In writing my Awards Watch column this season, I often found myself struggling to find five -- or even three -- worthy players to round out my list of American League Rookie of the Year candidates. That stood in stark contrast to the crop of rookies in the National League, which was so large and diverse that one could assemble a strong 25-man roster from it. With the Rookie of the Year awards set to be announced on Monday, that got me thinking: What would that 25-man roster of NL rookies look like? And how well could it have done in this year's standings?
To answer those questions, I have to set out some ground rules. First, I'm looking for a team that could play a full season, not an All-Star game. Thus, I need my position players to total 162 games played at each position, my starting pitchers to total 162 games started, and my bullpen to add enough relief innings to combine with my starters to give me a total of 1,458 innings on the season (nine innings times 162 games). In order to reach those totals, I'll likely have to expand my roster beyond 25 men -- but no team uses just 25 men over the course of an entire season, so this remains within the realm of reality.
With regard to position, I will give myself a bit of flexibility. For example, though Buster Posey started 30 games at first base this year, I will count all of his games toward my catchers, and if an outfielder has experience in a pasture other than his usual one, or an infielder has experience at a relatable position (a third baseman who has played first, a shortstop who has played second or third, etc.), I'll give myself permission to use that player to fill in the necessary games at those positions as needed. I will not use starting pitchers in my bullpen unless they have actually thrown those innings in relief, and vice versa for relievers starting. However, if a pitcher has both started and relieved this season, if I include him his starts will count toward by rotation and his relief innings will count toward my bullpen. I won't attempt to isolate his performance in either role.
With that established, I need a total-production metric to allow me to measure the performance of my roster relative to an existing standard.
For players with more than the required amount of games played, I will use a prorated portion of their total WARP. Those partial-season statistics are in italics below.
Here, then, is my 2010 National League All-Rookie team:
1B -- Ike Davis, Mets (147 G, 3.1 WARP)
1B -- Gaby Sanchez, Marlins (
Jaime Garcia, LHP, Cardinals (28 GS, 4.0 WARP)
John Axford, CL, Brewers (58 IP, 4.1 WARP)
Stephen Strasburg, RHP, Nationals (12 GS, 1.6 WARP)
That's 35 players, fewer than any of the 30 major league teams used during the 2010 season (the Rays came closest, using just 37 men, 35 of whom appeared in at least 10 games). Though I have a nice mix of righties and lefties on my pitching staff, the offense is heavily right-handed. Only Heyward, Davis and bench players Morrison and Thole bat lefty, while Walker is the only switch-hitter. Not that I mind. Want a batting order? How's this:
R -- Jose Tabata (.299/.346/.400, 19 SB)
WARP, again, is Wins Above Replacement Player. Replacement level is defined as the production that can be expected from a freely available player, be it a non-prospect promoted from Triple-A or a player placed on waivers or released by another team. A replacement level team is thus, essentially, the worst major league team possible. The worst major league team in the modern era was the 1916 Philadelphia A's, who had a .235 "winning" percentage. That translates to 38 wins over a 162-game schedule. According to
Adding up the 35 WARP totals above, I find my NL All-Rookie team was 73.92 wins above replacement in 2010. If you add those 74 wins to the 25-win baseline you'll find the team above, comprised exclusively of National League rookies, would have won 99 games, more than any other team in baseball in 2010.
So how deep was the 2010 National League rookie class? So deep you could not only assemble an entire 25-man roster (with 10 alternates) of NL rookies, but future stars such as Pirates third baseman Pedro Alvarez, Phillies outfielder Dominic Brown, Reds righty Mike Leake, and Mets hurlers Jenrry Mejia and Jonathon Niese didn't even make the team, nor did hot-hitting rookies Tyler Colvin of the Cubs or Jon Jay of the Cardinals (all had inferior WARP-per-game rates to the players listed in their positions above). It was so deep that it could absorb Stephen Strasburg's elbow injury and still have a deep and effective rotation. So deep that the resulting roster would have had the best record in the major leagues in 2010, won any division in the game, and had home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. That deep.