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Monday, October 20, 2003

Baseball Primer’s 2003 A.L. Rookie of the Year

Is Angel Berroa the centerfold?




































































Much of the American League Rookie of the Year debate in the mainstream media has focused on whether one player who qualifies as a rookie under the Major League rules is truly a rookie.  That is not even an academic discussion as the player in question, Hideki Matsui, who won two Most Valuable Player awards during his career in Japan, is a rookie.  The rule is plain on its face and quite unambiguous.  But, what the mainstream media is missing is whether or not Matsui was, in fact, the best rookie in the American League this year.  He was not. 


While they were bogged down in a debate that hinges on what appears to be a question of bias based upon national origin, the mainstream media has missed what has turned out to be a terrific year for rookies in the American League.  No fewer than six rookies, including Matsui, had very solid seasons.  Granted this isn?t 1987 when Mark McGwire had a historical rookie season, Mike Greenwell and Matt Nokes had excellent rookie seasons, and Kevin Seitzer put up good numbers, but it was a great year none the less.

Angel Berroa

Baseball Primer authors have unanimously elected Angel Berroa as the American League Rookie of the Year.  Berroa wasn?t expected to hit coming into the season, displaying little power and a low average in 2002, at least partially due to knee surgery, along with few walks in his minor league career.  But Berroa did hit and finished with 9.64 offensive win shares and as a fine defensive shortstop, accumulated 6.09 win shares defensively.  His 15.73 win share total places him behind only Matsui.  As you can see in the table above, Berroa matched Matsui?s offensive production, but he was unfortunately in a worse lineup.  This led to Matsui collecting a lot more RBI than Berroa and a significantly higher amount of plate appearances.  The BBWAA loves those RBI and has followed Matsui all season, so it is unlikely that Berroa will sniff the ROY Award. 


Setting aside RBI, I don?t think that Matsui even comes close to Berroa and the Primer authors agree.  Berroa and Matsui have nearly identical OPS and RC numbers.  Granted Berroa plays in a more hitter friendly stadium, there are other tangible numbers that make up the difference.  Berroa played shortstop.  Leftfielders who can hit are a dime a dozen.  Matsui was eighth among leftfielders in OPS, behind offensive juggernauts Raul Ibanez and Frank Catalanotto.  Meanwhile, Berroa was fifth among shortstops, behind only the former trilogy (which is really Wagner, ARod, and Ripken), and defending MVP Miguel Tejada.  After Berroa there was only one other productive shortstop:  Jose Valentin.  Berroa also had a positive stolen base ledger.  He stole 21 bases in only 26 attempts.  If, in today?s game, a player needs to be successful in 70% or more of his attempts in order to aid his team, Berroa cleared that hurdle easily. 

Hideki Matsui

Hideki Matsui did finish second on the Primer author ballots.  Matsui led AL rookies in win shares.  He had 16.40 offensive shares and 2.49 defensive shares.  Of course, he did play on the AL team with the most wins, so there were more to go around.  Plus, Matsui did play a lot, playing in every game this season.  That comes to an impressive 1400 innings on defense, second among AL outfielders.  On a team with bonafide stars at nearly every position, it is surprising that their rookie was the rock.

Jody Gerut

Jody Gerut did not make the Indians despite an eye-opening spring training.  But when injuries befell Ellis Burks and Travis Hafner struggled early, it was Gerut?s turn.  When he did come up in May, Gerut started hitting immediately.  Gerut led AL rookies in OPS, SLG, and RC/27.  He accumulated 11.27 offensive win shares and 2.31 defensive win shares for a total of 13.59 to place second on the Indians behind only Milton Bradley.  Gerut only played 127 games and that will hurt him in the BBWAA balloting.  Gerut showed up on more Primer ballots than Matsui.

Mark Teixeira

When you have two young stud third basemen who are both ready for the Majors, what do you do?  You play them both of course.  It took the Rangers a little while to figure out that both Blalock and Teixeira deserved to be in the lineup everyday, but now it looks like they will be in the lineup for at least the next five years.  Teixeira led AL rookies in HR and was second in SLG and OPS.  He finished fifth among firstbasemen in OPS.  Based upon his age (one year older than Baldelli and two years younger than Berroa) and pedigree (5th pick in 2001 draft out of Georgia Tech) Teixeira is likely to have the best career of all of the rookies.

Francisco Rodriguez

You may have forgotten about K-Rod, but last season he only spent 5 and 2/3 innings in the bigs last year during the regular season.  This year, the 21 year old spent the whole season with the Angels and far outshined the other rookie AL pitchers.  Rodriguez received one second place vote from a Primer author.  Although his 3.04 ERA was not the best among a great Anaheim bullpen (Donnelly 1.58, Weber 2.69, Shields 1.68 in relief), K-Rod was still dominant on the hill, giving up only 50 hits in 86 IP.  He also had 95 K?s to only 35 BB.  The only negative on his resume was 12 HR against.  When Percival?s contract expires don?t be surprised to find K-Rod at the back end of the Angels bullpen.  If Billy Beane were running the Angels, Percival would already be gone for someone undervalued and K-Rod would already be the closer.

Rocco Baldelli

Rocco Baldelli was the other media favorite this season, and if there is a media backlash against Matsui, I would make Baldelli the favorite to win the ROY.  He did, however, only receive one third place vote from Primer authors.  Baldelli was highlight reel material almost every night in centerfield for the Devil Rays.  He finished with 8.84 offensive win shares and 5.33 on defense.  That put him behind only Mike Cameron, Carlos Beltran, and Torii Hunter defensively, among AL centerfielders.  I don?t think anyone would dispute how great those three are on defense, so finishing behind them is nothing to sneeze at.  Baldelli was the 6th pick overall in 2000 out of High School and has a very high ceiling, but taking more walks will be critical for Baldelli to move from tremendous athlete with okay baseball skills to great baseball player.


With a deep field of candidates who do not necessarily stand out statistically it will be interesting to see how the BBWAA sorts the list.


Eugene Freedman Posted: October 20, 2003 at 06:00 AM | 8 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. Damon Rutherford Posted: October 20, 2003 at 02:50 AM (#613564)
Not a respectable year for AL rookie starting pitchers. So who was the best rookie AL SP this year? Well, I narrowed my search by only examining those rookie SP with more IP than Francisco Rodriguez. I then calculated their quicky-and-dirty DIPS ERA and also found their Win Share values. The list (sorted by IP):

0. Name, Team, IP, q&d-DIPS ERA, WS
1. J. Davis, Cle, 165.3, 4.92, 5.31
2. J. Bonderman, Det, 162.0, 4.66, 1.99
3. M. Hendrickson, Tor, 158.3, 4.81, 4.44
4. C. Lewis, Tex, 127.0, 5.53, 1.09
5. R. Dickey, Tex, 116.7, 4.26, 6.52
6. B. Traber, Cle, 111.7, 4.34, 3.04
7. M. Roney, Det, 100.7, 5.81, 1.81
8. G. Knotts, Det, 95.3, 5.35, 0.66

The winner: R.A. Dickey with the best quick-and-dirty DIPS ERA and Win Shares of the eight selected pitchers.

Rich Harden, Oak, with only 74.7 IP though, has a q&d-DIPS of 3.89 and 4.09 Win Shares. 7 QS in 13 GS.

Dickey was a RP the first part of the season and then a starter in the second half. He had 73.7 IP as a starter. His q&d-DIPS ERA as a starter is 4.54. 6 QS in 13 GS.

I don't have enough time right now (it's 2:30 AM!) to delve deeper into this and look at the quality of opponents and park factors, but I think it's evident that Harden and Dickey are the top two rookie SP in the AL for 2003. I may have overlooked someone with less IP (Cliff Lee, 4.41 q&d-DIPS ERA, 52.3 IP), but most likely not.

   2. Damon Rutherford Posted: October 20, 2003 at 02:50 AM (#613565)
Let's try this again:

0. Name, Team, IP, q&d-DIPS ERA, WS

1. J. Davis, Cle, 165.3, 4.92, 5.31

2. J. Bonderman, Det, 162.0, 4.66, 1.99

3. M. Hendrickson, Tor, 158.3, 4.81, 4.44

4. C. Lewis, Tex, 127.0, 5.53, 1.09

5. R. Dickey, Tex, 116.7, 4.26, 6.52

6. B. Traber, Cle, 111.7, 4.34, 3.04

7. M. Roney, Det, 100.7, 5.81, 1.81

8. G. Knotts, Det, 95.3, 5.35, 0.66
   3. Damon Rutherford Posted: October 20, 2003 at 02:50 AM (#613566)
Thrown into the mix is Traber. As a SP, 88.7 IP with a q&d-DIPS ERA of 4.47. 5 QS in 18 GS. Nice, innocent name, too. Perhaps a sweet kid. Deserves consideration.

   4. Ben Posted: October 20, 2003 at 02:51 AM (#613590)
You correctly pointed out that Hideki Matsui collected the most win shares of all rookies and then wrote: "Of course, he did play on the AL team with the most wins, so there were more to go around." You missed the point about Win Shares. Bill James shows rather convincingly that the Win Shares system does NOT discriminate against players on poor teams and does NOT favor players on good teams. In fact, this is possibly the most important aspect of the Win Shares system -- it can be used to compare players on all sorts of teams. Matsui's Win Shares are not a consequence of playing on the Yanks. Most likely, they are a consequence of his large number of plate appearances.
   5. Danny Posted: October 20, 2003 at 02:51 AM (#613607)
Matsui's advantage in Win Shares is a result of park factors and situational hitting. Berroa plays his home games in the best hitters park in the AL, while Matsui plays his home games in a pitchers park.

Runners on:
Berroa: .272 .322 .395
Matsui: .310 .372 .450

Berroa: .263 .339 .387
Matsui: .335 .389 .503

Bases Loaded
Berroa: .231 .316 .308
Matsui: .435 .440 .783
   6. tangotiger Posted: October 20, 2003 at 02:51 AM (#613623)
I agree with Ben regarding Win Shares. The win impact of Matsui, whether on the Yanks, a .500 team, or the Tigers is "more or less" the same, and Win Shares does try to capture that.

The "dispute" with Win Shares, and any "win value-added" method, is whether to allocate the "extra" shares to luck, or redistribute it to the players themselves. You can make a reasonable case either way.
   7. Mike Emeigh Posted: October 20, 2003 at 02:51 AM (#613629)
I don't think that Win Shares is biased towards players on good or bad teams, but team effects do come into play, and IMO mix a lot of noise into the signal.

To the extent that those factors affect the rookie candidates, they should help Berroa (slightly). Kansas City won 83 games against a Pythagorean expectation of 78 wins, while the Yankees won 101 games against a Pythagorean expectation of 97.

-- MWE
   8. Marc Posted: October 21, 2003 at 02:52 AM (#613660)
I know ROY awards are not based on future po, but if I can have any of these guys for the rest of their natural born careers, Berroa is monstrously preferable.

But even in '03, he and 'Zilla are of roughly equal value. One plays SS for a team that improved--oh--approximately infinitely. I still like Angel.

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