The race for Rookie of the Year in the American League may be just about over, bar the shouting - the only question is how high Mike Trout might finish in the MVP voting. But in the National League, things are looking a lot less certain. Early on, it seemed that Bryce Harper was going to Harper his Harper to the Harper of the Harper Harper. But he hasn't sustained the early pace he set after being called up. Over his last 38 games, Bryce is hitting only .224 with an OPS of just .613, and this no longer seems the foregone conclusion it appeared to be at one point.
So, who else is there, and where does Arizona rookie and All-Star Wade Miley stand against the other qualifiers?
Let's start by running out the field of contenders, beginning with the hitters. Here are all the rookie-qualified position players with 200+ plate-appearances this season for their teams. The WAR figure shown is obtained by averaging bWAR and fWAR, to try and get some kind of consensus from the two systems.
I take pleasure in seeimg tjat Harper may not even be the best rookie htter in the NL this year. It's certainly difficult to argue much of a case for him as a clear leader, when you compare his numbers to those of Frazier. While Joey Votto has, obviously, been the engine-room of the Reds progress to the best record in the National League, youngsters like Frazier and Cozart have also played an important part in their success. Rosario is having a very nice season for Colorado, showing a lot of power, but will find himself humidor'd in the voting. Troy-boy is the only Rockie to have received more than a single point in RotY voting since 2005, and he hit .291 rather than .240.
Next, let's do the same thing for the pitchers. I set the bar low here, at 40 IP, so as to catch any young stud relievers - after all, Craig Kimbrel won the award last season, and only had 53 innings of work at this point. However, I couldn't find any: there's only two with more than a single save, the Padres' Dale Thayer (5) and Cubs' Rafael Dolis (4). It's also worth noting there are some pitchers Fangraphs believes to be rookie-eligible, who aren't. Most obvious among them is the Cardinals' Lance Lynn. He has had a very solid year but, while his innings last year were fine, he spent 57 days on the active 2011 roster pre-September, which rules him out. Here are the ones who do qualify.
At this point, it would seem to be Miley's award to lose, based on WAR. He has thrown more innings than any contender bar Harrell, and the results have been much better, even playing in a hitters' park like Chase. I have been impressed by the numbers put up by Fiers, however: if he can maintain that level of performance over another dozen or so starts, he could well be in the running. When Dontrelle Willis won Rookie of the Year in 2003, he did so with only 160.2 innings of work, and Fiers should end up with approaching 150, if he remains healthy and doesn't get shut down by the Brewers.
However, I do note that, of late, the National League voters have apparently been reluctant to award this to a rookie starting pitcher. Willis was the last such, nine seasons ago: since then, only J.A. Happ, in 2008, has even made it to the runner-up spot. Of course, Kimbrel made it last season. Somewhat related, Hughes is the only pure reliever in the list. His ERA is certainly comparable with Kimbrel's, but the fact that the Pirates are using him before the ninth inning (he has exactly one save!), and Hughes's much less striking strikeout-rate, likely means he'll be ignored by the voters.
Of course, we all know that voters don't go strictly by WAR when coming to their decisions. As proof of that, we need look no further than Dontrelle's victory, where Brandon Webb (5.7 bWAR) was unjustly overlooked in favor of Willis (4.2 bWAR) - and even more unjustly, pushed into third-place by Arizona Refusedback Scott Podsednik (3.3 bWAR). That's more the rule than the exception. The last time the NL Rookie of the Year also had the best bWAR, was Hanley Ramirez back in 2006, and there have been some quite egregious decisions. Since then, it should have been as follows
- 2007: Troy Tulowitzki (6.5 bWAR) - actual winner, Ryan Braun (1.8)
- 2008: Edinson Volquez (4.2 bWAR) - Geovany Soto (3.1)
- 2009: Randy Wells (4.1 bWAR) - Chris Coghlan (0.9)
- 2010: Jason Heyward (6.3 bWAR) - Buster Posey (3.7)
- 2011: Vance Worley (3.4 bWAR) - Craig Kimbrel (2.3)
If there's a trend in the above, it seems generally to reflect a fondness for hitters over pitchers, and big markets over small ones - which could make Miley's path to becoming Arizona's first Rookie of the Year more difficult. However, I suspect Wade will probably not be worrying about that side of things, so much as simply focusing on his own performances over the next two months. That's probably for the best, given the pennant race in which the Diamondbacks now find themselves.