Friday, December 26, 2014

Questionable Rookies of the Year: 1990s

Kenny Lofton (pictured) deserved the 1992 award over Pat Listach (CheapSeatsPlease)
1990 AL Sandy Alomar over everyone else
Roberto Alomar's older brother has to be one of the most overrated players in baseball history. He somehow swindled his way onto six All-Star teams despite totaling a mere 13.7 bWAR across 20 big league seasons. Such was the case in 1990, when he earned the first of those All-Star nods and walked away with Rookie of the Year honors by batting an empty .290. Runner-up Kevin Maas, who slugged 21 home runs and posted a .902 OPS (150 OPS+) was a more deserving candidate, as was another Kevin--third-place Kevin Appier. Appier, who led all rookies that year with 5.3 bWAR, should have been a no-brainer after compiling a 2.76 ERA (139 ERA+) in 185 and 2/3 innings with Kansas City. He would go on to become one of the best pitchers of the 1990s but was rarely recognized as such, making just one All-Star team and drawing Cy Young consideration only once.

1992 AL Pat Listach over Kenny Lofton
I don't get this one at all. Listach and Lofton were basically the same player offensively, only Lofton did everything a little better. He scored a few more runs, hit a handful of more home runs, stole a dozen more bases, got on base more frequently, and slugged a little more. Sure, Listach played shortstop, but he was merely adequate, whereas Lofton became a Gold Glove-winning center fielder. Lofton was actually much more valuable defensively in addition to being a better hitter and baserunner, which is reflected in the fact that he was worth close to six wins while Listach came in around four. It was a fitting beginning to what turned out to be a very underappreciated career by Lofton, a poor man's Tim Raines who fell off the Hall of Fame ballot after his first year of eligibility.

1992 NL Eric Karros over everyone else
Voters were so swayed by Karros's 20 home runs and 88 RBI that they overlooked his terrible .304 OBP and pedestrian (especially for a first baseman) .730 OPS. At 0.4 bWAR, Karros was barely above replacement level and had no business being named Rookie of the Year. Runner-up Moises Alou played 34 fewer games but was much better offensively, hitting .282/.328/.455 (120 OPS+) while throwing in 16 steals. Reggie Sanders, who finished fourth, probably had the best case given his .831 OPS (127 OPS+), power/speed combo (12 dingers/16t thefts), and 77 games in center field. Karros went on to become extremely overrated due to his strong home run and RBI totals, which belied his middling on-base and power numbers.

1996 NL Todd Hollandsworth over Edgar Renteria
Hollandsworth had 1.1 bWAR in '96, but somehow finished in front of Edgar Renteria and Jason Kendall even though they hit roughly as well as he did while playing shortstop and catcher, respectively (Hollandsworth was a left field). His .785 OPS, for instance, is not significantly better than Renteria's .757 or Kendall's .773, both of whom contributed much more defensively. Looking back, it's clear Hollandsworth was not worthy.

1999 NL Scott Williamson over Preston Wilson
An everyday center fielder who bats .280/.350/.502 with 26 home runs and 11 steals should beat out a reliever who doesn't even pitch 100 innings, unless said reliever pitches like Clayton Kershaw or Pedro Martinez. Williamson was very good, but I'm siding with the position player on this one.

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