Saturday, August 15, 2009

2009 N.L. Rookie of the Year Update -- Pitchers in Contention

Prior to the start of the 2009 season, I made some speculations about who might be in the running for the N.L. Rookie of the Year Award. It's still a bit early to declare an obvious winner, but there are a few interesting candidates that were no where to be found on any preseason list.

For my original 2009 N.L. ROY list, I included guys like Cameron Maybin, Colby Rasmus, Kenshin Kawakami, Tommy Hanson, and Dexter Fowler. Here's the basic projection I wrote up in my preseason post:

"...if I had to narrow down the field (for position players), I'd include Maybin, Fowler, and (Gaby) Sanchez. Overall though, I think this year's position players provide a relatively weak field of candidates, which opens up the opportunity for a pitcher to win the award.

"...I really can't single out any one player that I feel is going to stand out this year, and it might come down to who gets more playing time and doesn't screw up a whole bunch. To narrow it down, Kenshin Kawakami has the best shot at R.O.Y. simply because he has a secure starting role with major league team."

Well, we're over two thirds through the season, and it looks like Kenshin Kawakami is pretty much out of the race. With a 5-9 record and a 4.13 ERA, Kawakami can't possibly keep up with teammate Tommy Hanson, who has a 7-2 record, and a 3.05 ERA. Besides Hanson, Randy Wells and J.A. Happ have both added their names to the debate, each posting WHIPs of 1.20 or less, and ERAs of 3.01 or better.

Since Hideo Nomo won Rookie of the Year in 1995 with 13 wins, the fewest number of wins by any ROY pitcher was 12, when Scott Williamson finished with a 12-7 record and also had 19 saves and posted an ERA of just 2.41 in 1999. The average WHIP and ERA since Nomo has been 1.21 and 3.09 respectively.

There aren't any great rookie closers to add to the list, so for now it looks like Wells, Happ, and Hanson will be the only rookie pitchers making their cases over the next 50 games. At this point, I'm not sure if any of them has a distinct advantage, as each of them pitches for teams involved in a playoff battle with the offensive support and defensive capacity to keep them in line for at least 3 or 4 more wins. At least one of these guys is going to win 5 or 6 more games, and it's very possible that all 3 of them will still be in contention for Rookie of the Year at the end of the season.

Later this week, I'll break down the position players still in the running for N.L. R.O.Y. and then make some predictions about who will win it in the end.

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