP
Sergio Santos: 0-0, 0 Sv, 0.63 ERA, 18/7 K/BB in 14 1/3 IP
Jackson is on pace to strike out 180 times, but he’s hitting .329 anyway. He’s also on pace to score 100 runs, and he’s playing some very good defense in center field.
His teammate Boesch has been one of baseball’s best hitters since debuting April 23, the day after Carlos Guillen got hurt. He has as many extra-base hits (14) as Jackson in fewer than half as many at-bats. He also leads AL rookies in RBI.
The starting pitchers are an interesting group. When it comes to OPS against, the three are remarkably similar: Davis is at 707, Talbot at 719 and Matusz at 726. Still, the records are quite different. Talbot has the ugly K/BB ratio, yet he does the lesser things so well. Not only is he a very good fielder, but basestealers are 1-for-6 against him this year. And one could argue that Matusz has been incredibly unlucky to give up 53 hits this year when he’s allowed just two homers and struck out 39. However, he was also very “unlucky” in that area in his eight major league starts last year.
Of course, Matusz has had the most difficult schedule in the group, having had to face the Rays and Yankees twice apiece and make a start at Fenway Park. Davis faced the Yankees and Red Sox in his first two starts of the season, but he’s gotten the White Sox, A’s (twice), Royals and Mariners since. Just one of Talbot’s seven starts have come against one of the AL’s top five offenses to date, though he’s also mostly stayed away from the true cupcakes.
At this very second, I’d probably give Talbot the edge in the group. However, Davis faces the Yankees tonight and another strong outing would put him on top.
Then there are the relievers. Feliz may well outdistance all of the starters if he remains in the closer’s role all season long. However, he simply wasn’t very good in April. He’s been much better this month, with just one run allowed and a 10/1 K/BB ratio in 9 1/3 innings.
Santos has been lights out, but only as a mop-up man to date. He’ll earn more responsibility soon if this keeps up, but through 15 appearances, he’s yet to factor in a decision and he has just one hold.
At this point, I think Jackson is the choice. I still don’t see him hitting well over .300 for the full season, but his strikeout rate has come down as the year has progressed. Plus, he has contributed a whole lot with the glove.
After Jackson, it’s Boesch versus the three starters and Feliz for two ballot spots. Boesch’s exceptional .447 average with runners on, even in such limited action, has to get him a spot. He’s had two at-bats with the bases loaded and delivered a homer and a double. Of the pitchers, Feliz has the best chance of winning the hardware at season’s end, but I think the starters have been more valuable to date.
First quarter NL ROY
1. Jackson
2. Boesch
3. Talbot

Nationals’ sell-off a vindication for Dusty Baker

Stacy Revere/Getty Images
Leave a comment

The Nationals threw in the towel on Tuesday, trading second baseman Daniel Murphy to the Cubs and 1B/OF Matt Adams to the Cardinals. The club also placed outfielder and soon-to-be free agent Bryce Harper on revocable waivers but took him back. The Nats’ sell-off is a vindication for former manager Dusty Baker, let go after the Nationals failed to advance past the NLDS for a second straight year.

Baker had roughly the same team current manager Dave Martinez did. It was arguably worse, considering he never wrote Juan Soto‘s name on the lineup card. The 2018 squad, sans Baker, has been marked by mutiny and underachievement. While failing to reach the NLCS in Baker’s two years was disappointing, he took them to Game 5 in the NLDS both years as well as 95 and 97 regular season wins. Right now, Martinez’s squad has a winning percentage more than 100 points lower than Baker’s last year. They’re on pace to go 80-82, which would be their first sub-.500 season since 2011.

Baker has always had an undeserved bad rap. He was, correctly, blamed for the Cubs’ demise, due somewhat to Kerry Wood and Mark Prior falling apart, ostensibly from overuse. However, after his stint in Chicago, Baker took the lowly Reds from the bottom of the NL Central to the top in two years between 2008-10. Then he took the Nationals, which had won a meager 83 games in 2015 and had made the playoffs just twice since moving from Montreal, to two consecutive NLDS Game 5’s.

Not much changed from 2017 to ’18. Martinez inherited Ryan Zimmerman, Trea Turner, Anthony Rendon, Michael Taylor, Bryce Harper, Adam Eaton, Daniel Murphy, Matt Wieters, Max Scherzer, Tanner Roark, Gio Gonzalez, Stephen Strasburg, Sean Doolittle, Ryan Madson, Brandon Kintzler, Shawn Kelley, and Koda Glover, among others. But for one reason or another — injuries, admittedly, make up one reason — almost all of these players are having worse years under Martinez than under Baker. Describing the 2018 team to The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal, Baker said, “They’re together, but they’re separate.”

Is it strictly Baker that would make the difference? No, of course not. But the Nationals organization seems unwilling or unable to address issues that may extend into the front office. The Nats seem happy to go through a new manager every couple of years and hope that fixes all that ails them. Since Frank Robinson’s five years at the helm from 2002-06, Manny Acta managed two and a half years, Jim Riggleman one and a half, Davey Johnson two, Matt Williams two, Baker two. Maybe the problem was never the manager. Perhaps the problem is the Lerner family and Mike Rizzo.