BBA Ballot: National League Rookie of the Year


With the 2010 regular season complete, the Baseball Bloggers Alliance is once again ready to vote for the 2010 offseason awards! While the first award was released yesterday for the manager of the year, our Connie Mack Award, I decided to start with the National League Rookie of the Year award because I despise any idea of trying to find the best manager in a given season.

Instead we are going to begin with the Rookie of the Year award, the BBA National League Willie Mays Award! For this voting, I will be putting up three NL candidates for the award, ranked third to first. The way I will determine this ranking will be based on WAR, but this season I will be doing a few different things this year. Here’s how I’ll be calculating WAR:

– Much of the WAR base will be coming from FanGraphs, particularly the park-adjusted batting runs and position adjustments

– Non-steal baserunning will come from Baseball Prospectus’ Equivalent Baserunning Runs (EqBRR).

– Defense is going to get the most overhaul. With Tom Tango having posted the Fans Scouting Report data on a level easy enough to convert into runs, I will be using run conversion method found here (at BtB’s Justin Inaz’ personal site) and taking into consideration that scouting data. The base number that I will use is the player’s single-season UZR. From there, I’ll regress that player to a 50/50 split of the league average UZR (defined as 0 for any given position) and that player’s Fans Scouting Report runs above average.

– For pitcher WAR, I’ll be using a homebrew method as well, though you won’t see it here because no pitcher broke the top three. I will be taking that player’s runs above average as given by FanGraphs and comparing that to a replacement level pitcher’s runs allowed adjusting it for team UZR. In that regard, it is a similar method to the one used in Rally’s WAR as shown at Baseball-Reference.

All right, let’s get to the votes, shall we?

Note: All WAR totals, unless otherwise specified as rWAR or fWAR, were from my own personal calculations using the above described method.

3. Ike Davis, New York Mets (3.3 WAR)

Davis had a very quiet season this year, but it’s been quietly good. Ever since he took over the first base job for the hapless Mike Jacobs with the Mets, he has been as solid as they could have hoped, batting .264/.351/.440, good for a .345 wOBA. Citi Field’s run-suppressing ways did not help much either, and the park bumped him up to a park-adjusted .350 wOBA and 13 runs above average.

Now, that combined with a full season’s worth of work is pretty good for a rookie, especially for a guy that’s only 23 years old (heck, I’m almost three months older than him!). But that alone would not put him over one of our own guys, Gaby Sanchez. What set Ike Davis apart is apparently his defense; UZR liked him for +10 runs this season. The number seems pretty absurd if you ask me, so I regressed it to the average of the league average and the fan’s voting for him, yielding him a rate of +7 runs this season. That difference basically is the difference between Sanchez and Davis this season; both players have almost identical wOBA, both have racked up over 600 PA in 2010, and both play first base.

It looks like we have a bit of a conundrum wherein the defensive value of a player is the difference between a Marlin making my RoY ballot and some other player making it. Well, even after regressing, I am not comfortable saying that Davis is definitely better (the gap is six runs) than Sanchez this season, but I will stick to the methodology I set out before hand and will vote appropriately. Ike Davis, you got yourself a spot on the Marlin Maniac rookie ballot!

2. Buster Posey, San Francisco Giants (4.5 WAR)

Posey is the only candidate here that did not play close to a full season and still made the top three. However, of the many rookies in the NL and around the majors who debuted midseason, Posey’s season was probably the best one. He only racked up 443 PA, but he batted .305/.357/.505, good for a .368 wOBA, and he did so playing most of his games at catcher. Needless to say, a catcher who can post a .368 wOBA is pretty damn impressive. The Giants also played him a third of the time at first base, but the dabbling there did not hurt him significantly. In addition, the fans seemed to be a big fan of his defense, rating him an insane 16 runs above average as a true talent estimate. I doubt that’s the case, and it could indeed be that the calculation method with the FSR was a bit off due to the extreme voting by the fans on Posey.

Nevertheless, Posey put up a 3.9 fWAR season (3.0 rWAR as well) in just about two-thirds of a season, an impressive feat. My method put him at 4.5 WAR, but I would be more comfortable with the fWAR/rWAR numbers put for his defense rather than what the Giants fans voted. Either way, he comes in well ahead of the other competitors for second place for this year’s Willie Mays Award ballot!

1. Jason Heyward, Atlanta Braves (5.4 WAR)

Jason Heyward was the heavy favorite entering the 2010 season, in large part due to the hype of having a 20-year old debut for the Braves. He more than met expectations, putting up very impressive .277/.393/.456 slash line that was good for a .376 wOBA. Combine that with some positive baserunning contributions and solid defensive play in right field and you can give Heyward a 5+ WAR rookie season and a fringe MVP campaign.

There has been a lot of discussion abotu this season’s RoY award because of the propensity of candidates that played well this season, but Heyward was pretty far ahead of everyone else. If you scaled down Posey’s ridiculous defensive contribution from the Fans down to a league average performance (which agrees with all three defensive metrics commonly quoted), Heyward has about a 1.5-WAR edge on Posey. The trio of Marlins players either did not garner enough time or, in the case of Sanchez, enough value overall to eclipse Heyward. The only pitcher who would have competed, Stephen Strasburg, also had an issue with playing time. Heyward put up an excellent combination of great play and consistent playing time throughout much of the season in order to rack up those five or so wins.

Honorable Mentions: Gaby Sanchez (FLO), Mike Stanton (FLO), Stephen Strasburg (WAS)

I’d like to think that if Stanton had had a chance to play from the start of the season he would have been in the competition for this award. Stanton racked up 2.6 WAR using my method, mostly on the back of above average defense and those mammoth home runs. While FanGraphs’ UZR had his defense above average, rWAR’s TotalZone had it out of this world, at +15 runs. I wouldn’t be surprised if Stanton one day put up a season of that caliber over a full year, but I doubt that was this year. Still, for a guy who played a little less than Posey did, he still was quite impressive and deserving of recognition.

It’s a shame we did not get to see more Strasburg. Hopefully he recovers well from Tommy John surgery and remains the electrifying pitcher we saw before the injury. It’s safe to say he too would have competed for the award had he gotten more playing time, but unfortunately the injury limited him and we will not likely see him next season. All the best.

Well, there you have it folks, the Marlin Maniac’s first ballot for this season’s BBA awards, the NL Willie Mays Award in summary:

3. Ike Davis, NYM
2. Buster Posey, SFG
1. Jason Heyward, ATL