Compared to last year, ranking the rookies for this season is pretty boring, since as Coley points out, most of the best rookies were in the NL, but even in the NL the choice is obvious given Ryan Braun’s utter dominance.

But I have been a bit surprised at some of the names that keep getting mentioned, as well as some of the names who haven’t been mentioned much.

So I decided to rank the top 15 rookies together in one group, including players from both leagues. Here is what I came up with:

1. Ryan Braun (NL)

2. Troy Tulowitzki (NL)

3. Daisuke Matsuzaka (AL)

4. Hunter Pence (NL)

5. Dustin Pedroia (AL)

6. Jeremy Guthrie (AL)

7. James Loney (NL)

8. Brian Bannister (AL)

9. Chris Young (NL)

10. Kyle Kendrick (NL)

11. Yovanni Gallardo (NL)

12. Peter Moylan (NL)

13. Reggie Willits (AL)

14. Joakim Soria (AL)

15. Hideki Okajima (AL)

Sure enough, 8 out of my top 12 rookies hail from the National League. Although I’m not sure if this necessarily means good things for inter-league balance, since the Red Sox and the Yankees are probably just going to sign away all these guys as soon as they hit free agency.

Also, as you can see, I agree with Coley’s contention that at least based on pure numbers, Troy Tulowitzki was really unlucky to have his rookie year in the same season as Ryan Braun. But in actuality I don’t really feel too bad for him, given that he benefitted greatly from playing half his games in Coors Field, posting a ridiculous .942/.720 home/road OPS split.

Hunter Pence had a heck of the year, hitting for both average and power and stealing bases as well, and even with his injury woes he still managed to play in 108 games and log 456 at-bats. He’s not the Rookie of the Year, but he has a heck of a future ahead of him.

After Braun, Dodgers first-baseman James Loney was actually the second-best rookie in the National League this season, and did get into 96 games, but couldn’t make as much of a contribution to his team as Pence or Tulowitzki since was pointlessly blocked for the first two months owing to Ned Colletti’s foolish decision to resign Nomar Garciaparra despite the fact that Loney led all of baseball in batting average at AAA in 2006.

Frankly, I don’t understand why anyone is even considering Delmon Young, and as you can see, I’ve left him off my list. In fact, he wouldn’t even make my top 20. Delmon Young led all rookies in at-bats with 654, yet only hit 13 home runs, walked a mere 26 times, and posted a woeful .723 OPS. 10 other rookies hit more home runs, most of them in far fewer at-bats. Out of the eight rookies who qualified for a batting title, five had a higher OBP than Young, including teammate Akinori Iwamura. The bottom line is, if you get 654 at-bats and OPS .723 as a corner outfielder, you are in fact severely hurting your team, even if you are a veteran. You are certainly not anywhere close to being the Rookie of the Year!

I’m also not sure why Hideki Okajima gets mentioned so much. Sure he had a great year, but Peter Moylan was by far the best rookie relief pitcher this year (although he was in the NL), and even in his own league Joakim Soria of the Royals put up nearly identical numbers while posting 17 saves to Okajima’s 5.

A guy who certainly deserves more consideration is D-Backs centerfielder Chris Young. He’s not the Rookie of the Year because his batting average and on-base percentage were atrocious, but he did contribute greatly at a defensive skill position while playing every day, and chipped in 32 home runs along with 27 stolen bases.

I’ve saved perhaps my most controversial call until last: I’m going to have to go with Daisuke Matsuzaka over Dustin Pedroia as my 2007 AL Rookie of the Year. First of all, I don’t buy the whole argument that Japanese players shouldn’t be eligible for ROY consideration given all their experience in Japan. Having watched a lot of Japanese baseball, I can say firsthand that it is nowhere near the level of the Majors. That’s why Matsuzaka’s ERA was 4.40 this year and not 2.35. Also, Matsuzaka was only 26, which isn’t really that old. If an American player gets lots of experience in the minors and then has a breakout season at 27 or 28, we don’t say he should be ineligible for the award.

But more importantly, Matsuzaka had a better year than Pedroia. Sure, he wasn’t *quite* as good as some of the more delierious Boston fans might have expected, but was still one of the better pitchers in the American League, posting 15 wins, pitching over 200 innings, and striking out 201 batters. Sure, Pedroia had a great season, but was he even the most valuable rookie on his own team? Put another way, would the Red Sox rather have played through this past season without Daisuke Matsuzaka, or without Dustin Pedroia? I think it’s clear that Matsuzaka made a greater contribution as a rookie in the AL.

13 Responses to “Ranking the Rookies”

  1. Paul Moro says:

    Hey Nick, Bannister’s in the AL.

  2. Nick, I’m intrigued by your choices, but I’ve got a couple of questions:

    1. You say you’d vote Soria over Okajima, b/c Soria had more saves. But I’ve had guessed that you’re a member of the “the save stat is overrated” club. Am I wrong?

    2. While it’s probably true that the Sox, given the choice, would have played this season w/o Pedroia rather than give up Matsuzaka, don’t you think that’s mostly because it’s a lot harder to replace an innings eating third starter than it is to replace a 2B?

  3. Okajima gets mentioned most often because he was the MLB leader through the end of July, having given up only 5 runs. He then “exploded” in August and September by giving up 6 ER in each month.

    Good spots on Soria and Moylan though. They definitely outperformed Okajima overall. Have to keep an eye on Soria for next year.

    PS. How can you neglect the “Hold” stat! Clearly it is just as important as the holy “Save” stat. /kidding.

  4. Sarah Green says:

    Nick, you make a good point about the relative depth of the rookie class in the AL versus the NL.

    But yes, I believe I can speak for the AL when I say that we will steal all your rookies once they hit free agency. We will continue to raid your best players until you guys feel like paying them a

    competitive rate.

    I don’t make the rules of capitalism, I just live by them. :)

  5. Nick Kapur says:

    Coley, these are good points, both. My answers would be:

    1. I am definitely a member-for-life of the saves-are-overrated club, but as overrated as they are, they still say something, and all other things being equal (which they just about are in this case), having a lot more saves is going to tip the scales in your favor.

    2. If your performance is “harder to replace,” doesn’t that mean, by definition, that your performance was better? To me, a catcher who hits 25 home runs is a better player than a first baseman who hits 30.

  6. David Becker says:

    Braun had a fantastic offensive season, but he also finished with a .895 fielding percentage, making 26 errors in 112 games. That is absolutely horrifying. Tulowitzki on the other hand made 11 errors in 155 games, good for a .987 fielding percentage and a likely Gold Glove…as a rookie. Not to mention he has hit the second highest home run total as a rookie shortstop and produce the highest number of runs (99 RBI.) He scored 104 runs on top of that.

    And please, stop with the Coors Field argument. It’s getting extremely old. Tulowitzki isn’t the only player in the major leagues (other than another Rockie) who played better at home than on the road. You don’t benefit “greatly” from playing at Coors Field anymore. That’s why there is a humidor…

  7. Sarah Green says:

    David, we’ve been having quite the debate about this in the comments under my ROY post. I think your comment says it better than I did, though.

    And Nick, come on. Starting pitchers are always harder to replace than position players, partly because they’ve been scarce ever since the expansion. I don’t think, though, that you can use that to boost the “score” of a rookie pitcher who had a promising-but-not-fantastic season over the score of a rookie position player who had an awesome season. This year, Matsuzaka had some very good games and some very bad games. He ate up innings but he was inconsistent. Pedroia started slow, but caught fire in May and was very consistent after that. He became an integral part of the Boston lineup. There were only three Red Sox who finished the season hitting over .300, and Dustin Pedroia was one of them. Daisuke had an adjustment year. Pedroia had a breakout year.

  8. Coley Ward says:

    I’m gonna have to go ahead and disagree w/ Mr. Becker, at least to an exent. While the humidor has no doubt cut down on the home runs at Coors, it hasn’t done anything to change the fact that breaking balls don’t break in Colorado.

    Don’t believe me?

    Matt Holliday hit .376 at home this year and .301 on the road.

    Troy Tulowitzki hit .326 at home and .256 on the road.

    Garrett Atkins hit .349 at home and .254 on the road.

    I mean, come on.

  9. Ron Scott says:

    Although He Is Probably Not The Best Rookie, I Think That Josh Fields Of The White Sox Should Have Gotten At Least A Consideration. I Know He Played On A Bad Team This Year, But He Hit 24 Home Runs And Played A Very Good 3rd Base. His Average Was Low, But Not Lower Then Chris Youngs.(Also A Former Sox Rookie) I Can See That You Are Deffinately A National League Fan. All You Sports Writers Are The Same. You Can’t See Past The Yankees, Red Sox And “CUBS”. Nothing Changes From Year To Year. Thank You, Ron Scott

  10. Sarah Green says:

    Hey Ron “Random Capitals” Scott,

    I talked about Josh Fields in my post (Cookies for Rookies). Plus, “I can see that you’re a national league fan” doesn’t naturally flow into “you can’t see past the Yankees, Red Sox, and Cubs.” Two of those teams are AL, dude.

    Coley, what are the splits for non-Rockies at Coors field? Your splits don’t disprove the nub of David’s argument, which is that many players play better at home than on the road.

  11. Nick Kapur says:

    Yeah, but every year the entire Rockies team plays better at home than on the road.

    Way, WAY better.

    Anyone who thinks that Coors field still isn’t one of the best hitter’s parks in the majors, despite the humidor, is delusional.

    Breaking balls still don’t break, the outfield is still the largest in baseball, starting pitchers still fatigue faster at altitude, etc. etc.

  12. Sarah Green says:

    It’s a good hitters’ park to be sure, but I don’t think the Coors field boost is worth taking away someone’s ROY hardware.

    Consider: Jeff Francis has the fourth-most wins (17) in the NL, despite an ERA of 4.22. Pretend, for a moment, that Jake Peavy didn’t exist and Francis was duking it out with, say, Brandon Webb (18 wins, 3.01 ERA) for the Cy Young. Would you give Francis the trophy because he had to pitch at Coors?

  13. Paul Moro says:

    Sarah, I’ve wondered that about Francis (and Colorado pitchers on the whole) too. I agree with Nick that Colorado is still a top-3 hitter’s park in the NL and this should be taken into consideration. But I also do think that there is a double standard of not giving pitchers enough credit.

    With that said, in this scenario of a Peavy-less world, Webb still wins because he also pitches in a hitter’s haven. And there’s a huge difference btwn a 4.20 ERA and 3.00, regardless of park factor. Plus, Francis’ home-rad splits the last couple of years have been pretty similar.

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