Inside the ‘Zona is a member organization of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance, and it’s award voting season. As one of just two sites in the Arizona Chapter, we get a vote on the full slate of NL awards. In the five categories, there are a total of 23 names on our ballots — but only one Diamondback. So let’s start with Rookie of the Year.
The narrative in the national media for the last few months has been whether Jacob deGrom‘s excellent work in the Mets rotation down the stretch would mean that he’d overtaken Billy Hamilton in the NL Rookie of the Year race. Why? Because for most of the season, it looked like the award was Hamilton’s to lose. In fact, Hamilton was 11th among all position players in fWAR at the All Star Break with 3.3, while deGrom was the top rookie pitcher, with just 1.0.
Among all pitchers, deGrom was 4th in the NL in WAR (2.1), and it’s easy to see how his candidacy gained so much steam. He really was fantastic. Meanwhile, Billy Hamilton fell off a cliff, totaling just 0.3 WAR in the last “half” of the season.
Ender Inciarte played in his first game on May 2, but he was largely a part-time player until the beginning of June. He was also ridiculously bad at the plate in his first month, with an offensive output a whopping 103% worse than league average (-3 wRC+). But he produced runs at a respectable clip in June and July (77 wRC+, 70 wRC+, respectively), and was actually solidly above average offensively in the second half (113 wRC+).
That was a backdrop for some spectacular defense. Looking at that on a rate basis, his 23.7 UZR/150 was second among all major league outfielders (behind Juan Lagares of the Mets). That’s really good! He also finishes second among all qualified outfielders in DRS, if you turn that into a rate stat.
Inciarte played just 118 games with 447 PA to Hamilton’s 152 games and 611 PA, but he looks good in the season’s final leaderboard for rookies. Which looks like this:
In the end, the voting comes down to what you value in a Rookie of the Year candidate. It’s mostly a measure of performance to me, which is fortunate because while we can’t predict with any kind of confidence that Inciarte will be the second-best fielder among all outfielders next year, that’s what he was this year. I’d put in a dash of “is this for real,” however.
Inciarte is thus my Rookie of the Year vote, and he was our site vote, too. He was a better fielder and a better hitter than Hamilton, and in both categories, he wasn’t particularly close. Hamilton’s superior WAR total comes from two things. One was baserunning; and while he stole a lot of bases, he wasn’t necessarily a good base stealer, with 23 caught stealings to his 56 successes (a mediocre 70.1% success rate). The other was just that Hamilton played more. He was the only NL rookie to get more than 500 PA, and he got 611. Turn WAR into a rate stat, and Inciarte was the better player by a significant margin.
The deGrom/Inciarte comparison is a much closer call, however. Their contributions were nearly identical, and they played about as much of the season. If I were looking at only fWAR, the choice would be a toss-up for me.
But fWAR is not the only way to compare the production of position players and pitchers. We normally use the FanGraphs version around here, but Baseball-Reference also has a version of WAR, which is frequently called bWAR. And bWAR makes the race look not particularly close.
I’m not saying you have to agree with me. I’m just saying that Ender Inciarte is the NL Rookie of the Year in my book. In the BBA, we call that the Willie Mays Award.
Our Inside the ‘Zona votes:
Connie Mack Award (Manager of the Year)
Willie Mays Award (Rookie of the Year)
Goose Gossage Award (Reliever of the Year)
Walter Johnson Award (Pitcher of the Year)
Stan Musial Award (MVP)
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