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.