Let me start by getting ahead of the “salty Cleveland fan” accusations I’m sure some people will hurl my way before even reading this blog. Yes, I’m disappointed my team’s shortstop didn’t win the American League Rookie of the Year Award. I thought he should have. Obviously I’m biased, but about 40% of the writers not representing the Cleveland chapter of the BBWAA agreed with me. It’s not like our guy was a dark-horse sleeper pick and now I’m throwing a fit because he lost. He legitimately deserved the award. He just happened to break into the bigs at the same time Carlos Correa was hitting 22 bombs before he could legally drink. I watched him play. I owned him in fantasy baseball. I totally get why people would vote for him. It was six of one, half a dozen of the other between the two of them. I’m disappointed, but not infuriated. Correa deserved the award too.
But one writer, Hideo Kizaki of the Jiji Press, left Francisco Lindor completely off of his ballot. He didn’t believe Lindor, who according to Fangraphs had the 88th highest WAR in a rookie season going all the way back to 1871 (Correa #262, Burns #570, Rosario #614, Sano #749), was one of the three best rookies in the American League this year. That’s flat out embarrassing, for him and for the Baseball Writers Association of America.
I’ve got some personal experience with controversial ballots. My father was the only writer in the country that left Justin Verlander completely off of his MVP ballot when he won the award in 2011. The guy won 24 games, struck out 250 and allowed opponents to hit just .191 off of him that year. Clayton Kershaw won 21, struck out 239 and had a .194 BAA when he won the NL MVP in 2014 (he also threw 60 less innings and posted a 1.81 FIP but that’s neither here nor there.) Verlander had a historical year, no doubt about it. But my dad simply doesn’t believe a pitcher should be eligible for the MVP award. Whether you agree with that or not, at least there was some conviction and reasoning behind the ballot he cast. Neither of those things are apparent in Mr. Kizaki’s.
So what do writers base their ballots off of? A combination of measurables and immeasurables, with a dash of personal opinion? They do play favorites with their hometown guys sometimes, whether that’s right or wrong. In 2013 Yasiel Puig came in second place in the NL ROTY voting with a score of 95 (remember, Lindor was at 109.) He was left off of exactly one ballot as well, so one of the San Diego writers could give Jedd Gyorko one of his two third place votes. The year before, Wade Miley came in second with a score of 105 and was left off of a single ballot, again by a San Diego writer (this time for Yonder Alonso.) Hell, our own Chris Assenheimer left Wil Myers (who won the award with a whopping 131 points) off his ballot in 2013 for Cody Allen. Right or wrong, it happens. But Kizaki represents the Seattle chapter of the BBWAA. He didn’t snub Frankie for any Mariner. So throw hometown favoritism out the window.
You’re really not supposed to take into account team success – which I won’t accuse Kizaki of, as the A’s had one one the worst records in baseball and the Twins missed the playoffs, although the ballots are submitted before the postseason anyway. Minnesota only finished a game and a half above the Indians in the central. So no, Kizaki didn’t leave Lindor off his ballot because his team stunk or other candidates teams were better.
This award is supposed to go to the rookie who had the best season, independent of everything else. Period.
So what’s left to judge? I guess if you think a guy is a real prick in the clubhouse or is a great leader, that might move his needle one way or the other, but it’d have to be something substantial to make a serious impact on where you vote for him. I love Frankie and all his fire but I’m not sure any of these guys have a game changing personality one way or the other, at least in terms of changing what place I vote for them based upon it.
And so we’re left with statistics. This used to be so easy before sabermetrics. Batting average, home runs and RBI. Easy to understand, easy to compare, easy to vote. The old school way of judging players that some writers are still hanging on to. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a time and place for fielding percentage, or wins/losses for a pitcher, but those times are becoming less and less frequent and those places are few and far between. I can’t blame old school writers for clinging to what they know, there’s a lot of that going around the sport these days on many different landscapes. And I don’t mean to generalize all tenured writers as curmudgeon-y old men huddled over their media guides with their reading glasses. A lot of them are learning to use sabermetrics, just like I am and a lot of us are. I think we’re on our way to a time in the sport where batting average and wOBA can play nice together.
But Lindor’s 2015 transcended the two schools of thought. It doesn’t matter if you’re a 20-something blogger with a sticker-littered MacBook sitting in a Starbucks, or a veteran beat reporter who still holds out a tape recorder that uses actual physical tapes during interviews, Francisco Lindor was one of the top 3 rookies in the American League this year. I went through and ranked the big 3 plus Burns and Rosario among all AL rookies on various old and new school statistics. The results are below.
There’s just no way you can spin Lindor not deserving to be on a ballot. None. Kizaki didn’t leave him off for lack of team success, hometown favoritism, or personality reasons. Old school statistics support Lindor being in the top 3. New school statistics support Lindor being in the top 3. 29 of 30 American League Rookie of the Year ballots support Lindor being in the top 3. Kizaki’s ballot has no logical reasoning or conviction behind it. It’s embarrassing, both for him and the BBWAA.
I’m not mad. Just disappointed.
KEEP THE CHIEF