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Is Happ the NL Rookie of the Year?

Aug 23, 2009, 11:25 AM EDT

After tossing seven innings of
one-run ball in a 4-1 win over the Mets on Saturday night, J.A. Happ
improved to 10-2 with a 2.59 ERA (4th in the NL) and 1.17 WHIP (10th).
He has the lowest earned run average by rookie pitcher since Hideo
Nomo’s 2.59 ERA mark in 1995. Even more impressive,
Todd Zolecki of found
that only 10 rookie pitchers in the past 50 years have finished the
season with an ERA lower than the 26-year-old southpaw. From a
franchise perspective, the last Phillies rookie have an ERA lower than
Happ’s was Eppa Rixley (2.50) in 1912.

Now, it must be pointed out that has
gotten a bit lucky behind a .225 batting average against aided by a
.251 BABIP. He has held the opposition to a .125 clip with runners in
scoring position, resulting in a stingy 85.7% strand rate (nearly 16
points above the league average). Naturally, it’s no surprise to see
his FIP sitting at 4.15. But while the one-time ROY favorite Colby
Rasmus has faded over the last two months (.230 with six homers and 13
RBI), Happ has pitched his best ball of the year (5-2 with a 2.20 ERA
over his last 10 starts).

Here’s a quick look at the top National League rookies (batters & pitchers) according to VORP:

1. J.A. Happ (PHI) – 44.9

2. Randy Wells (CHC) – 32.4

3. Dexter Fowler (COL) – 22.6

4. Tommy Hanson (ATL) – 22.6

5. Garrett Jones (PIT) – 22.5

6. Andrew McCutchen (PIT) – 20.2

7. Seth Smith (COL) – 20.1

8. Brian Sanches (FLA) – 18.5

9. Everth Cabrera (SD) – 17.9

10. Casey McGehee (MIL) – 17.7

Wells (9-6, 2.84 ERA) is easily
Happ’s biggest competition at this point, and certainly deserves
consideration regardless of whether the Cubs make the playoffs, but if
the Phillies lock down another NL East crown, I just can’t see the
Rookie of the Year award going to anybody else.

By the way, if you don’t mind geeky asides like this, feel free to follow me on Twitter.

  1. PWHjort - Aug 23, 2009 at 11:54 AM

    Maybe the voters will actually watch one of them play. And realize that Hanson is head and shoulders above the rest of the NL rookie pitchers.

  2. chris - Aug 23, 2009 at 12:27 PM

    Did you read the first paragraph? The stats speak for the theirself, he is the strongest prospect in years. He has the composure of a vet and results that not only exceed everyone in the running this year, but in the last 14 years.

  3. Preston - Aug 23, 2009 at 12:51 PM

    Hanson is definitely a better prospect (comparable performance and he’s 4 years younger) and probably a better pitcher than Happ (slightly better FIP, for example), but Happ is far more deserving of the Rookie of the Year at this point, as he’s thrown 50 more innings with a lower ERA (and for award voting, I’d lean towards using ERA over FIP, just as for projections I’d lean the other way). Now, given that there’s still a month and a half left in the season and Happ is clearly a regression candidate, I think this is far from over.

  4. PWHjort - Aug 23, 2009 at 2:33 PM

    I basically agree with you Preston.

  5. Greg G - Aug 23, 2009 at 8:57 PM

    How can Colby Rasmus not even get a mention? If he’s not in the discussion, your discussion lacks of quality and means nothing!

  6. Keith L - Aug 23, 2009 at 9:37 PM

    The ROY is for what the person does in a given season, not what their potential is. Hanson has more potential than Happ, but Happ is outperforming him this year. Here’s a few stat comparisons as of Aug 23.
    ERA – Happ 2.59, Hanson 3.12, with Happ currently 4th in the NL
    IP – Happ 135.2, Hanson 86.2, although Happ has 3 more starts and 12 games in relief
    WHIP – Happ 1.17, Hanson 1.26, with Happ currently 10th in the NL
    shutouts – Happ has 2 (leads NL), Hanson has none
    Happ also currently leads the NL in win %
    Take all these numbers and the fact that the Phils will likely win the NL East, and Happ wins it as of now. Things can change though…

  7. smokehouse - Aug 23, 2009 at 9:53 PM

    Some people make comments that show a complete lack of knowledge and just shoot off their mouth.

  8. JB - Aug 23, 2009 at 10:29 PM

    Hanson is a much better prospect, but Happ has the award right now. This is coming from a die-hard Braves fan.
    Based on Keith’s comments — we’ll — that pretty much lays it out as much as it pains me to say it.

  9. Dewey - Sep 15, 2009 at 11:57 PM

    I guess I don’t believe what I am seeing. Wonder when this was posted? HJas anyone in here ever hear the name Chris coglan. If not he is the florida marlins left fielder.He is first in most of the batting stats other than hr’s and rbi’s. I find it hard to believe that there was 10 names listed and Coglan ‘s name was not on there.

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