Monday, October 10, 2005

There was no shortage of quality rookies in the AL this year. I'm only ranking the top five overall here, but first a few honorable mentions (in no particular order): Jesse Crain, Minnesota (RP); Chris Young, Texas (SP); Scott Kazmir, Tampa Bay (SP); Nick Swisher, Oakland (OF-1B); Jonny Gomes, Tampa Bay (OF); Russ Adams, Toronto (SS); Dan Johnson, Oakland (1B). Quite a year for rookies in Oakland, by the way.

1. Huston Street, Oakland (RP): Converted 23 of 25 Saves since becoming the A's closer in early June, and his 1.72 ERA was second among all AL closers to none other than Mariano Rivera...enough said.

2. Robinson Cano, New York (2B): As it turns out, Tad Iguchi's defensive numbers were only slightly better than Cano's, leaving the decision as to where to rank these two as a virtual tossup, considering Cano's offensive numbers (.297 BA, .458 SLG, 78 Runs, 34 2B, 14 HR, 62 RBI) are slightly more impressive. In the end, I gave Cano the edge because he's more of a true rookie than Iguchi, the Japanese four-time all star.

3. Tadahito Iguchi, Chicago (2B): Easily produced the most consistent season among AL rookie position players (.278, 74 Runs, 15 HR, 71 RBI, 15 SB), but since he was already an established professional, that was less impressive than Cano's season. Okay, I'll admit it...I said I wasn't going to discriminate against Iguchi due to his professional experience in Japan, but I guess I changed my mind.

4. Joe Blanton, Oakland (SP): Easily the most consistent among AL rookie starting pitchers. Suffered from a lack of run support (3.93 per 9 IP, compared to 6.21 for Chacin), which explains the 12-12 record, despite leading all AL rookies in ERA (3.53) and quality starts (22).

5. Gustavo Chacin, Toronto (SP): He slumped big time in August, but in the end put together a strong rookie campaign, leading all AL rookies in innings (203) and wins (13-9).

In the National League, the early season injury suffered by Clint Barmes and the second half emergence of Ryan Howard and Jeff Francoeur muddled the rookie of the year picture. However, there was a pair of everyday rookies who provided the strongest candidacies for the award.

1. Willy Taveras, Houston (CF): Despite just a .666 OPS, Taveras is my pick for the NL award. He led all Major League rookies in At Bats, Runs, Hits, and Stolen Bases. He also played very good defense in CF for the Astros, including ranking second only to Andruw Jones in outfield assists among NL center fielders.

2. Garrett Atkins, Colorado (3B): Often overlooked in NL rookie discussions, Atkins produced the most solid season of all, leading all NL rookies in RBI with 89 and hitting .287 with 13 HR and a .773 OPS.

3. Ryan Howard, Philadelphia (1B): While not quite as celebrated as Francoeur, Howard gets the edge in my book. His numbers speak for themselves: 22 HR (first among NL rookies), 63 RBI, .924 OPS. And, let's not overlook the fact that he stepped in admirably to replace the injured Jim Thome.

4. Jeff Francoeur, Atlanta (OF): I'm certainly not trying to diminish Francoeur's accomplishments, but this is a strong field, and less than half a season does not a rookie of the year make. It was, however, a fantastic partial season, as he batted .300 with 14 HR in 257 AB, and produced an amazing 13 outfield assists (although also 5 errors) in just 67 games.

5. Clint Barmes, Colorado (SS): Barmes gets the nod to round out the top five over a number of solid, but unspectacular, NL rookies. He did make 17 errors in only half a season, but he was the leading candidate before getting injured, and did finish at .289 with 10 HR, 46 RBI, 55 Runs, and a .764 OPS.

I could either rattle off a long list of NL honorable mentions, or just a few, so I'll opt for the latter: Rickie Weeks, Milwaukee (2B); Gary Majewski, Washington (RP); Chad Qualls, Houston (RP).

Sunday, October 09, 2005

As the program director at my fantasy radio station, WDAN, I get to hear a lot of new releases that I otherwise wouldn't even think of listening to. This morning, while putting the finishing touches on my rankings of AL rookies, I listened to a few new releases. Here are my impressions:

Bearsuit - Cat Spectacular!: This one didn't do much for me. You know, I have trouble writing about stuff I don't like. It's not that this is bad, but it just isn't my thing.

Blood on the Wall - Awesomer: This one is a pretty good, somewhat garagey, indie noise rock album. There's definitely a bit of a Sonic Youth influence here...quite a few catchy moments, but overall nothing earth shattering. I probably won't revisit this one.

The Magic Numbers - The Magic Numbers: This is actually one that I'm revisiting from earlier this year. It didn't make a huge initial impression, but it received favorable reviews, so I guess I always had it in my mind to go back to it. Upon further review, I like it. Infectious 60's-inspired indie pop and soulful AAA are the descriptions that pop into my head. Although a little long at 66 minutes, I will definitely give this one a few more listens.

The Free Design - The Now Sound Redesigned: The musical equivalent of calling a girl "nice" is referring to an album as "interesting"...pleasant, somewhat enjoyable to be with, you feel like you should like it more, but it just doesn't stir anything inside of you, and eventually you get bored. That's how I feel about this one. You might have to check it out for yourself, though, because fortunately, when it comes to music and the opposite sex, what turns you on isn't always the same at what does it for me.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

By the time I get through ranking the four categories of rookies, it will be necessary to revisit my first list. But still, here goes with the AL pitchers...

1. Huston Street, Oakland (RP): This category could actually be broken down into two separate categories (relievers and starters), but Oakland's new closer ranks ahead of all of them. His sub-1.00 WHIP (Walks plus Hits per Inning Pitched), 63 K in 66.2 IP, 1.23 ERA, and 18 Saves stand out among all rookie pitchers. Obviously, there aren't any other closers who are rookies, but the fact that he leads all AL closers in ERA is quite impressive, and his numbers clearly shine above the rookie starters who are currently turning in very solid debuts. His four blown saves result in a fairly unimpressive save rate of 81.8%, but two of these occurred before he became the closer, and actually should be classified as blown holds.

2. Gustavo Chacin, Toronto (SP): Chacin has been the most impressive among rookie starters, although a rough August has really hurt his candidacy. Overall, he's tied for first among AL rookies in wins at 11-8, second in ERA (3.73), and first in innings pitched (166.1).

3. Chris Young, Texas (SP): Joe Blanton gets more attention, but Young is quietly 11-7 with a 4.22 ERA, playing home games in a hitter's ballpark (although his road ERA is actually only marginally better than at home). He's also second to Scott Kazmir among AL rookies in strikeouts, with 131 in 153.2 IP.

4. Andrew Sisco, Kansas City (RP): Cisco has been one of the few bright spots on the worst team in the AL. He's turned in a strong season as Mike MacDougal's most reliable setup man, with 12 holds (for a team who's only won 43 games), a 2.58 ERA, .226 opponents' batting average, and 68 K in 66.1 IP. His control is his one shortcoming (37 BB), but he's certainly shown promise.

5. Joe Blanton, Oakland (SP): Blanton may have the most promise of all the rookie starters here, but, his 8-10 record is less than impressive. He's had two great months (5-1, 2.06 in June; 3-1, 1.07 in August), and has the top ERA among AL rookies (3.54). However, he needs to continue his strong August performance into September, and finish with at least 12 wins to have a chance.

6. Jesse Crain, Minnesota (RP): Crain has done a solid job in a setup role for Joe Nathan (9-4, 2.51, 11 holds), but the fact that he's walked more batters than he's struck out (26 to 22) is a major shortcoming. Nevertheless, he warrants a mention on this list.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Once again, it's been way too long since I've posted something here. Writing regularly doesn't seem to come that easily for me, but I'm going to make an effort to revive this blog.

I've recently become interested in handicapping the Rookie of the Year races. For the moment, I'm going to break them down into four categories: AL batters, AL pitchers, NL batters, and NL pitchers. Starting with the AL batters, here's how I rank them at this point in the season:

1. Tadahito Iguchi, Chicago (2B): I'm not sure if the bias against already established players from international professional leagues that affected Hideki Matsui's candicacy two years ago, will hurt his chances. I suspect it will -- Iguchi is a four-time Japanese all-star -- but I'm still going to consider him a full fledged rookie, and the best candidate among AL hitters at that. He leads all AL rookies in runs (60), hits (108), stolen bases (14), and batting average (.280); ranks third in HR (12) and RBI (48); and has played solidly (.981 fielding pct.) at an important defensive position.

2. Nick Swisher, Oakland (OF-1B): Swisher has the power numbers on Iguchi (16 HR, 60 RBI, .470 slugging pct.), and has played adequate defensively in the outfield (although his range factor is suspect), but Iguchi gets the edge due his overall more well rounded play (hitting, speed, defense).

3. Russ Adams, Toronto (SS): Adams ranks third due to his solid offensive numbers (51 runs, 8 HR, 52 RBI, .783 OPS), and the fact that he's played a very important defensive position as a rookie. What hurts him are his 22 errors (second only to Edgar Renteria among AL shortstops), his .947 fielding percentage (last among AL SS), and his below average range.

4. Robinson Cano, New York (2B): Cano rounds out the top four as the only other worthy rookie with enough at bats to qualify for the batting title. His numbers at the plate are solid (54 runs, 8 HR, 43 RBI, .714 OPS) while playing in the glare of the New York spotlight, but his defense has been inconsistent at best, as his 12 errors and .975 fielding percentage rank only better than former Yankee Alfonso Soriano among AL second basemen.

5. Jonny Gomes, Tampa Bay (OF): The leader in home runs among AL rookies with 17 (in just 217 at bats), Gomes also has an OPS of .941, and is still a candidate to make a run at the award now that he's basically secured a role as a full-time player in the second half of 2005.

6. Dan Johnson, Oakland (1B): see Jonny Gomes; Johnson's second half numbers (.331 BA, .407 OBP, .554 SLG, 6 HR, 15 RBI, 21 runs in 121 AB) indicate serious candidacy should he be able to maintain his play at close to such a level.