November 16, 2009
Voting For Real
NL Rookie of the Year
Like many, I've kvetched about the annual awards. I've wondered how voters could pass up my guy, not look at the numbers, not do this, that, or the other things, but as a new member of the BBWAA, this year I had to put my money where my mouth is. Now that Chris Coghlan has been named Rookie of the Year, I can explain why my vote for him didn't count and/or helped hand him the Award.
I spent a lot of time with making my picks for the Rookie of the Year Award. I'll be honest, I didn't like what I had to pick from. It was a down year, and the phrase that I kept coming back to is "I don't want to vote for the next Todd Hollandsworth." While I understand the RotY is a performance award based on who is the best player in 2009 and not some prospecting exercise, it still bothered me, and I knew that if it was close, that would likely be my deciding factor. If It was merely "who was the rookie who you think will go on to have the best career?" it would have been a toss-up between Tommy Hanson and Andrew McCutchen. Of course, I have a bias against rookie pitchers-they're injury prone, if you didn't know-but I like Hanson in a lot of ways. He was an engaging young man, humble yet confident, when I met him at the Bellagio last December. I like his motion and the way he pitches. I really like his results, as do the Braves, but being called up late kept both his raw and advanced numbers down. For me, I just can't say that 11 wins in 21 starts or nearly five wins of WARP3 is enough, not when there are better options.
At the Pittsburgh ballpark event, I sat down with Shawn Hoffman, John Perrotto, and Eric Seidman, trying to convince myself that J.A. Happ was the right pick. He was well up in VORP, contributed to his team in every phase, and was helping a winning team. Still, he was, I thought, a back-of-the-rotation guy who maxed out, gaining much of the benefit of pitching in front of a solid offense and defense. This was likely his best year, though I'll wait to see how that turns out. The guy I kept wanting to vote for was Andrew McCutchen. I'd watched him over two seasons in Indianapolis, loved how he'd developed, and liked how he played. He was the best position player eligible, and I think McCutchen is going to be a solid player, if not a star, for a number of years.
In the end, I voted by the numbers. J.A. Happ was the best rookie this season and I ended up giving him my vote for Rookie of the Year. My ballot went Happ, McCutchen, and Hanson. I'm happy with it.
Later on in awards season, I'll touch on the other award I had a vote for, and explain my selections and Criticize the picks if you want, but in a year where the BBWAA opened up its voting to members they knew might think a little different, I have to feel like it's a step forward. Now about those Gold Gloves...