MLB Rookie of the Year Race Update: Week 12
Quick question for everyone reading this right now: how many of you have felt a twang of giddiness at some point this year when a team has called up a top prospect? I'm assuming most of you had a hand up. Whether it be Gregory Polanco, George Springer or now Andrew Heaney, the excitement has just kept on rolling.
The craziest part about all of that? Not a single one of those freakishly talented guys is currently in our top five for the Rookie of the Year race. They've entered a log-jammed competition that has talent from top to bottom. And this puppy is shaping up to be a good one.
Below, you'll see a few stats that I'll explain first. I'm basing the standings off of each player's nERD. This is a numberFire-specific stat that measures the number of runs above or below average a player is worth to his team. For a batter, it's how many runs above average they'd be worth if they recorded each plate appearance in a game. For pitchers, it's the number of runs below average if they were to face every batter in a game. For more on that (and other fun numberFire stats!), click here.
Another stat you'll see is fielding-independent pitching (FIP). This only takes strikeouts, walks, hit batters and home runs into account when evaluating a pitcher and is on a scale similar to ERA. Weighted on-base average (wOBA) is analogous to on-base and slugging percentage, but it weighs each event (double, walk, etc) based on its expected contribution to scoring a run. Wins above replacement (WAR) is the number of wins a player is worth above an average player. Finally, their previous ranking is based on our Rookie of the Year rankings two weeks ago. Let's check this baby out, y'all.
1. Masahiro Tanaka, SP, New York Yankees
nERD: 2.39 | FIP: 2.70 | WAR: 2.9 | Previous Ranking: 1
Warning: increased exposure to Tanaka's stats may cause dizziness, excitement, heartburn or possibly foaming of the mouth. Not intended for those with a hatred of awesomeness or love of the Red Sox.
The man simply cannot be stopped. He allowed two runs two starts ago against Seattle, and this was only his eighth multi-run outing in 14 starts and second in his last seven. Oh, by the way, he went a full nine innings, so even that was disgustingly awesome. He followed that up by going six innings last night, walked *gasp* two batters and striking out 10. This is the 13th time in 14 starts that Tanaka has had a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 3:1 or higher, and he also struck out 11 guys the one time he didn't do it! Ima need to fan myself a bit now.
Let's just look at some of Tanaka's season-long stats for a second: a 1.99 ERA, 10.20 strikeouts per nine innings, 1.44 walks per nine and only a 71.2 percent contact rate against (the fourth-lowest total in the league). This has helped him record a quality start in all 14 of his outings. He's not just currently in line for the Rookie of the Year; he's in the top three for A.L. Cy Young. Crazy, stupid love.
2. Jose Abreu, 1B, Chicago White Sox
nERD: 2.25 | wOBA: .386 | WAR: 1.9 | Previous Ranking: 2
Abreu has been held without a home run in each of his last five games. For most hitters, that's fairly commonplace. Not so much for Abreu. It's his first such-streak since April 20th. He has had two streaks of four games in that span, but each ended on the fifth day. Basically, Abreu's assured at least one bomb today.
If he does fulfill this prophecy and launch some poor, unsuspecting baseball into orbit as a Trojan asteroid of Jupiter, the South-siders should be feeling pretty dandy about themselves. In games in which Abreu hits a homer, the White Sox are 13-4; when he is contained within the ballpark, they are just 21-33. I realize that every team is going to have a better record when a guy hits a bomb, but this ratio is gross.
Among qualified rookie hitters, Abreu is leading in the following categories: home runs, runs batted in, isolated power, slugging percentage, wOBA and weighted runs created plus. He's far and away the best slugger in this class; if Tanaka slips even just a little bit, Abreu could punt him back to second in these standings.
3. Dellin Betances, RP, New York Yankees
nERD: 2.19 | FIP: 0.88 | WAR: 1.7 | Previous Ranking: 3
This is your semi-weekly reminder that Betances enjoys strikeouts just a bit. in his 40.2 innings this year, the 26 year old has 68 strikeouts to just 10 walks. In 26 outings this season in which he has recorded at least two outs, Betances has had multiple strikeouts 24 times. Finger-lickin' good.
The problem here is that it appears as though hitters are starting to catch up to Betances a bit. Two weeks ago, I mentioned that Betances had gone four appearances without allowing a hit and six without allowing a run. Since then, he has allowed four hits and two earned runs in eight innings. The world is clearly ending. His ERA is up to a casual 1.55 mark. Even when hitters are seeing him for the second time, he's making dem fools look all silly-like. If this keeps up, his ERA might eclipse the 1.60 mark, in which case they may as well give up on him.
4. Jake Odorizzi, SP, Tampa Bay Rays
nERD: 1.95 | FIP: 3.36 | WAR: 1.2 | Previous Ranking: Not Ranked
I can hear the questions popping up already: "Hey, NERD, how'd the guy with the 4.73 ERA (Odorizzi) beat out Yordano Ventura? Go back in your basement and play with your spreadsheets, idiot!" First of all, I would never be dumb enough to leave my spreadsheets in the basement. In the event of flooding, everything I hold dear (except my Dora the Explorer bedsheets) would be lost. Second, nERD is smarter than yer gosh durn ERA there, champ, so I'm going to bump with what it says.
Don't let the ERA or the 2-7 record fool you; Odorizzi has been pitching very well this year. His 10.36 strikeouts per nine is higher than Tanaka, Ventura and Collin McHugh. The problem is the guy has had some awful luck.
Batters have a .328 batting average on balls in play (BABIP) against Odorizzi, but it's not because they're hitting the ball particularly hard. He has allowed only a 20.9 line-drive percentage against, which is better than the other three pitchers on this list. The problem is that opponents are hitting .386 on ground balls against Odorizzi; the league average is about .226. This has resulted in an inflated ERA that should come down as the season goes along. Odorizzi's a guy you may want to check out if you're in a deeper fantasy league (currently owned in 2.6 percent of ESPN leagues) or if you play daily fantasy because his value there is through the roof right now.
5. Collin McHugh, SP, Houston Astros
nERD: 1.72 | FIP: 3.00 | WAR: 1.4 | Previous Ranking: Not Ranked
If it weren't for some stupid little blister that has thrown McHugh off in his last two starts, he'd probably be higher on this list. Over his last two starts, McHugh has seen his ERA go from 2.52 to 3.03. Again, this is nothing to sneeze at, but it is a bit deflating for a guy who has been straight dealing this whole season.
McHugh is now up to 10 starts after working his way into the rotation on April 22nd. In those ten starts, he has had three in which he has not allowed a single run. He has also had more strikeouts than innings pitched in half of those starts, including 12 punch-outs in 6.2 innings in his season debut.
It's not McHugh's heater that will overwhelm you at 91.6 miles per hour; it's his breaking pitches. He only uses his fastball 43.2 percent of the time, going with the slider 27.2 percent and the curve 23.8 percent. The average speed on that curve is 72.9 miles per hour, or almost 20 miles per hour slower than his fastball. That's how you keep a brudduh off balance. This has helped McHugh post 10.01 strikeouts per nine and helped him get back on this list once again.
There's my list, but I'd love to hear yours. Send a tweet to @numberFire, or leave your thoughts in the comment box below. The first person to say Danny Santana gets a hug and five bucks. I'm only kind of kidding about that.