2012 midseason awards: AL Rookie of the Year

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Thanks to a league ruling restoring a certain Angel’s eligibility, the AL Rookie of the Year race is pretty much a batter for second place. But what a battle it might be.

The candidates:

Mike Trout (LAA): .340/.396/.552, 10 HR, 36 RBI, 22 SB in 241 AB
Will Middlebrooks (Bos): .298/.335/.538, 10 HR, 37 RBI, 3 SB in 171 AB
Yoenis Cespedes (Oak): .270/.330/.486, 9 HR, 35 RBI, 4 SB in 185 AB
Quintin Berry (Det): .295/.388/.394, 1 HR, 13 RBI, 12 SB in 132 AB

Yu Darvish (Tex): 10-5, 3.59 ERA, 117/53 K/BB in 102 2/3 IP
Tommy Milone (Oak): 8-6, 3.73 ERA, 63/24 K/BB in 101 1/3 IP
Wei-Yin Chen (Bal): 7-4, 3.64 ERA, 73/30 K/BB in 99 IP
Matt Moore (TB): 5-5, 4.17 ERA, 93/45 K/BB in 95 IP
Jarrod Parker (Oak): 5-3, 2.46 ERA, 61/39 K/BB in 80 1/3 IP
Scott Diamond (Min):  7-3, 2.63 ERA, 41/11 K/BB in 72 P
Robbie Ross (Tex): 6-0, 1.03 ERA, 26/8 K/BB in 43 2/3 IP
Ryan Cook (Oak): 2-2, 7 Sv, 1.54 ERA, 37/21 K/BB in 35 IP

Here’s how they rank according to Baseball-reference WAR:

4.1 – Trout
2.6 – Parker
2.3 – Darvish
1.9 – Chen
1.6 – Cook
1.6 – Ross
1.5 – Diamond
1.0 – Berry
0.9 – Milone
0.6 – Middlebrooks
-0.3 – Moore
-0.4 – Cespedes

Now, it’s a bad idea to take WAR as gospel anyway and especially so midway through a season, but I find myself in agreement with the way it lines up the top guys here. Trout isn’t only the Rookie of the Half-season, but he’s going to be in the running for MVP honors if he keeps that up.

After Trout, the pitchers dominate. Darvish has 10 wins and is third in the league in strikeouts. Still, I think Parker rates the edge at this point. In his 13 starts, he’s allowed no runs three times, one run six times and two runs twice. Darvish is working deeper into games and pitching in a tougher ballpark, but he’s allowed two runs or fewer in a comparatively modest seven of his 16 starts. Chen is actually closing the gap on him.

It’s worth mentioning the bullpen guys, too. Ross and Cook have been about as valuable as any AL relievers thus far. I think Cook has the better chance of keeping it up, though his walk rate is a concern.

My ballot
1. Trout
2. Parker
3. Darvish

Astros block Detroit Free Press from clubhouse at Justin Verlander’s request

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Last night a BBWAA-credentialed reporter from the Detroit Free Press was barred from the Houston Astros’ clubhouse by team security following the Tigers win over the Astros. The reporter — who was almost certainly Anthony Fenech, who covers the Tigers — was kept out at the request of Astros starter Justin Verlander. Here’s the scene as described by the Free Press. The article contains a photo, taken by Fenech, of the three Astros officials who blocked the door to prevent him access:

At 9:35 p.m., the Astros opened their clubhouse to credentialed media in coordination with MLB rules. As other media members entered the clubhouse, the Free Press reporter with a valid BBWAA-issued credential was blocked from entering by three Astros security officials . . . The reporter contacted Mike Teevan, MLB vice president of communications, who said he would immediately reach out to Dias regarding the issue. Dias eventually gave the reporter access to the clubhouse at 9:41 p.m., after Verlander’s media session had ended . . . Once inside, the reporter approached Verlander, who said: “I’m not answering your questions.” When asked to comment on Wednesday’s loss, Verlander walked away.

That after-the-fact access for the reporter came only after he called Major League Baseball who, in turn, called Astros officials, presumably, to tell them that they cannot bar credentialed media.

It’s unclear at the moment what the beef is between Verlander and either the Free Press or the reporter. For what it’s worth, I follow Fenech and, while he’s a bit more witty and, occasionally, cutting than your average beat reporter, he’s self-effacing and doesn’t do cheap shots. Though he talks often about former Tigers and has made a point to highlight Verlander’s post-Tigers career whenever relevant, to my knowledge he hasn’t said or done anything specific to tweak Verlander in the past.

I will note, though, that last night, about eight minutes before Fenech was barred access, the Free Press Twitter account sent this tongue-in-cheek tweet out. It’s unclear if he or someone else at the paper wrote it:

Maybe that pissed off Verlander, who is known to be active on social media and is usually pretty aware of what’s being said about him. Hard to say.

What’s easy to say, though, is that no matter what has hurt Verlander’s fragile ego, the Astros barring the reporter from the clubhouse is in blatant violation of the agreement between Major League Baseball and the Baseball Writers Association of America, which ensures access for credentialed reporters. Verlander doesn’t have to talk to the guy — he doesn’t have to talk to anyone he doesn’t want to talk to — but the team honoring Verlander’s wishes to bar access is totally unacceptable and, frankly, about as low-rent as it gets from a media relations perspective.

We’ll probably hear more about this later today.