Nov 16, 2009, 11:45 AM EST
Later today the Baseball Writers Association of America will announce their choice for AL Rookie of the Year, but first here’s how my ballot would look:
1. Andrew Bailey, Oakland
2. Elvis Andrus, Texas
3. Jeff Niemann, Tampa Bay
4. Gordon Beckham, Chicago
5. Rick Porcello, Detroit
Honorable mention: Brett Anderson, Ricky Romero, Nolan Reimold, Matt Wieters
I’m not all that keen on giving the award to a reliever, but Andrew Bailey was arguably the best relief pitcher in the entire American League this season. He went 6-3 and converted 26-of-30 saves with a 1.84 ERA and 91/25 K/BB ratio in 83 innings.
Among relievers with at least 60 innings Bailey led the league in opponents’ batting average (.167) and WHIP (0.88) while ranking second in ERA behind only Mariano Rivera. Bailey wasn’t on the field as much as the other top candidates, but he dominated like no other rookie, his 83 innings were the third-most of any AL reliever, and his outings came in higher-leverage situations than the rookie starters.
Gordon Beckham will almost surely get the most votes among position players because his raw offensive numbers are the best, but Elvis Andrus had a more valuable rookie campaign. Beckham hit .270/.347/.460 with seven steals, which made him five percent above average at third base. Andrus hit .267/.329/.373 with 33 steals, which made him almost exactly average at shortstop.
Beckham was slightly better than Andrus relative to their positions, but that edge quickly vanishes when you consider that Andrus had 25 percent more plate appearances and played spectacular defense at shortstop. I’ll take 541 plate appearances of average offense and great defense at an up-the-middle position over 430 plate appearances of slightly above average offense and average defense at a corner spot.
This season featured a high number of rookie starting pitchers making impacts, but Jeff Niemann stood out by going 13-6 with a 3.94 ERA and 125/59 K/BB ratio in 181 innings. Five rookies logged at least 150 innings, and Niemann had the biggest workload and a lower ERA than Ricky Romero, Rick Porcello, Brett Anderson, and Trevor Cahill. Niemann also tied for third in the AL with two complete-game shutouts, behind only Roy Halladay and Zack Greinke.
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