Which of these three rookie starters’ seasons is best?
- Player A: 17-9, 3.63 ERA (125 ERA+), 1.33 WHIP, 60 BB, 124 K
- Player B: 14-6, 3.30 ERA (122 ERA+), 1.28 WHIP, 58 BB, 142 K
- Player C: 16-8, 4.52 ERA (108 ERA+), 1.46 WHIP, 70 BB, 127 K
- Player D: 13-6, 3.40 ERA (128 ERA+), 1.21 WHIP, 85 BB, 233 K
- Player E: 17-13, 3.76 ERA (120 ERA+), 1.28 WHIP, 82 BB, 224 K
Ok, now which of these rookie relievers’ seasons is best?
- Player A: 78.1 IP, 1.72 ERA (261 ERA+), 26 BB, 72 K, 0 HLD, 23 SV
- Player B: 62.2 IP, 3.16 ERA (145 ERA+), 31 BB, 78 K, 0 HLD, 37 SV
- Player C: 93.1 IP, 2.41 ERA (188 ERA+), 43 BB, 107 K, 5 HLD, 19 SV
- Player D: 73.1 IP, 1.19 ERA (379 ERA+), 17 BB, 63 K, 29 HLD, 4 SV
And finally, which of these middle infielders’ rookie seasons is best?
- Player A: 633 AB, .292/.353/.480 (116 OPS+), 17 HR, 59 RBI, 56 BB, 128 K
- Player B: 545 AB, .239/.319/.426 (91 OPS+), 22 HR, 64 RBI, 58 BB, 141 K
- Player C: 567 AB, .287/.338/.451 (96 OPS+), 17 HR, 73 RBI, 29 BB, 100 K
- Player D: 455 AB, .285/.394/.382 (98 OPS+), 4 HR, 37 RBI, 73 BB, 80 K
- Player E: 581 AB, .323/.394/.445 (120 OPS+), 9 HR, 57 RBI, 62 BB, 48 K
A case can be made that the last player in each list is having the best rookie season. Of course, those lines are the 162-game projections of the current totals for Daisuke Matsuzaka, Hideki Okajima and Dustin Pedroia. The kicker is that the other seasons are from the players in that position to win the Rookie of the Year award for either league in the last 10 years (I provided the links).
Matsuzaka is on pace to have the best season by a rookie starter since Kerry Wood (Player D). His ERA is slightly higher, but still well above average, and his WHIP is on the low end of the list. What really puts him over the top is the number of strikeouts, far above Verlander (A) and Willis (B), who otherwise have similar rate stats. Yet expectations for him were so high that I bet most people would be surprised to know it.
Okajima’s a bit tougher. No middle reliever has ever won the ROY, so we can’t compare the operative stat, holds. Still, his walks and Ks, never mind his insanely low ERA, compare favorably to Street’s and Sasaki’s. No one touches Williamson’s rookie campaign (C), but Okajima has a chance thanks mostly to the surprising nature of his candidacy.
Pedroia is a second baseman amid a host of shortstops. Still, he’s outperforming Hanley Ramirez, who had a terrific season last year. Particularly impressive is the OPS+ number. Most infielders who win the ROY are decent sluggers with terrible on-base skills, presumably because they’re still young. They end up near or slightly below league average overall. Furcal (Player D) and Pedroia seem to be the exceptions. Pedroia’s BA and OBP, meanwhile, are far superior to the others, and his slugging — thanks mainly to his mass of doubles — holds its own, so he’s comfortably above even the best ROY infielders. Also, note the projected strikeouts. Basically half as many as any other comparable ROY winner.
So any of the three has a legitimate — if not compelling — case for Rookie of the Year. Who should it be? Who else should be considered? (Hint: Joba Chamberlain isn’t eligible ;-)