Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Recounting Abreu's Rookie Season

Abreu had one of the best rookie years of all-time (FoxSports)
In an announcement that surprised no one, Jose Abreu was a unanimous selection for the American League Rookie of the Year. Abreu is just the ninth player ever to win the award unanimously, beating out Matt Shoemaker (second) and Dellin Betances (third). He was voted AL Rookie of the Year by Sporting News as well, winning the award in a landslide with 149 of 160 possible votes. Nobody else received more than four.

By batting .317 with 36 home runs and 107 RBI, the 27 year-old Cuban sensation became the first rookie in MLB history to rank top-five in his league for the Triple Crown stats (he was fifth in average, third in big flies and fourth in ribbies). His 36 home runs, a White Sox rookie record, were the sixth-most by a rookie all-time, exceeded only by Mark McGwire (49), Frank Robinson and Wally Berger (both with 38), and Al Rosen and Albert Pujols (both with 37). Interestingly, all those players are/were righthanded, as is Abreu. Had he not spent time on the Disabled List in May with ankle tendinitis, he likely would have joined Nelson Cruz in reaching the 40 home run benchmarks and/or passed all those aforementioned names save McGwire.

29 of those big flies came prior to the All-Star Break--only McGwire with 33 had more. Abreu was named AL Rookie of the Month in April, June, and July and took home AL Player of the Month honors in April and July. He set the record for most home runs and RBI by a rookie in the month of April, with 10 and 32, respectively (31 if you discount the one he recorded on March 31st). He also became the fourth player ever with 30 doubles, 30 homers, and 100 RBI in his rookie season, joining Hal Trosky, Ted Williams, and Albert Pujols.

What's more, Abreu was played a pretty solid first base. He had the highest Range Factor/9 innings and most double plays turned among American League first basemen. He ranked second in Range Factor/game and fourth in fielding percentage and putouts. All in all, not a bad first impression for somebody in the first year of a six-year, $68 million contract given to him before he'd ever stepped up to the plate in the big leagues.

Almost as unsurprising was the National League award going to Jacob deGrom, who secured 26 of the 30 possible first place votes to win handily. Billy Hamilton came in second and Kolten Wong finished third. DeGrom went 9-6 with a 2.69 ERA and 144 strikeouts in 140 and 1/3 innings pitched, making him just the fifth rookie in NL history to post an ERA below 2.75 and a K/9 ratio above 9 (the others being Jose Fernandez, Roy Oswalt, Hideo Nomo, and Dwight Gooden).

Originally called up in mid-May to work out of the Mets bullpen, he flourished as a starter with Dillon Gee out and made 22 starts in all. He had a few hiccups at first but pitched better as the season wore in, establishing himself as the team's top pitcher. New York hopes deGrom can be a mainstay in a rotation that gets Matt Harvey back next year and has an ace on the rise in Zack Wheeler. Together they'd form a formidable big three and are essential to the Mets having their first winning season since 2008.

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