There have been a few pieces recently on Wilin Rosario and his chances of winning the National League Rookie of the Year award.
First we have this piece from Jon Heyman on CBS.com which includes this gem of a quote from Dan O’Dowd:
“He caught one of the worst pitching staffs in the history of the game,” O’Dowd pointed out. “There’s certainly room for growth, but somebody needs to cut this kid a break.”
(While I would love to jump all over this quote this is not what I am writing about today.)
Second we have Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com chiming in on Rosario’s chances to win the award.
Both of these pieces list some of the arguments detractors provide when discussing Rosario’s candidacy, but first I want to go over the glaring positives. Everything below will be National League only, obviously. If you are trying to figure out why I leave out Mike Trout from any of the stats below you should probably just close your browser and go back to doing something non-baseball related. It is easiest to compare Rosario to the two main offensive candidates for the NL ROY award: Todd Frazier and Bryce Harper. Wade Miley certainly has a stake in the fire but comparing hitters to pitchers is tough. I will touch more on Miley at the end.
- Rosario has 27 home runs and that is eight more than Harper and nine more than Frazier.
- Rosario has about 170 fewer plate appearances than Harper and 54 fewer than Frazier.
- Rosario’s slugging percentage is over 100 points higher than Harper and 40 points higher than Fraizer.
- Rosario’s OPS+ (factors in park, competition, etc) is 112 which is basically the same as Harper’s 108 and Frazier’s 119. This, to me, eliminates the “Coors Field” argument, but we will discuss that in the cons below.
- Rosario doesn’t walk too much but his on-base percentage is only ~20 points lower than both Frazier and Harper (and fewer plate appearances).
- Rosario also has fewer strikeouts than both Harper and Frazier (and fewer plate appearances).
- According to Fangraphs WAR Rosario is nearly identical in value to Harper and only about 1.5 wins lower than Frazier.
- According to Baseball-Reference WAR Rosario is nearly identical in value to Frazier and about 2 wins lower than Harper.
- So maybe, when using WAR which takes into account base running, defense, offense, park factors, etc, Rosario is just as valuable as both Harper and Frazier. WAR is not as concrete of a stat as, say, on-base percentage, but it gives us a great starting point on a player’s value. And depending on which WAR you use Rosario compares equally to either Frazier or Harper. Many would say that Harper is much more valuable on the base paths than Rosario but according to Fangraphs Rosario is actually better running the bases. I think the value in defense of Harper over Rosario is clear, but the game is also played at the plate and Rosario has clearly been better at the plate than Harper this year in fewer at-bats.
- In Heyman’s piece it is mentioned that Rosario is the catcher for a poor pitching staff. This is just dumb if any of the blame for the Rockies poor pitching in 2012 is put on Rosario. It has been proven many times over that the catcher behind the plate does not affect the pitcher. I think it is clear to anyone who actually wants to look that the Rockies pitching staff was bad before 2012, not just this year.
- Home road splits aka the “Coors Field” argument for offensive players. Rosario’s home/road OPS is .960/.747. Harpers home/road OPS is .829/.731…gee…awfully similar to Rosario… But the real head scratcher is Frazier’s home/road OPS: .777/.906. That’s right, Frazier is a beast on the road and average at home, the opposite of Rosario and Harper. This is especially strange considering Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati is a notorious hitter’s park. In 2012 Coors Field is second in homers and GABP is third. Sure Coors Field routinely leads the league in runs scored but GABP is almost always in the top third in the league in runs scored. The fact that Frazier hits better on the road has to be a blip in what will eventually be his career stats. Even an all-time great like Chipper Jones, in his career, has a .977 OPS at home and .722 on the road. It is not uncommon for ANY ballplayer to hit better at home, by a significant margin and I am getting sick of it being used against Rockies players only because of Coors Field.
- Finally the biggest con against Rosario is his defense and it is shown mostly in the number of passed balls he has allowed this year. The Rockies are third in baseball in walks allowed per nine innings and first in wild pitches (not passed balls, wild pitches). It isn’t an easy staff to catch because this staff has no control. None. Zip. Zero. Zilch. It is hard to defend Rosario when watching the games, but this staff is so bad that any catcher would allow a fair amount of passed balls when trying to catch this group of AA pitchers. O’Dowd actually has a decent comment about this, too:
“He has had to catch a lot of young pitchers and a staff that has struggled as a whole. He has gotten progressively better, and when you have to catch 190-plus pitches in a game and block 16 balls in the dirt, your defensive numbers may be a little skewed.’’
- Finally, overall team performance was mentioned in one of the pieces. This is just ludicrous. Just because the Rockies suck should have ZERO bearing on whether or not Rosario should win the award. Just like deciding who should win the MVP shouldn’t be limited to only playoff teams determining who wins the Rookie of the Year award should be based solely on the player. In fact, if anything, the player who plays on the bad team with good stats should get a BUMP in chance to win because he has no help around him. This is where using runs, RBIs, etc to judge a player is really dumb because obviously the guy on the team that wins more will score more runs and knock in more runs: he has quality players around him getting on-base.
I truly think Rosario deserves the Rookie of the Year award. A catcher who might approach 30 home runs by season’s end in just about 120 games played is worthy. Harper has all the hype, he basically won the ROY award when he was drafted because of all the hype. A 19 year old playing in the big leagues?! He must be good, let’s give him the award. While Harper’s defense is clearly better than Rosario’s (they both play a premier defensive position) Rosario makes up for it at the plate (and on the bases according to Fangraphs).
As for Miley I think he was probably the front runner after the first half. He posted a 3.04 ERA, .662 OPS against and a 1.093 WHIP in the first half of the season. He has tapered off, just a bit, in the second half in posting a 3.50 ERA, .703 OPS against and 1.275 WHIP. These are still very, very good numbers. Honestly I wouldn’t blink if he won the award over the three guys primarily discussed above. I tend to favor hitters for awards like this because Miley has played in 183 innings in 2012 while Rosario has caught 813 innings of baseball. Which is more valuable? 183 innings of work or 813?
If I had a vote I would put Rosario first, Miley second and Frazier third. In looking at the statistics I don’t think Harper even makes my top three. The kid is just that, a kid. He is most likely going to be a perennial All-Star and will most likely have the better career out of the four guys discussed here, but in 2012 I think he has been the least valuable out of the bunch.