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Saturday, September 22, 2007

Rookie of the Year: Tulowitzki

I've been messing around with the Hardball Times' fielding data again lately, and thought I'd use it to take a look at the rookie of the year standings. I know I should wait 'til next weekend to do this so the numbers are actually final, but by then I'll be entranced in the post-season... And I don't think much will change between now and then.

I followed the approach I described here to evaluate total player value compared to an average replacement player. I pulled the top 10 rookies in baseball (hitters only) according to VORP, and then pulled fielding data on them at all positions that they played. Total player value was reported as the combined total of their offensive runs vs. replacement (VORP) and their fielding performance (THT's data, converted to +- runs) vs. replacement (replacements are assumed to be averaged fielders). Here are the results (data are current through 9/20):

Name Team Pos VORP +-Runs TotalValue
Tulowitzki COL SS 36.3 27.2 63.5
Pence HOU CF 36.8 6.4 43.2
Pedroia BOS 2B 32.6 -3.7 28.9
Young ARI CF 15.3 11.6 26.9
Buck OAK RF 18.3 8.4 26.7
Loney LAN 1B 24.8 -0.6 24.2
Braun MIL 3B 50.3 -27.5 22.8
Escobar ATL IF 22.0 -2.5 19.5
Hamilton CIN CF 25.9 -8.4 17.5
Harris TBA SS/2B 25.1 -7.7 17.4
  • Troy Tulowitzki is the the runaway leader among this year's rookie position players. Good offense for a middle infielder, even after an adjustment for Coors field. And what's more, he's rated as the best defensive shortstop in baseball by a full 7 runs over Tony Pena of Kansas City. Frankly, it's a slam dunk. Or should be.
  • Hunter Pence is also having a fine season, showing excellence on both offense and defense.
  • Dustin Pedroia just edges out Travis Buck for best AL rookie position player. Though both of them trail starting pitchers Brian Bannister (39.3 VORP), Jeremy Guthrie (37.9 VORP), and Daiske Matsuzaka (34.1 VORP).
  • Media favorite Ryan Braun gets killed in this analysis. He easily has been the best offensive rookie, but his defense at third base has been horrendous, second worst in baseball to Jose Bautista of Pittsburgh. Braun absolutely should not win rookie of the year. Even though he probably still will.
  • Cincinnati Reds candidate Josh Hamilton comes out looking pretty bad in this analysis. But keep in mind a) he has very few AB's, in a virtual tie with Loney, Escobar, and Buck for fewest plate appearances (and he has the highest VORP of that group), and b) he's probably playing out of position in center field, as his range seems best suited to right field.
Update: Sky runs down some of the other analyses that have been done over the past few days on this issue, which include takes by Nate Silver and Tom Tango. Everything is consistent with the notion that Tulo deserves the award. It's not even close. Unless you ignore fielding, which unfortunately almost everyone does...
Photo by AP/David Zalubowski