Monday, November 14, 2011

Hellickson, Kimbrel Named Top Rookies

Over the next week the BBWAA will announce the recipients of baseball's key awards, starting with today's release of 2011's Rookies of the Year.  It was fitting that, in a second consecutive season of declining offense, the sport's two top freshmen were pitchers.

Jeremy Hellickson, the Tampa Bay Ray also known as "Hell-Boy," took home the hardware in the AL on the strength of a strong 13-10 record, shiny 2.95 ERA and pretty good 1.15 WHIP across 29 starts and 189 innings.  Hellickson took 17 of 28 possible first place votes, but his poor 1.63K/BB ratio and uninspiring 5.6K/9 rates suggest he still has plenty of work to do.  Teammate Desmond Jennings finished seventh despite not appearing in 99 games this season because he was still in the minors.

Five first place votes went to runner-up Mark Trumbo, who posted solid powers with 29 home runs and 87 ribbies but was undone by a low .254 batting average (blame the 120 whiffs and lackluster .274 BaBIP) and a terrible .291 on base percentage (fueled by 19 non-intentional walks) that would give Billy Beane and Paul DePodesta nightmares all winter long.  The power's legit, but he needs to improve his plate discipline if he wants to stay in the lineup everyday.  Teammate Jordan Walden and his 32 saves tied with Jennings.

Four first place votes went to third place finisher/strapping Kansas City first-sacker Eric Hosmer, who just turned 22 and put up Billy Butler numbers in his big league debut.  He fell just short of the .300 average, 20 homer benchmarks but can take solace in his strong second half over which he triple slashed .313/.349/.493 (Michael Young numbers) with an OPS nearly 100 points higher than his first half figure.  Fared much better than fellow rookie/can't miss prospect Mike Moustakas.

The remaining two first place votes were split between Yankee starter Ivan Nova (16-4 record hide his pedestrian peripherals and Dustin Ackley (Seattle keystone who appeared in just 90 games but posted 117 OPS+).  Ackley's teammate and Felix Hernandez's wingman Michael Pineda (9.1K/9) also received consideration,

Over in the NL, Atlanta fireman Craig Kimbrel received all 32 first place votes in a well deserved sweep.  The numbers--new Rookie record of 46 saves (breaking Neftali Feliz's record of 40 set last season), 2.10 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, and most impressively, 127 punchouts in only 77 innings for an absurd 14.8K/9 rate.  By comparison, AL ROTY Jeremy Hellickson completed 112 more frames and struck out ten fewer batters.  Wow.

Teammate and first baseman Freddie Freeman finished second by basically duplicating Hosmer's numbers (no significant difference in any category, right down to their thoroughly mediocre bWAR totals), while Vance Worley came out of nowhere to finish third after going 11-3 with a 3.01 ERA behind Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, and Roy Oswalt in Philly.  Wilson Ramos enjoyed a fine season (15 homers in 113 games) for Washington behind the plate as Ivan Rodriguez's replacement, and Arizona starter Josh Collmenter rounded out the top five with a strong 1.07 WHIP and 3.38 ERA.

Sixth place finisher Danny Espinosa helped many a fantasy team with 21 bombs and 17 thefts out of the second base slot for the Nats, but a whopping 166 strikeouts suppressed his batting average (.236) and made him prone to slumps.  Darwin Barney got some consideration for basically showing up to play middle infield everyday for the Cubs and tied with Kenley Jansen, who pitched admirably in relief for a sunken Dodgers team.

Tomorrow the AL Cy Young winner will be revealed, and something tells me it's going to be that Justin Verlander fellow.

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