First-third awards: 2011 AL Rookie of the Year

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Wilson Ramos, who started off in the AL with the Twins, was my choice as the NL Rookie of the Year one-third of the way through the season.  Now on to the other league.

Just for the fun of it, we’ll look at the hitters first:

Mark Trumbo (1B Angels): .256/.306/.472, 10 HR, 28 RBI, 5 SB in 180 AB
J.P. Arencibia (C Blue Jays): .258/.319/.497, 8 HR, 26 RBI, 0 SB in 151 AB
Eric Hosmer (1B Royals): .283/.321/.515, 5 HR, 17 RBI, 2 SB in 99 AB
Hank Conger (C Angels): .233/.288/.369, 3 HR, 12 RBI, 0 SB in 103 AB
Elliot Johnson (INF Rays): .258/.306/.409, 2 HR, 8 RBI, 4 SB in 66 AB
Brent Morel (3B White Sox): .238/.256/.311, 1 HR, 13 RBI, 1 SB in 122 AB

It was a given that Arencibia would hit for power, but he’s managed a decent enough OBP and he ranks as the top rookie position player to date. Trumbo is on pace for 30 homers and 80 RBI, which would definitely get him some votes if he can keep it up. Hosmer, though, is coming on quickly and projects as the better player over the rest of the season.

Of course, it’s the pitching side that features most of the talent:

Michael Pineda (Mariners): 6-2, 2.42 ERA, 66/19 K/BB in 63.1 IP
Jeremy Hellickson (Rays): 6-3, 2.80 ERA, 46/27 K/BB in 64.1 IP
Zach Britton (Orioles): 5-3, 2.93 ERA, 38/24 K/BB in 70.2 IP
Tyson Ross (Athletics): 3-3, 2.75 ERA, 24/13 K/BB in 36 IP
Ivan Nova (Yankees): 4-3, 4.67 ERA, 27/24 K/BB in 54 IP
Kyle Drabek (Blue Jays): 3-3, 4.16 ERA, 42/42 K/BB in 62.2 IP
Tyler Chatwood (Angels): 3-2, 4.13 ERA, 27/32 K/BB in 56.2 IP

Jordan Walden (Angels): 0-1, 12 Sv, 3.20 ERA, 26/13 K/BB in 25.1 IP
Aaron Crow (Royals): 2-0, 1.33 ERA, 26/9 K/BB in 27 IP
Vinnie Pestano (Indians): 1-0, 1.35 ERA, 25/7 K/BB in 20 IP
Tim Collins (Royals): 2-2, 2.73 ERA, 31/24 K/BB in 29.2 IP

Pineda, Hellickson and Britton rank 8th, 10th and 12th respecitively in the AL in ERA.

And those three are pretty obviously the top candidates for the hardware. Here’s how Baseball-Reference’s WAR rates the candidates:

Britton: 2.3
Pineda: 2.2
Crow: 1.4
Arencibia: 1.2
Hellickson: 1.2
Drabek: 1.1
Ross: 1.1
Pestano: 1.0
Collins: 0.8
Trumbo: 0.7
Walden: 0.7
Hosmer: 0.6

WAR doesn’t see Hellickson matching up with the other two, even though he has a similar ERA. He probably has been luckier than the other two so far, given that he doesn’t have Pineda’s strikeout rate or Britton’s groundball rate. His .208 average against isn’t going to be sustainable unless he starts striking out batters.

The schedules for the three starts have been similar. One would think Pineda would have had it quite a bit easier than the other two while pitching in the AL West, but the numbers don’t reflect that, at least not yet. As a result, I am going to give Pineda the nod here. I think Hellickson might be the favorite for the full year, since he’s the better bet to end up somewhere around 200 innings. Britton is plenty good, too, but the starts against the Yankees, Red Sox, Rays and Blue Jays figure to wear on his numbers as time goes on.

AL Rookie of the Year
1. Pineda
2. Britton
3. Hellickson

Nationals GM Rizzo won’t reveal length of Martinez’s new contract

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WASHINGTON — Dave Martinez spoke Saturday about managing the Washington Nationals for “many, many years” and over the “long term” and “quite some time,” thanks to his contract extension.

Sharing a table to a socially distanced degree with his manager on a video conference call to announce the new deal – each member of the duo sporting a 2019 World Series ring on his right hand – Nationals GM Mike Rizzo referred to the agreement’s “multiyear” nature, but repeatedly refused to reveal anything more specific in response to reporters’ questions.

“We don’t talk about terms as far as years, length and salaries and that type of thing. We’re comfortable with what we have and the consistency that we’re going to have down the road,” said Rizzo, who recently agreed to a three-year extension of his own. “That’s all we want to say about terms, because it’s private information and we don’t want you guys to know about it.”

When Martinez initially was hired by Rizzo in October 2017 – his first managing job at any level – the Nationals’ news release at the time announced that he was given a three-year contract with an option for a fourth year.

That 2021 option had not yet been picked up.

“The partnership that Davey and I have together, our communication styles are very similar. Our aspirations are similar, and kind of our mindset of how to obtain the goals that we want to obtain are similar. I think it’s a good match,” Rizzo said. “We couldn’t have hit on a more positive and enthusiastic leader in the clubhouse. I think you see it shine through even in the most trying times.”

The Nationals entered Saturday – Martinez’s 56th birthday – with a 23-34 record and in last place in the NL East, which Rizzo called “a disappointing season.” The team’s title defense was slowed by injuries and inconsistency during a 60-game season delayed and shortened by the coronavirus pandemic.

World Series MVP Stephen Strasburg threw just five innings because of a nerve issue in his pitching hand and players such as Starlin Castro, Sean Doolittle, Tanner Rainey, Adam Eaton and Carter Kieboom finished the year on the IL.

“This year, for me, we didn’t get it done. We had a lot of bumps in the road this year. But I really, fully believe, we’ve got the core guys here that we need to win another championship,” Martinez said. “I know Mike, myself, we’re going to spend hours and hours and hours trying to fill the void with guys we think can potentially help us in the future. And we’ll be back on the podium. I’m really confident about that.”

Rizzo was asked Saturday why the team announces contract lengths for players, as is common practice around the major leagues, but wouldn’t do so in this instance for Martinez.

“The reason is we don’t want anybody to know. That’s the reason,” Rizzo said, before asking the reporter: “How much do you make? How many years do you have?”

Moments later, as the back-and-forth continued, Rizzo said: “It’s kind of an individual thing with certain people. I don’t want you to know what I make or how many years I have. Davey doesn’t want you to know. And I think that it’s only fair … when people don’t want certain information out there, that we don’t give it.”

There were some calling for Martinez to lose his job last season when Washington got off to a 19-31 start. But Rizzo stood by his manager, and the team eventually turned things around, going 74-38 the rest of the way to reach the playoffs as an NL wild-card team.

The Nationals then beat the Milwaukee Brewers, Los Angeles Dodgers and St. Louis Cardinals to reach the World Series, where they beat the Houston Astros in Game 7.

Washington joined the 1914 Boston Braves as the only teams in major league history to win a World Series after being 12 games below .500 during a season.

“Everything from Day 1 to where he’s gotten to now, he’s grown so much. He’s really become one of my favorite managers of all,” three-time Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer said after helping Washington win Saturday’s opener of a doubleheader against the New York Mets. “Davey really understands how to manage a clubhouse, manage a team. We saw it in the postseason. He knows how to push the right buttons when everything is on the line.”