NL Rookie of the Year
Okay, I'm finally getting around to my choices for the Rookie of the Year awards. I'll give my top five for the NL today and I hope to give my top five for the AL by the end of the weekend.
5. Jae Weong Seo, SP, NYM
Seo gets the fifth spot by being a little bit better in just about every category than Atlanta SP Horacio Ramirez. Seo had a 3.82 ERA and 1.27 WHIP in 188.1 innings while Ramirez had a 4.00 ERA and 1.39 WHIP in 182.1 innings.
Seo had 5.26 strikeouts per nine innings, 2.20 walks per nine innings and 0.86 home runs allowed per nine innings this year. Ramirez was worse in all three categories with 4.94 K/9IP, 3.55 BB/9IP and 1.04 HR/9IP.
Ramirez did pitch longer in the games he started, but I don't think it's a big enough difference to make up for the fact that Seo was a better when he was on the mound. Ramirez averaged 6.29 innings in his 29 starts, while Seo averaged 5.91 innings in his 31 starts. Each pitcher had 17 quality starts.
Neither pitcher was tremendous and there wasn't a whole lot of difference between the two of them (they both had around nine win shares), but I like Seo's body of work better than Ramirez's, so I'm giving him the fifth spot.
4. Marlon Byrd, CF, PHI
It looked like this might be a lost season for Byrd. He was hitting very poorly when he got hurt in mid-April and then he was even worse in May after he returned. However, he was excellent in June and July, not bad in August and pretty good in September.
He finished the year hitting .303 with a .366 OBP and a .418 SLG for a .784 OPS. He hit 28 doubles, four triples and seven home runs. He walked 44 times while striking out 94 times and he scored 86 runs while driving in 45. He also stole 11 bases in 12 attempts (91.7-percent success rate) and appears to have played a pretty good defensive center field.
His .284 EqA, 74.3 EqR and 26.9 RARP put him in the middle of the pack of NL center fielders. If he had just been average, instead of awful, in April and May he might have warranted a spot in the top three among NL rookies. Instead, he's just fourth, which is a lot better than it looked like he'd do after those first two months.
3. Dontrelle Willis, SP, FLA
Willis burst onto the scene with that amazing streak of great starts from late May through early July and most people gave him the NL Rookie of the Year award right there and then. However, he wore down as the season wore on and he's not only not the Rookie of the Year, he's not even the runner up.
Willis finished the season with a 3.30 ERA and 1.28 WHIP in 160.2 innings. That ERA's pretty nice, but the WHIP isn't all that impressive and he didn't pitch quite enough for my liking. He had 7.95 K/9IP, 3.25 BB/9IP and 0.73HR/9IP. All of those are pretty good marks, but they still don't get him into the top two.
Despite all of Willis' impressive starts, he only had 16 quality starts in the 27 games he started and he only averaged 5.95 innings per start. He has a World Series ring and a nice future, but he wasn't one of the two best rookies in the NL this season, charisma and funky delivery bedamned.
2. Scott Podsednik, CF, MIL
Podesdnik came completely out of nowhere this season to put up a season that would have drawn raves even if he wasn't a rookie. He hit for average (.314), showed good patience (.379 OBP) and had decent power (.443 SLG) for a nice .822 OPS.
He hit 29 doubles, eight triples and nine home runs. He scored 100 runs and drove in 58 from the leadoff spot while walking 56 times and striking out 91 times. He also stole 43 bases in 53 attempts (81.1-percent success rate).
Podsednik might not just have been the second-best rookie in the NL this season, he may have been the second-best center. He had a .292 EqA, 90.5 EqR and 35.6 RARP. That 35.6 number is lower than only Jim Edmonds among NL centerfielders. However, it's only barely ahead of Andruw Jones (35.3) and Jones probably makes up the difference with his defense.
Still, it's pretty impressive to be the third-best centerfielder in the league as a rookie, and most years it would be good enough to get you the Rookie of the Year award. This year, however, there was one player who was even more impressive.
1. Brandon Webb, SP, ARI
Webb was simply marvelous. He posted a 2.83 ERA and 1.15 WHIP in 180.2 innings. He had 8.57 K/9IP, 3.39 BB/9IP and 0.60 HR/9IP. He made 28 starts and 21 of them were quality starts. He also averaged 6.42 innings per start.
If it wasn't for his last two starts of the season (9 earned runs and 16 total runs in 8 innings), he probably would be deserving of a spot in the top five for the NL Cy Young Award. And if he was that good, then he was clearly the NL Rookie of the Year.
A lot of things I've seen referring to the Rookie of the Year talk about Webb and Willis, but it's not even remotely close. First of all, Webb has much better numbers across the board. Second of all, he put up those numbers in a good hitter's park while Willis was putting up his numbers in a good pitcher's park. Of all the runs scored in Arizona's baseball games this year, 54.9-percent of those runs were scored in their home games. Of all the runs scored in Florida's baseball games this year, 53.4-percent of those runs were scored in their road games.
So, Webb made half his starts in a park that severely inflated scoring while Willis made the majority of his starts in a park that severely deflated scoring, and Webb still finished with much better numbers. Willis had a 3.63 road ERA, while Webb had a 2.27 road ERA. Look at that last number again. Pitching in a neutral park, Webb's final numbers may have rivaled those of Pedro Martinez.
Not only should Webb win the NL Rookie of the Year award, it should be unanimous. It probably won't be, but it should be.