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.