keyboard_arrow_uptop

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…

Thank you for reading

This is a free article. If you enjoyed it, consider subscribing to Baseball Prospectus. Subscriptions support ongoing public baseball research and analysis in an increasingly proprietary environment.

Subscribe now
You need to be logged in to comment. Login or Subscribe
MrPecotahead
11/16
Will - Congrats again on the BBWAA membership (too long coming, many more deserving online contributors to go). You may have covered this somewhere, but . . . Am I correct that the BBWAA awards voting is based upon two voters from each MLB city (in each league). If that's correct, what are the cities represented in the BP voting? Also, how many BBWAA members cover the 30 x 2 x 4 = 240 votes for the BBWAA awards? (Seems like no more than 239 if you have two votes this year.)
wcarroll
11/16
I'm not sure of the formula for who votes, but I'm in the Cincinnati chapter (closest to my Indianapolis home) and Christina is in Chicago.
nsmith3
11/16
Actually, I believe that ROY has only one criteria for voting, that the player is an eligible rookie. So you could put future potential into your analysis and if you did, I think Hanson and McCutchen would clearly be better choices than Coghlan. Just based on statistical performance I would have gone with the other two anyway, but I respect your opinion.
nsmith3
11/16
I meant Happ not Coghlan, sorry.
TADontAsk
11/16
Sadly, as we saw in last year's NL RoY voting, being an eligible rookie isn't always a criteria either.
Ophidian
11/17
Will, I like your reasoning and find it very measured. However, I am disappointed that you didn't include the case for Coghlan and why you chose to rank him below the other three.
wcarroll
11/17
I looked at Coghlan and discounted him quickly, perhaps too quickly. I just felt that McCutchen was better and that Hanson was a better "future and now" player than Coghlan. Looking at the numbers, I still can't say I'd have changed my vote.
wcarroll
11/17
Also, I wrote this article before the awards were announced and was really surprised that Coghlan won. Not undeserved, but surprised.
ccseverson
11/17
Solid pick of Happ in a tough year. Congrats having a vote to make.
mwashuc06
11/17
Coghlan had a BABIP of .366 this year, give him a normal BABIP he's a .280 hitter and not even on the ballot.
ostrowj1
11/17
Maybe, but he DID have a BABIP of .366 this year. It doesn't matter how unlikely it is that he will do it again. It doesn't really matter if you could attribute his season to good luck. He should get acknowledgement for the season he had.
Oleoay
11/17
Wouldn't that be the same as voting for the Cy Young strictly on win total?
dcoonce
11/17
See: Bob Welch, 1990. Or Barry Zito, 2002. The most egregious examples of this particular outdated mode of thinking.
Oleoay
11/17
Yeah I know.. so why am I getting the negative feedback votes and he's getting the positive feedback? :)
DrDave
11/17
No, it wouldn't. It would be the same as voting for a reliever based on WXRL, or a hitter on BA/OBP/SLG, or a fielder based on UZR -- all purely outcome-based, with no regard for how repeatable that might be in the future. The problem with W and L for pitchers is not that they are outcome-based, but that more than half of what they measure isn't related to the pitcher you're trying to evaluate. (Specifically, run support and bullpen support. Defense too, but less so.) If you're going to down-vote a hitter for a .366 BABIP, you have to also be willing to down-vote a pitcher with a .200 BABIP because you don't think the fact that nobody got a hit off him is repeatable.
Oleoay
11/17
Good point, and a good clarification. I see what you mean in the differences between W/L factors and BABIP factors.
misterdelaware
11/17
Isn't the stronger case against Coghlan simply that he's a below average power/speed/defensive corner OF whose overall numbers were dependent solely on batting average? McCutchen's contributions on both sides of the ball as well as the pitching of Hanson, Happ and Wells would all be tougher for a generic team to replace than Coghlan's output in LF.
ostrowj1
11/18
Sorry I am late to respond. While it is unlikely anybody would read this I will reply anyway. First, Dr. Dave made a good point that I won't reiterate. Secondly, I am sure I can look through the past 10-20 years of World Series winners/ pennant winners/ playoff teams that did not have the most talent of mlb / their league/ their division. I can argue that team X only did what they did because their record in 1-run games was an anomaly and we all know that it is unlikely to be repeated. Maybe they third-order win percentage put them at a .500 team. All that may be true, but if they did win enough games to make the playoffs / World Series, then they deserve credit for what happened on the field. That does not mean that I am expecting them to repeat their performance. I could just as well expect a team to come off a World Series win only to finish under .500 the following year. Statistical analysis is great for predicting how a player or team will perform. And yes, it is important to consider what measures you use to determine value (wins do not accurately measure a players value to a team, OBP does- even if it is a reliant on a high BABIP). All I was saying is that Coghlan should be judged based on the actual value that he provided for his team. If I were a GM, I would take McCutchen over him any day of the week. And honestly, I didn't think Coghlan deserved it (see misterdelaware's post), but I think it is unfair to use this particular style of statistical argument (judging the season's repeatability) to minimize his accomplishments. Absolutely fair to take it into consideration when predicting 2010, but give the guy credit for what he did. I don't really understand why this is "outdated thinking".
Oleoay
11/18
I think the argument is that Coghlan didn't do much besides get lucky... hence, little credit is given. Also, it is Will's vote, so he can use any personal criteria in-line with the BBWAA's guidelines that he wants, so there's not really a "fairness" argument involved. Some people use the same personal criteria to never vote for an MVP on a losing team or who is not a pitcher. If Will bases his ROY on avoiding the next Hollandsworth, I think that's an improvement.
ostrowj1
11/18
My point was who cares if he got lucky. What he did has value, luck or no luck. Will can use whatever reasons he want to, but I personally don't think "avoid Hollandsworth" (or my personal favorite, Bob Hamlin) should be the goal. If you think that Hollandsworth had the best season amongst those eligible, they you should vote for him for ROY (in my opinion), even if his future is not as bright as say Edgar Renteria, Jason Kendell, or F.P. Santangelo.
Oleoay
11/19
Well, the point then becomes you use different criteria than Will. Nothing wrong with his, or yours either for that matter, but if you don't agree with him, it's because Will and you use different criteria in determining what is a quality season and, more importantly, what is vote-worthy. Personally, I find the Hollandsworth comparison a bit harsh since he was a major leaguer and contributed for a few years and some ROY don't even do that much.