One of my responsibilities (privileges) as a member of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance is to vote on the year-end awards (MVP, Cy Young, ROY, and Manager of the Year). As an Orioles blog, I’ll be voting only for the American League awards (but I may do NL anyway at some point). For the Rookie of the Year award I’ll start with the #3 guy and work my way down to the winner. There were a lot of impressive rookie performances in 2009 – especially amongst pitchers – but one guy was a fair bit better than the rest (and it’s probably not who you think). All of the leading candidates should thank Matt Wieters for taking it easy this year, before his inevitable explosion in 2010.
Honorable Mentions: Ricky Romero (2.7 Wins Above Replacement), Andrew Bailey (2.3 WAR), Brad Bergesen (2.3 WAR)
3. Jeff Niemann (SP, TBR)
3.94 ERA, 180.2 IP, 125 K, 59 BB, 17 HR, 4.07 FIP, 4.23 tERA, 3.1 WAR
The big (6’9″) right-hander didn’t blow many people away (6.23 K/9), but he showed good control (2.94 BB/9) and benefited from a 7.6% HF/FB rate to keep the ball in the yard (0.85 HR/9). His 4.74 expected FIP wasn’t exceptional, but Big Nyquil did have a very good season.
2. Elvis Andrus (SS, TEX)
.267/.329/.373, 6 HR, 541 PA, .322 wOBA, +10.1 UZR, 2.9 WAR
Andrus was given the starting shortstop job in Texas at the age of 20 because of his glove, and he didn’t disappoint. His Ultimate Zone Rating was the best in the AL, on the strength of his +11.4 range (also best in the league). The kid can pick it at short, and his bat came in well above expectations and was only a little below average. If there was one player on this list I’d want going forward, it would probably be Andrus.
1. Brett Anderson (SP, OAK)
4.06 ERA, 175.1 IP, 150 K, 45 BB, 20 HR, 3.69 FIP, 3.39 tERA, 3.8 WAR
His 11-11 record and high-ish ERA will hurt him with the BBWAA, but his 50.9% groundball rate and his 3.33 K:BB ratio (which was 8th overall in the league) were very good. The 3.8 WAR was 12th in the AL amongst all starters, and his 3.79 expected FIP was 7th. There were a lot of very good rookie pitchers this year – and many of them have similar surface stats – but Anderson was the best.
The 21 year-old had a rough start, but eventually picked things up and established himself as the A’s top starter. And the top rookie in the American League for 2009.