Why Carlos Correa Won the American League Rookie of the Year Award

Carlos Correa was one of the top power hitting shortstops in the big leagues and was rewarded by being named Rookie of the Year.

Two decades ago, the American League was a hotbed for talented young shortstops, with likes of Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, and Nomar Garciaparra.

History may be repeating itself in the junior circuit, as Carlos Correa and Francisco Lindor both had terrific rookie seasons.

Correa was named AL Rookie of the Year, beating out Lindor by 15 points. Correa received 17 first place votes, compared to 13 for Lindor.

Name Team 1st 2nd 3rd Points
Carlos Correa Astros 17 13 0 124
Francisco Lindor Indians 13 14 2 109
Miguel Sano Twins 0 0 20 20
Roberto Osuna Blue Jays 0 2 2 8
Billy Burns Athletics 0 1 3 6
Eddie Rosario Twins 0 0 2 2
Delino DeShields Rangers 0 0 1 1

The voting was tight and rightfully so, and Lindor may have actually been the better overall player. Lindor had the edge over Correa in terms of the three major iterations of Wins Above Replacement at FanGraphs, Baseball-Reference, and Baseball Prospectus.

Here are the top rookie position players statistically, sorted by fWAR.

Francisco Lindor 99 438 12 12 0.313 0.353 0.482 0.358 128 4.6 4.6 3.3
Carlos Correa 99 432 22 14 0.279 0.345 0.512 0.365 133 3.3 4.1 2.7
Billy Burns 125 555 5 26 0.294 0.334 0.392 0.317 102 2.3 2.8 1.1
Devon Travis 62 238 8 3 0.304 0.361 0.498 0.37 135 2.3 2.4 2
Eddie Rosario 122 474 13 11 0.267 0.289 0.459 0.316 98 2.3 2.2 1.8
Miguel Sano 80 335 18 1 0.269 0.385 0.53 0.392 151 2 2.1 1.9

The top rookie pitchers in the league by WAR were Lance McCullers (2.8 fWAR) and Eduardo Rodriguez (2.5 rWAR, 2.3 WARP).

So by WAR, it seems like Lindor, rather than Correa, was the better choice, but there is surely an argument to be made for the Astros' shortstop.

Voters Dig the Longball

While Lindor may have the more valuable player overall, Correa was clearly the better offensive player.

Correa led all Major League shortstops, regardless of experience, in home runs (22), slugging percentage (.512), and isolated power (.233). He was also 15th among all American League players in home runs per plate appearance, hitting one on 5.1% of his trips to the plate (minimum 400 plate appearances).

Per ESPN Stats and Information, Correa hit a homer every 17.6 at bats, the best ratio ever for an American League rookie shortstop with at least 400 plate appearances. Cal Ripken Jr. and Garciapara, who were second and third on the list in their rookie seasons, respectively, also won Rookie of the Year.

Relative to Lindor, Correa was a better hitter (with a 133 wRC+ compared to 128 for Lindor) and was also a better baserunner. Correa stole 14 bases to Lindor’s 12, and while he was caught four times (compared to twice for Lindor), he was better at taking an extra base.

Correa was 1.7 runs above average in terms of FanGraphs’ Ultimate Base Running metric, which “takes the run expectancy of the advancement (or lack thereof) and credits that to the base runner depending the frequency with which the average runner advances in the same situation.” Lindor, by contrast, was 1.1 runs below average in terms of UBR.

Overall, Correa was 2.0 runs above average in Baserunning Runs Above Average, while Lindor was 0.6 runs below average.

Correa’s baserunning and hitting combined to be worth 18.3 offensive runs above average, leading all AL rookies, while Lindor’s 13.8 were third (behind Miguel Sano).

Lindor has the edge in WAR due to his defense, as he led all AL rookies in defensive runs above average (14.9; Correa was 18th and 1.6 runs below average). The Cleveland shortstop also had the edge in Defensive rWAR (1.7), more than a full win better the Correa (0.6).

Defense puts Lindor over the top in terms of total value, but the gap between he and Correa in WAR is close enough (particularly in terms of rWAR and WARP) that it is hard to say conclusively that he was better. This is especially true considering that the difference is due to defensive metrics, which are less reliable than offensive stats, especially in a small(ish) sample.

Correa’s edge on offense made him a strong candidate and explain why he was the voter’s choice.