MLB Rookies of the Year: Are Bailey, Coghlan Good Picks?

MLB's merry awards season carried on its campaign to give a bunch of virtually meaningless baubles to players by awarding the AL Rookie of the Year award to Oakland's Andrew Bailey and the NL award to Florida's Chris Coghlan. Using some of the same metrics that Dan Levy trotted out for his looks at the Silver Slugger and Gold Gloves, I examined the picks to determine whether Bailey and Coghlan were good choices. ↵

↵Spoiler alert: Giving an award for "best" anything in baseball to a relief pitcher is an odd decision unless that player was stupendously good. ↵

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↵And Andrew Bailey wasn't. ↵

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↵American League
↵Bailey won in part because of his All-Star selection. Let's get this out of the way first: That, as a peripheral indicator of his name recognition and a result of Oakland's lackluster season, does little to bolster his statistical case. But he was rather good for a reliever: He converted 26 of 30 save chances, posted a 1.84 ERA (2.56 FIP) with a 0.88 WHIP, and kept hitters to a skinny .173 batting average. That said, he's a reliever, and his value to Oakland only graded out as 2.4 Wins Over Replacement, according to FanGraphs. Other players posted higher numbers. ↵

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↵On Bailey's own team, there was a rookie pitcher with a higher WAR: Brett Anderson, who accrued 3.8 over his deceptive 11-11, 4.06 ERA year with an exceptional slider and a solid 3.33 K/BB ratio. Elvis Andrus, Texas' whiz-kid shortstop, put together a 3.0 WAR despite light hitting (.267/.329/.373) because of his excellent defense (10.7 UZR). And the White Sox' Gordon Beckham, despite playing just 103 games and 378 PAs, posted a .347 OBP and a 2.0 WAR. ↵

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↵Bailey's not a terrible choice, and his numbers stand out for a reliever. But relief pitching is almost always less valuable to a team than an everyday hitter or a solid starter, and Anderson was demonstrably more valuable to the A's. ↵

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↵National League
↵Chris Coghlan was not meant to be an outfielder, or a long-term call-up, for the Marlins. His hot bat forced their hand: A .321/.390/.460 triple-slash line in 128 games is hard to bench. His defense wasn't very good (-11.1 UZR), but that offense gives him a strong case and most of his 2.3 WAR. ↵

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↵However, Casey McGehee's and Andrew McCutchen's offensive stats are as or more impressive, McGehee, who played second and third for the Brewers, posted a .301/.360/.499 triple-slash, and hammered 16 homers to Coghlan's nine; Pirates outfielder McCutchen put up .281/.365/.471 as a right-handed hitter in PNC Park, and average defense (-1.0 UZR) helped him accumulate a 3.4 WAR. ↵

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↵And in his own division, the pitching candidates were probably on par with Coghlan, and maybe better. J.A. Happ's 12-4 record is gaudy, but his 2.93 ERA is a defense-inflated stat (his FIP: 4.33), and pales in comparison to Atlanta's Tommy Hanson's 2.89 ERA (FIP: 3.50). Hanson also beats Happ on K/9 (8.18 to 6.45) K/BB (2.52 to 2.13), and WAR (2.6 in 127.2 IP to 1.8 in 166 IP). Heck, Washington's Jordan Zimmermann was Happ's equal in WAR in just 91.1 innings; an injury probably prevented him from being a 3+ WAR pitcher for the lowly Nats. ↵

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↵The really interesting choice, though, would have been Randy Wells, who did get to 3.0 WAR with the Cubs, and in 165.1 IP. His K/BB is low (2.26) and his batting average on balls in play remarkably low (.294), but he allowed just 14 homers while playing his home games at Wrigley, and was not far from the levels of their big three pitchers -- Ted Lilly, Ryan Dempster, and Carlos Zambrano all failed to break 4.0 WAR. Coghlan, again, is not awful, but picking a better player on a team that spent less time contending (either Wells or Hanson) might have been a better choice. ↵

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This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.

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