Here is an explanation of my ballot, which has Michael Harris II and Spencer Strider, both of whom play for the Braves, at the top of the list. Michael Harris II ended up winning the award on Monday night.
Hello everybody. I am visiting you from a time in the past. The recent past, to be more specific. Today, October 5th, I am writing this. Today, November 14, is the day when the results of the vote for the Rookie of the Year award in Major League Baseball are disclosed. With any luck, you just lived through a crazy and unforgettable October and November thanks to the 2022 Major League Baseball playoffs. You are in the know about who the winner is, while I am not. I’m very jealous.
When it comes to envy, I was always envious of the voters for awards and the Hall of Fame when I was younger. I make it a point to have that sensation in the back of my mind at all times because, now that I have the opportunity, I take it very seriously. The players deserve it, the fans deserve it, and to tell you the truth, the name of this award requires that it be given to them.
The Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year Award is what this honor is called. And as a voter for the award of National League Rookie of the Year, I’ll be damned if I’m going to vote on something with Jackie Robinson’s name on it if I don’t do my research beforehand.
The 21-year-old was selected in the third round out of high school in 2019 and spent the entire of 2021 in High-A. He began this campaign at Double-A. Due to some early-season outfield issues, the Braves skipped Triple-A and pushed him to the majors. Among them were the need to strengthen the defense and Ronald Acua Jr.’s ongoing recovery from his ruptured ACL last season.
Harris was a perfect fit. In center field, his defense was outstanding. He scored highly in all advanced metrics, ranking at the 86th percentile for outfielder leap and the 93rd percentile for outs above average. He had 1.2 defensive WAR and nine defensive runs saved.
In addition, his bat didn’t actually require much time to turn around. When compared to the league average slash line of.243/.311/.395, Harris hit.297/.339/.514 in 114 games (441 plate appearances). His statistics were 136 wRC+ and 134 OPS+.
Harris produced 27 doubles, three triples, 19 home runs, 64 RBI, 75 runs, and 20 steals in 22 opportunities while playing just over 2/3 of a complete season. On Baseball-Reference, he recorded 5.2 WAR, and on Fangraphs, 4.8. His WAR would be around 7.4 if extended to a full season of labor. For those who are unfamiliar, a rough rule of thumb for WAR is that 2-plus is considered a regular starter, 5-plus is considered All-Star level, and 8-plus is considered MVP level.
Simply put, this was an outstanding all-around effort from a guy who didn’t have much experience after high school and wasn’t even expected to stay in the major leagues when he was called up.
Strider put on a rock star performance all by himself. He was a long reliever to start the season before being added to the rotation on May 30. He allowed five runs three earned in 4 1/3 innings on that particular day. Only a few more poor performances would occur along the way, but those were the exception.
Overall, Strider had a 2.67 ERA (154 ERA+), a 1.00 WHIP (officially 0.995), and an 11-5 record. These are impressive stats considering the league averages of 3.96 ERA and 1.27 WHIP. Oh, and in just 131 2/3 innings, he struck out 202 hitters. He didn’t meet the requirements to win the ERA crown, but if he had, his strikeout rate (K/9) would have been nearly two full punches higher.
Strider’s 38.3 K% exceeds the rest of the majors among pitchers with at least 100 innings of work (Carlos Rodon is second at 33.4 with Cristian Javier at 33.2 and Shohei Ohtani at 33.1). Only six pitchers (Rodon, Ohtani, Gerrit Cole, Corbin Burnes, Brandon Woodruff, and Robbie Ray) had more instances than six when they reached double figures in strikeouts, and he only had 20 starts.
Strider was amazing, man. But.
The direct influence is still “just” 131 and a third innings. Because a starter with a heavy workload and excellent run prevention also indirectly benefits the bullpen, other starting pitchers (by keeping the bullpen more rested and enabling the manager to protect the starter by being more aggressive with the bullpen), and even the defense, I do believe starting pitchers are sometimes unfairly discounted against position-players (letting them stay more fresh by striking out more hitters).
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