I feel like it makes sense to get this out at the very beginning: The American League Rookie of the Year Award in 2009 makes me very, very angry. What's truly quite strange though is the fact that this rage is not directed at the voters, the usual recipients of my scorn. In fact, for the first time in a long, long time, I might demonstrate total indifference towards the Writers Association with regards to this particular Rookie of the Year award. You hear that, guys? You're getting a free pass on this one. Heaven help you if you screw up anything else, though.
No, my rage this time is directed at the players. Specifically, why couldn't they play better? Isn't that what they were created in laboratories to do? You see, the problem is we don't have one truly impressive AL Rookie of the Year candidate. Rick Porcello will probably win the "honor" due to our nation's ungodly infatuation with wins, youth, boyish looks, and attempts (either intentional or unintentional) to grow neck beards. If these were the actual qualities on which the candidates for RoY were to be judged, then not even I could find fault with a Porcello victory. Unfortunately these aren't the metrics the Writers Association employs (if they employ any at all...ZING!) and the fact of the matter is that Porcello simply walked too many, struck out too few, and pandered to excellent defensive play behind him to give his ERA a false shine.
The wise among us are calling for Oakland pitcher Brett Anderson and, truth be told, he did have an impressive season that is put into further context if you look at the advanced metrics. If there's anything to knock him for, it's his HR total, but that would just be nit-picking of the highest variety. Anderson is certainly the most deserving candidate, and other outlets have started to jump on board his bandwagon. However, I won't be disappointed if he doesn't win because we all know how that worked out for another Oakland player, and I would prefer the chance to watch Anderson have a few good years before Billy Beane casts him off in favor of "building around cheap, controlled talent."
Which brings us (segue!) to the man they call "Elvis". When I spoke earlier of my frustration in the lack of a candidate that is head and shoulders above the rest of the competition (a la Longoria last season), I was mostly directing this frustration towards Elvis Andrus.
Here's what Andrus is good at:
- Running - Fella was 33/39 on stolen base attempts this year. Not too shabby, and it bodes very well for his future ability as a run scorer in that monstrous Texas lineup.
- Fielding - This is where Elvis really shines and I start getting all weepy over good defense. At a demanding position, Andrus posted a superb 8.3 UZR/150 in his first full season wherein he played all but 17 games for his team. That's really quite good for a youngster and his role as a run saver undoubtedly helped to solidify his 3.0 WAR, a figure just behind Anderson (3.8) and way ahead of Porcello (1.9).
- Having an awesome name - Seriously, look at that thing, it's a wonder to behold. I wish I could be that cool.
Unfortunately, it's not all cute puppies and rainbows for Andrus. As you probably noticed he has one glaring omission from the above listicle: hitting. Not surprisingly, there's a reason for that and it's the fact that he's really not a good hitter. Or at the very least, he was a frustratingly inept hitter in his first season. His lack of patience and little pop is probably keeping Andrus from running away with the award. His OPS+ was a paltry 85. He only wOBA'd .322, a figure substantially down from his minor league totals the year before, and unaided by his low walk rate. Nobody expects Andrus to be a substantial power threat, but he is supposedly the future leadoff hitter for his team, and good leadoff hitters know how to get on base besides slapping the ball all over the park.
What really drives me nuts about this guy though is what he was doing with the bat. Specifically, Andrus hits the ball hard. And he hits it in this fashion a lot. He is 20th in Major League Baseball in LD% (21.9%). The really disturbing thing? With the exception of one man on the top 20 list, every single hitter with a higher LD% than Andrus has a substantially higher BABIP. In other words, Andrus should have been hitting more singles and doubles at the very least, but he was getting robbed by bad luck. So if he gets on the other side of the karmic boomerang and starts to have more hits fall in and draw more walks, Andrus will be the stud the Rangers want him to be. Look at it this way, his WAR already shows him to be valuable, imagine what he could do once he starts swinging the bat. For now though, we're left with a rookie season that was quite good but was held back from being truly great and giving us the unanimous RoY candidate we are probably looking for.