clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Checking for crazy Rookie of the Year ballots

Ed Zurga

This year's BBWAA's awards are basically the most boring BBWAA awards in BBWAA award history. Because as Grant wrote last week, there's essentially no drama at all this year. Eight major awards, and we knew beforehand almost exactly who would win all eight of them. The might be a little drama about the American League's Manager of the Year Award ... but hardly anybody pays attention to that one anyway.

Fortunately, after decades and decades of complete institutional secrecy, a few years ago the BBWAA finally released each voter's ballot. Which means there is something interesting to nit-pick every single year; nay, every single award, every single year.

Take the Rookies of the Year, announced Monday. Yes, we knew that Jose Fernandez and Wil Myers were going to win. Fernandez pitched in the Marlins' rotation for five months, and posted a gaudy ERA. Myers came up in the middle of the season and set himself apart from a terrible field of American League candidates by getting hot almost exactly when the Wild Card-winning Rays also got hot.

Ah, but the ballots! We can always put the ballots under a microscope and see who didn't get the memos. And fortunately for the electrons supply and your work responsibilities, there seem to have been only two voters who didn't get the memos this season. Two out of sixty.

In the National League, Fernandez got 26 first-place votes and 4 second-place votes. Meanwhile, Yasiel Puig got the other four first-place votes, 25 second-place votes, and-- oh. Puig didn't get a third-place vote. Which means somebody left him off the ballot completely.

In the olden times, we wouldn't have know who cast the outlier ballot unless he (or she) happened to mention it. Often, we were left to wonder. But no longer, friends! This year's only National League outlier was ...

San Diego's John Maffei, whose ballot went Fernandez-Miller-Gyorko, as in Shelby Miller and -- coincidentally, I'm sure -- San Diego's Jedd Gyorko, who finished sixth in the overall balloting (he received one other third-place vote, from a Diamondbacks writer). So what might we make of The Wild Horse's absence from Maffei's ballot? Just to get this conversation started, here are the composite Wins Above Replacement (Wins+) from and FanGraphs. I like adding them up! It creates separation, and also allows for the possibility that nobody's method is perfect ...

10.5 Fernandez
9.0 Puig
6.6 Arenado
6.4 Hyun-Jin
5.5 Miller
4.7 Gyorko

For what it's worth, A.J. Pollock actually has the third-highest composite Wins+ (7.1) among National League rookies, but the voters apparently weren't swayed by his (statistically speaking) Gold Glove-quality defense in center field, as he didn't garner even a single third-place vote.

Obviously, Gyorko doesn't fare well here. I'm going to guess that Maffei was particularly impressed by Gyorko's rookie-best 23 home runs, liked his defense better than our advanced metrics liked it, and developed an extra appreciation from watching Gyorko play every day. So, crazy vote?

Well, not that one. But then, that's not what we were talking about. We were talking about leaving Puig off completely. And yeah, that seems a little crazy. Even if you can somehow gig Puig enough points for his erratic fielding and baserunning -- and by the way, he was not, statistically speaking, a good fielder or baserunner -- his hitting was so brilliant that I just don't see how you can justify excluding him while including Gyorko. Unless you start getting into the intangibles. Except the Dodgers played a hell of a lot better with Puig than without him.

So again, yeah: a little crazy, this one. Didn't hurt anybody, which is good.

Now, the American League, which is sorta the same as the National League and sorta different.

Here's the same part: One voter left the winner off his ballot completely and his third-place vote went to a relatively obscure local guy. Yes, it's okay to shake your head ruefully, but maybe there really are some guys you just have to see every day. In this case, Cleveland's Chris Assenheimer left Myers off his ballot, while placing Cleveland's Cody Allen third. And like Gyorko, Allen's support consisted entirely of two third-place votes.

Here's the different part: There were exactly zero outstanding Rookie of the Year candidates in the American League. Really, it was sort of pathetic, to the point where you almost felt sorry for the poor voters.

Do you know how many rookie American League hitters qualified for the batting title? I'll give you a hint: It's the same number of rookie hitters who finished with more than 13 home runs, the same number of rookie pitchers who qualified for the ERA title.

Correct! Zero. And there wasn't a just-missed-the-cutoff-like-Puig in the American League, either. Here's the same exercise from before, with composite Wins+ for all eight candidates who finished in the running:

4.2 Wil Myers
3.7 Jose Iglesias
3.4 Chris Archer
3.1 Dan Straily
1.4 J.B. Shuck
2.4 Cody Allen
3.2 Martin Perez
5.1 David Lough

Yeah. David Lough actually has the highest composite Wins+ in the whole group and he garnered one measly third-place vote, courtesy of Ken Rosenthal Davidoff. Now, in the other voters' defense I will say that Lough's value derives largely from his defense in right field, and we know that defensive statistics are not particularly reliable when we're looking at just 62 complete games in the outfield, as in Lough's case.

Back to the original question: Can you make a case for leaving Myers off the ballot? Well, yeah ... but again, not if you're going to use that slot for Cody Allen, a fine relief pitcher who pitched 70 innings. If you just can't countenance Myers' poor defense or his late arrival in the majors, you still had three good starting pitchers to choose from. And in fact, Assenheimer left Iglesias off his ballot, too. He went Straily-Archer-Allen, omitting Perez because ... why, exactly? His relatively high ERA? Texas is a tough place to pitch, and anyway his ERA was lower than Straily's. His relatively low strikeout rate?

Well, that's a real thing. And Perez made only 20 starts, compared to 27 for Straily and 23 for Archer. Perez also threw 54 more innings than Allen, but most of Allen's would have been higher-leverage innings.

Crazy? Yeah, a little. It's one thing to bump one of the rookie starters in favor of a good rookie reliever, but bumping Myers for Allen just doesn't square with the reality that we're able to observe. Again, though: didn't hurt anybody. And might have given a little extra thrill to Cody Allen's folks.

So it's largely been a non-crazy voting season, so far. I just wouldn't let Maffei or Assenheimer pick stocks for me. Then again, considering what we know about stock-picking, why not?

Correction: This page originally listed a 2.2 composite Wins+ for Iglesias, due to a glitch on this page. My thanks to a commenter (below) for pointing out my error.