Monday, December 29, 2014

Questionable Rookies of the Year: 1970s

Carbo (left) was robbed despite a monster offensive season (CNN)
1970 NL Carl Morton over Bernie Carbo
Morton made a strong first impression by hurling 284 and 2/3 innings and winning 18 games, but those innings weren't ultra-high quality. He led the league in walks, had a 1.43 WHIP, posted a 114 ERA+, and only struck out 29 more guys than he walked. Carbo, on the other hand, was one of baseball's best hitters on a per-game basis. Besides batting .310/.454/.551 (164 OPS+), Carbo also clubbed 21 home runs, stole 10 bases, and walked 17 times more often than he struck out. Given the depressed offensive environment, Carbo's season (a 1.004 OPS!) was much more impressive and worthy of the award. He also played a key role in helping the Reds win the National League pennant.

1971 AL Chris Chambliss over Bill Parsons
Chambliss would go on to have a fine career, but his rookie season was actually very mediocre, (0.4 bWAR). His nine homers, 48 RBI, and .749 OPS (104 OPS+) were pedestrian for a first baseman. Runner-up Bill Parsons, who compiled a 3.20 ERA over 244 and 2/3 innings, was valued at 3.1 bWAR and would have been my pick.

1976 NL Butch Metzger over Pat Zachry
This one went down as a tie but was a clear foul-up, as Zachry deserved to win outright. For reasons unexplained, voters failed to choose a very good starting pitcher over a decent reliever. Zachry had a superior ERA and WHIP while pitching over 80 additional innings. This disparity was evident in their bWAR totals, as Zachry compiled 3.5--two more than Metzger's 1.5. Zachry also pitched for the World Series-winning Cincinnati Reds, which should have gone in his favor.

1977 AL Eddie Murray over Mitchell Page
Murray wound up with the best career of the 1977 rookie class, but he was not the best rookie in the American League that year. Page, who batted .307/.405/.521 (154 OPS+) with 21 home runs and 42 steals in 47 attempts, was. His raw OPS was 123 points higher than Murray's, which more than made up for the fact that Murray appeared in 15 additional games and logged 110 additional official at-bats. At 6.0 bWAR, Page was nearly twice as valuable as Murray (3.2). Why did Murray win? He played more often, and thus had 27 home runs and 88 RBI to Page's 21 and 75.

1978 NL Bob Horner over Don Robinson
Horner, a slugging third baseman in the mold of Mark Reynolds, won on the strength of his 23 home runs (in just 359 plate appearances) and .852 OPS (124 OPS+). But with a .313 OBP and poor defense at the hot corner, he really wasn't that valuable. Robinson, who placed third, was more valuable in my opinion with his 228 and 1/3 frames of 3.47 ERA-ball. He also had strong periperhals with a 1.14 WHIP, 3.33 FIP, and 2.37 K/BB ratio. Robinson racked up 3.7 bWAR, considerably more than Horner's 2.1.

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