Today the AL Rookie of the Year award went to Oakland reliever Andrew Bailey. I’m stunned that he actually won the award, but outside of maybe Rangers SS Elvis Andrus, I think Bailey was the correct choice. Now that the award has been announced, the question that sticks out to me is this: How does Bailey’s ROY season rank compared to the other AL ROY award winners of the this decade?
First let’s take a look at the candidates:
Oakland Athletics RHP-Andrew Bailey (26)
68 G, 83.1 IP, 1.84 ERA, 0.876 WHIP, 9.8 SO/9
Tampa Bay Rays 3B-Evan Longoria (22)
448 AB, 0.272/.343/.531, 27 HR, 7 SB, 20.1 UZR/150
Boston Red Sox 2B-Dustin Pedroia (23)
520 AB, 0.317/.380/.442, 8 HR, 7 SB, 4.4 UZR/150
Detroit Tigers RHP-Justin Verlander (23)
30 G, 186.0, 3.63 ERA, 1.328 WHIP, 6.0 SO/9
Oakland Athletics RHP-Huston Street (21)
67 G, 78.1 IP, 1.72 ERA, 1.009 WHIP, 8.3 SO/9
Oakland Athletics SS-Bobby Crosby (24)
545 AB, 0.239/.319/.426, 22 HR, 7 SB, 3.1 UZR/150
Kansas City Royals SS-Angel Berroa (25)
567 AB, 0.287/.338/.451, 17 HR, 21 SB, -4.8 UZR/150
Toronto Blue Jays 3B-Eric Hinske (24)
566 AB, 0.279/.365/.481, 24 HR, 13 SB, 0.4 UZR/150
Seattle Mariners RF-Ichiro Suzuki (27)
692 AB, 0.350/.381/.457, 8 HR, 56 SB, 13 TZ*
Seattle Mariners RHP-Kazuhiro Sasaki (32)
63 G, 62.2 IP, 3.16 ERA, 1.165 WHIP, 11.2 SO/9
*Numbers taken from Baseball Projection.com, all others taken from FanGraphs.com
Ranked in order by WAR:
1.5 Kaz Sasaki is the old man of the group and is already out of baseball. His career lasted just 4 ML seasons, as injuries and Father Time got the best of him. He was effective and above average in all of them and finished with a career 3.14 ERA, 1.084 WHIP, and an ERA+ of 138. Sasaki won the ROY, but he didn’t exactly face stiff competition. Former Royal Terrence Long, then with Oakland, and Mark Quinn finished 2nd and 3rd. The best career from the top 10 finishers probably belongs to Bengie Molina with Adam Kennedy and Barry Zito getting honorable mention.
1.9 Huston Street has not recaptured the excellence of his rookie season but he’s been good regardless. In 5 ML seasons he has a 2.91 ERA, 1.040 WHIP, and an ERA+ of 149. Street beat out Robinson Cano, who thanks to a god awful -21.1 UZR/150 registered a 0.1 WAR in his rookie season.
2.4 Andrew Bailey is off to a good start to say the least. In compiling data for this article, I was surprised to realize that he was the third reliever to win the AL ROY in the aughts. I was pleased to see Elvis Andrus finish second as the voters clearly recognized the defensive part of his resume. The only argument I have with the rest of the top 5 is that Rick Porcello finished ahead of Jeff Niemann. Presumably Porcello got more votes because of his youth and the hype associated with him, but make no mistake, Niemann had the better season. For me, Jeff beat out Rick in terms of the “eye” test, and in the battle of WAR, 3.2 to 1.9.
2.8 Bobby Crosby has now played in parts of 6 ML seasons, not counting his 11 game cup of coffee in 2003. After 2004 and 2005 he has fallen off the map. In his first two seasons he posted an OPS+ of 93 and 111. In the 4 years since his OPS+ has ranged from 67 to 75. He beat out 35 year old RHP-Shingo Takatsu for the award, but there are some solid players in the top 10 voting. Among those are Zack Greinke (4th), Alex Rios (5th), and David DeJesus (6th). Other players who have played for Kansas City from this top 10 class include Ross Gload (7th) and John Buck (8th).
2.8 Angel Berroa had one good season, but it was a heck of a year that came at the right time and helped the 2003 Royals finish above .500. After his 101 OPS+ rookie campaign, he never sniffed league average again and currently has a career OPS+ of 76 in nine ML seasons. Angel just beat out 29 year old Hideki Matsui 88 to 84 as only 5 players tallied ROY votes. The best of this class, long term, is without a doubt 5th place finisher Mark Teixeira. Rocco Baldelli and Jody Gerut were the other two players to collect votes.
3.1 Justin Verlander was the rightful ROY winner and faced some stiff competition as the 2006 AL ROY class was loaded. Also receiving votes in 2006; Jonathan Papelbon, Francisco Liriano, Kenji Johjima, Jered Weaver, Nick Markakis, and Ian Kinsler. Verlander is coming off his best season in terms of ERA+ (133) and WAR (8.2) and turns 27 in February.
3.8 Dustin Pedroia is an undersized scrappy player which sometimes seems to overwrite the fact that he is immensely talented. He has played 3 full seasons in the majors with an OPS+ ranging from 110 to 122 while playing 2B. His “stiffest” ROY competition came from the Rays’ Delmon Young but it wasn’t a close race. Pedroia collected 24 of the 28 1st place votes. Delmon got three 1st place votes. Someone threw their 1st place vote to Brian Bannister which helped him finish 3rd in the voting. Daisuke Matsuzaka, Reggie Willits, Hideki Okajima, Josh Fields, and Joakim Soria also received votes in 2007.
4.5 Eric Hinske has quietly compiled a very solid ML career, but bigger things were expected of him when he burst on to the scene in 2002. Aside from his average defense, his rookie year was even better than that of 2008 AL ROY Evan Longoria. Like Angel Berroa before him, his rookie campaign was his best. Unlike Berroa, Hinske had a couple years that approached his rookie OPS+ of 119 and has a career mark of exactly 100. In 2002 eleven players received AL ROY votes with two Orioles, RHP-Rodrigo Lopez and RHP-Jorge Julio, finishing 2nd and 3rd. The best of the 2002 class will almost assuredly be RHP-John Lackey, though 1B-Carlos Pena has turned in some nice offensive seasons thus far.
5.3 Evan Longoria proved that, at least for him, there is no such thing as a sophomore slump. After winning the ROY in 2008 with an OPS+ of 127, 20.1 UZR/150 and 5.3 WAR, he was even better in 2009. This past season he had an OPS+ of 133, 19.2 UZR/150, and 7.2 WAR. He rightfully won the ROY in unanimous fashion collecting all 28 1st place votes, but several of the other 9 players should have long and productive ML careers. Among those players are; Alexei Ramirez, Jacoby Ellsbury, Denard Span, and Joba Chamberlain.
7.6 Ichiro Suzuki is without a doubt in my mind a first-ballot HOFer. Nine ML seasons, 2,030 hits, 341 SB, nine All-Star games, nine Gold Gloves, and three Silver Slugger Awards. Of course the 0.333/.378/.434 slash line doesn’t hurt and neither does the way he plays the game. Ichiro reminds us that the game is supposed to be fun. He is a treat to watch on TV or in person. He brings excitement to the game unlike any other player in MLB today. Ichiro captured 27 of the 28 first place votes, with the other going to Cleveland’s C.C. Sabathia. Also receiving votes in this class were Alfonso Soriano and David Eckstein. What the 2001 group lacks in quantity, it more that makes up for in quality.
So there you have it, the top AL ROY of the “aughts” is the very obvious choice of Ichiro Suzuki.
This one is for you Alonzo: ICHIRO!!!