Baseball's second season kicked off today with the announcement of the Rookie of the Year winners. Maybe it's the third with the playoffs being the second. The free agency season is the fourth season followed by the fifth season, which consists solely of the Brewers being eliminated from the next season's contention. And then the music goes round and round, woah oh oh uh-oh, and it comes out in Florida and Arizona next spring.
Today's award announcements really got me excited. I know that Rookie of the Year is not as big a deal as MVP or Cy Young. But the reason that I'm excited is that the writers have already screwed up two awards with a built-in limit (how many rookies are there?) so it's sure to get worse. The writers may hit the Didn't-try-fecta by getting every award wrong. I can't wait for the brokered AL MVP vote.
Anyway, the winners were media darling Dontrelle Willis in the NL (or was it his mom?) and non-former Japanese professional player Angel Berroa in a squeaker in the AL.
Willis was, at best, the third best candidate in the NL. Brandon Webb edged Willis in just about every stat that matters: ERA 2.84 to 3.30, WHIP 1.15 to 1.28, adjusted ERA 165 to 122, Win Shares 17 to 14, opponents' batting average .212 to .245, innings pitched 180.2 to 160.2, strikeouts per nine innings 8.57 to 7.95, opponents' OPS .601 to 6.98. Well, just about every stat but wins (14 to 10). And Webb didn't pitch (poorly) for the eventual World Champs in the playoffs. Nor did he have a commercial nor a media-aware mother.
Clearly Webb had a better year than Willis. However, one could make an argument for Scott Podsednik and his 22 Win Shares being more valuable than either pitcher. But if you are going to go with a pitcher, Webb is you're man. By the way, Marlon Byrd also finished ahead of Willis with 16 Win Shares.
In the AL, at first glance it seems that the writers picked the right man. Angel Berroa and Hideki Matsui had the same batting average, Berroa had the lead in homers by one, Berroa outslugged Matsui .451 to .435, Berroa's OPS is one point better than Matsui's, and he stole 21 bases in 26 attempts while Matui grounded into 25 doubleplays. Surely a shortstop who bettered a corner outfielder in slugging and home runs must get the award, right?
Well, I favored Matsui. What!?! Am I insane? Have I foregone my sabermetric roots? Ah, no.
Given that Royals Stadium was a very good hitter's park (13% better than average in scoring) and Yankee Stadium was more of a pitcher's park (4% worse than average), actually Matsui was a better hitter. Matsui's OPS was 11% better than the adjusted league average whereas Berroa's was 4% worse. Yes, Berroa outslugged Matsui, but Berroa's slugging average was actually one point worse than the adjusted league average and Matsui's was 14 points better. The same goes for BA (Matsui 24 points better than average; Berroa 5 points better) and OBP (Matsui 24 points better; Berroa 12 points worse) as well. Mastui also created an extra 13 runs (95 to 82 though in 60 extra TPAs).
They got it wrong folks and this is just the start.