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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Jaime Garcia, the Bronze Medal Rookie

Posted By on Tue, Nov 16, 2010 at 8:57 AM

click to enlarge Bronze age weaponry: Get it? Anyone?
  • Bronze age weaponry: Get it? Anyone?
So the National and American League Rookie of the Year award were announced yesterday, and neither winner was a huge surprise. Rangers closer Neftali Feliz took home the trophy in the AL, while Buster Posey, catcher extraordinaire for the Giants, won the award for the senior circuit. 

The Cards' own rookie sensation, Jaime Garcia, finished third in the voting, behind Posey and Jason Heyward. I have to admit, if I had been calling this award going in, I probably would have said I expected Heyward to win it. He had a better season by the numbers (though the positional difference from catcher to right field is pretty steep, and likely made up for the production discrepancy in voters' minds), but more than that Heyward played the entire season in the big leagues, whereas Posey began the year in the minors before coming up and joining the Giants. 

I'm not surprised Garcia finished third, as that's pretty much what I expected all along, but I am a little dismayed at how far back he finished of the top two. 
Here are the pertinent facts as far as production goes: 

  • Posey finished the season with a .305/.357/.505 line (129 OPS+), in 108 games played. Defensive metrics for catchers are damned near nonexistent, and the ones we do have don't seem at all trustworthy to me, so I don't have any data for his defense. He did receive accolades from most observers for being a solid defensive catcher, however, so I'll take that at somewhat face value. All told, Posey was worth 3.9 wins above replacement. Not bad for two-thirds of a season. 
  • Heyward's season line of .277/.393/.456 was good for a 131 OPS+, just a shade better than Posey's, but close enough to really make the difference academic. In fairness to Posey, his level of production is much tougher to find behind the plate than Heyward's is in a corner outfield spot. On the other hand, Heyward was quite good in the field (and quantifiably good, too), adding 4.8 runs of value by UZR. (Plus/minus liked him even more, putting him at +13 runs, good for second-best among all right fielders.) Put it all together and Heyward was worth 5 wins in 2010. 
  • Jaime Garcia finished his rookie campaign with a 13-8 record (and that should have been much, much better; if Jaime wanted to piss in the punchbowl at the Cardinals' Christmas party I wouldn't much blame him), and a sparkling 2.70 ERA, fourth-best among NL pitchers. He pitched 163.1 innings over 28 starts, allowing 151 hits and 64 walks against 132 strikeouts. His ERA+ was 145, which means he was better, relative to league-average, than either Posey or Heyward. Unfortunately for Jaime, he probably lost any slim hope he might have had at the ROY when he was shut down for the last few weeks of the season. Jaime ended up at 3.2 WAR for the year. (Comparisons by WAR between pitchers and hitters are a little sketchy, but it's probably good enough for just broad brushstrokes.) 
Posey received 20 of 32 first-place votes, and 129 points overall. Heyward picked up 9 first-place votes and 107 points. Garcia got one first-place vote, and 24 points total. 

Let that sink in for a second. Heyward and Posey both got over 100 points, and it was a pretty close vote between the two. It should have been, too, as they ran fairly neck-and-neck in terms of performance. But Garcia, whose performance was, by some measures, just as good, got less than a quarter of Heyward's point total, and less than a fifth of Posey's. 

I'm not surprised at how the vote went in terms of the order, but I'm a little disappointed to see Jaime again receiving so little recognition for his performance. Personally, if I had a vote (which I most definitely do not, and do not expect to receive at any point in my life), I would have voted for Heyward. There's plenty of reason to like Posey, but the fact Heyward played in the big leagues all season (and thus contributed more to his team's success), functions as a tiebreaker of sorts here. 

It's tough to really work up much outrage over this, though, as all three players had outstanding seasons and any of them would have made a fine Rookie of the Year winner. Jaime just had the bad luck to play his rookie season in an historically good year for rookies.

Anyhow, congratulations to all three players, as well as everyone else who received votes. And an extra congrats to Jaime Garcia, who will hopefully continue posting stealthy, unnoticed sub-3.00 ERAs for the rest of his career. 

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