Thoughts on Chris Coghlan: NL Rookie of the Year!


Well, the BBWAA voted, and our very own Chris Coghlan is the National League Rookie of the Year!

I congratulate Chris on his excellent season and the award, and as a Marlins fan I am very happy for the whole deal. Any time the team can get some nice national exposure, it’s worth it. I’m happy.

I’m also disappointed that the BBWAA got the wrong guy, at least quantitatively.I’m not going to go into a huge numbers argument again, because I’ve already done that and I’ve already seen many of the results. I will mention once again that Chris Coghlan had an OPS of .850, while Andrew McCutchen had an OPS of .836. Bump Coghlan a bit more to account for the fact that he played about 70 PA more.

Was that difference really significant to make up for the fact that McCutchen played center field while Coghlan played left field? And that, by all accounts, McCutchen was a decent center fielder, while Coghlan was rated by the Fans Scouting Report (for example) among players like David Murphy, Matt Holliday, and Cory Sullivan. In comparison, the Fans had McCutchen among players like Mike Cameron, Shane Victorino, and Colby Rasmus, all superior defenders at premium positions.

Do I think that Coghlan is as bad a left fielder as Cory Sullivan? Probably not. Neither do I think McCutchen is at the same level as Mike Cameron or Carlos Beltran. But if you looked at the numbers for McCutchen (UZR of -1) and Coghlan (UZR of -11), then you look at the scouting reports from both the fans and from various credible scouting sources, you can tell that McCutchen rates as a decent center fielder and that Coghlan did not rate well in left field. And that small difference in OPS could not possibly be enough to make up for that, unless Coghlan played maybe another two extra months as a starter.

Could Coghlan improve in left field? Absolutely, though all accounts say that, in general, he was a below average fielder in the minors. He was thrust into the situation and he had to adjust on the fly, so it seems natural that he would struggle in left field. But does that mean that we should adjust his production? I don’t think so. What he did out there was what he did, and it seems like what he did was bad. When you compare it to McCutchen with his similar offensive production in center field, it becomes all that more difficult to reason what the voters were thinking about.

I could buy this more if it were simply a “defense doesn’t count” argument, and some first baseman had a Ryan-Howard-esque rookie year and blew out a good offensive-defensive center fielder. I don’t think the BBWAA is even close to ready to determine differences in defensive worth between positions. But Coghlan did not blow out McCutchen on offense and he played a weaker position. You would think the voters would at least figure that out.

I don’t want to rag on Coghlan any further. I think he has a bright future for the Marlins as a solid offensive player. I sincerely hope that the team realizes that he would hold much more value at second base and move him there. I also hope that he plays better defense at his more familiar position. I look forward to seeing him for the next few years at the top of the Marlins’ lineup. But for this day and for this topic, I’ll say this: I don’t think he was the best player for the award.