Awards Watch: Abreu, deGrom are locks for Rookie of the Year honors
Awards week is finally here. Beginning on Monday night and going through Thursday, the Baseball Writers' Association of America will hand out its annual end-of-season awards, with two winners, one in each league, announced live on MLB Network at 6 p.m. ET. Things kick off with the Rookies of the Year, followed by the Managers of the Year on Tuesday, Cy Young award winners on Wednesday, and Most Valuable Players on Thursday.
Of the six player-award races that I've been following all season in Awards Watch, those for the American League Cy Young and National League MVP are by far the most difficult to call. That won't stop me from trying, however, as I attempt to extend my perfect 24-for-24 record in predicting the winners since the start of Awards Watch in 2010. I will have full reactions to each night's results, but before that, a quick preview of each award and the finalists who are in the running. First up: the Rookies of the Year.
Note: Finalists are listed in alphabetical order. League leading statistics are in bold, major league leading stats in bold and italics. Rookies are players who, prior to the current season, had fewer than 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched in the majors or spent fewer than 45 days on the active roster prior to rosters expanding on Sept. 1. Voting for each award was submitted at the conclusion of the regular season and before the start of the postseason.
American League Finalists
Season Stats: 145 G, 622 PA, .317/.383/.581, 36 HR, 107 RBI, 323 TB, 169 OPS+
Season Stats: 70 G, 0 GS, 90 IP, 5-0, 135 K, 1.40 ERA, 0.78 WHIP, 13.5 K/9, 5.63 K/BB, 277 ERA+
Season Stats: 27 G, 20 GS, 136 IP, 16-4, 124 K, 3.04 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 8.2 K/9, 5.17 K/BB, 120 ERA+
Forget rookies and forget the American League. Here's where Abreu ranked among all qualified major league hitters in 2014:
First: slugging percentage, OPS+
Fourth: home runs (tied with Trout), extra-base hits (73), isolated power (.264)
Fifth: RBI, intentional walks
Sixth: batting average
10th: on-base percentage
He, of course, led major league rookies in all of the categories listed above. In fact, to keep things simple, here are the statistics in which he didn't lead major league rookies in 2014: games, at-bats, triples, stolen bases, walks (he was second to Yangervis Solarte), strikeouts, times grounded into double play.
Betances and Shoemaker were both excellent, but this isn't close.
Who will win: Abreu
Who should win: Abreu
Why would anyone not vote for him?
Because they don't consider veterans of foreign leagues, like the 27-year-old Abreu, true rookies. That's absurd for many reasons which I have written about in the past, and will likely write about in the future. However, we have already seen that bias bump Masahiro Tanaka, who was better than the 28-year-old Shoemaker across the board this season in effectively the exact same number of starts and innings, off the list of finalists. Abreu should win this award unanimously. That bias is the only reason he might not.
National League Finalists
Season Stats: 22 GS, 140 1/3 IP, 9-6, 144 K, 2.69 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 9.2 K/9, 3.35 K/BB, 130 ERA+
Season Stats: 152 G, 611 PA, .250/.292/.355 (83 OPS+), 6 HR, 48 RBI, 72 R, 8 3B, 56 SB, 23 CS, 71 SB%
Season Stats: 113 G, 433 PA, .249/.292/.388 (89 OPS+), 12 HR, 42 RBI, 52 R, 3 3B, 20 SB, 4 CS, 83 SB%
Hamilton and Wong both played excellent defense, but neither managed to be even average for their position in terms of offensive production. The average centerfielder hit .265/.325/.394 (106 OPS+) this year with 25 stolen bases at a 77-percent success rate, and the average second baseman hit .256/.313/.373 (96 OPS+) with 13 stolen bases at a 74-percent success rate.
Hamilton was hot for about a month mid-season, hitting .326/.354/.551 in 145 plate appearances from June 14 to July 21, but hit just .226/.273/.292 in his other 466 PA. Wong was prematurely demoted at the end of April, then, after returning in mid-May, lost two weeks to a shoulder injury at the end of June. Upon his return from the disabled list, he had a couple of hot months, hitting .274/.303/.492 with ten home runs in 191 PA from July 6 to Sept. 1, but he went cold down the stretch and ultimately hit just .229/.283/.305 in his other 242 PA on the season.
As for deGrom, he was called up on May 15 and missed two weeks in August due to rotator cuff tendinitis, but was otherwise excellent. He allowed more than three runs in only three of his 22 starts, failing to complete five innings in only one of them, and over his final 15 starts, he went 9-2 with a 1.99 ERA, 10 strikeouts per nine innings, a 4.40 strikeout-to-walk ratio, and a 1.01 WHIP; 13 of those 15 starts were quality. Among pitchers with 90 or more innings pitched after June 20, deGrom was one of just five with an ERA below 2.00, joining Clayton Kershaw (1.41) and Corey Kluber (1.81) — both Cy Young finalists in their respective leagues — as well as Edinson Volquez and Jon Lester (both 1.85).
Who will win: deGrom
Who should win: deGrom
Why would anyone not vote for him?
This one should be unanimous as well, but there may be a voter or two who can't see past Hamilton's speed and their pre-season assumption that Hamilton would win the award, seeing the fact that Hamilton was the only NL rookie to qualify for the batting or ERA titles as confirmation of his worthiness.