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National League rookie of the year


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Uggla deserves it and will win it.


Ramirez has to be number two in voting though and why he isnt on the list is beyond me.


Willingham doesnt deserve to be on the list.


Josh Johnson needs to be on there.


Zimmerman, Fielder and Cain are all very good rookies that deserve mention.


Uggla is hands down the best NL rookie of 2006.

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Rob Neyer's take on this



There seems to be a consensus surrounding most of the major awards. Derek Jeter, Johan Santana, Justin Verlander, Albert Pujols, Brandon Webb ... nothing's in stone, except Santana. And if I'm not right about those, I'm close. National League Rookie of the Year, though? Not only have I not noticed any consensus but I haven't noticed anything, perhaps because nobody has been able to separate all the candidates yet.


So let's try. You know, for the kids.


When it comes to pitchers, there are three statistics voters will notice first: wins, earned-run average and saves. Let's first dispense with the last of those. Only one National League rookie has more than five saves: the Dodgers' Takashi Saito, who has 19. Saito also has a 2.28 ERA and 93 strikeouts in 71 innings. By one measure -- Baseball Prospectus' ARP (adjusted runs prevented) -- he has saved more runs than any National League reliever save Cla Meredith. It's all quite impressive, and it might be enough to garner significant support from the voters in a year lacking other strong candidates.


Not this year. There are plenty of excellent Rookie of the Year candidates, and most of them play for the Florida Marlins: three hitters, two starting pitchers. Let's look at the pitchers first, if only to get them out of the way.



Theoretically at least, three starting pitchers still are in the running: Marlins Josh Johnson and Scott Olsen, and San Francisco's Matt Cain. The important stats (you know, the shiny objects):


Johnson: 12-7, 3.10

Olsen: 12-8, 3.87

Cain: 13-10, 3.99


All three do half their pitching in friendly stadiums. Johnson has the great ERA (fourth in the league), and Cain's got the great stuff, with Olsen somewhere in the middle. If one of these pitchers wins each of his remaining starts, and if the voters are not impressed by any rookie hitters, one of them might win. But that first if is unlikely and the second simply isn't the case. This year, it's not going to be a pitcher, whether starter or reliever.



A few weeks ago, I passingly referred to a few Rookie of the Year candidates and didn't include Prince Fielder, and I heard from a few readers. Granted, Fielder is enjoying a wonderful season, especially considering he's only 22. But unless something radical happens in the next 11 days, he's not a serious candidate, in the sense that he simply cannot win.


Why not? Because Fielder plays first base, and his performance as a hitter is clearly no better than another candidate who plays second base. Fielder could finish third in the balloting, even second. But if the voters are paying any sort of attention at all, Fielder cannot be Rookie of the Year. Here are the four hitters who can:





Josh Willingham LF 540


Dan Uggla 2B 637


Ryan Zimmerman 3B 642


Hanley Ramirez SS 654



More stats in a moment, but I just wanted to eliminate Florida's Josh Willingham -- who leads rookies with an .869 OPS -- from the running. Or rather, I don't want to, but I'm compelled to. Willingham's performance simply isn't good enough to make up for his relative lack of playing time. As you will see now:




Dan Uggla 2B .347 .496


Ryan Zimmerman 3B .348 .464


Hanley Ramirez SS .348 .453


Tough choice, don't you think? Dan Uggla recently tied the record for home runs by a rookie second baseman, which is impressive. Ryan Zimmerman has piled up solid stats while playing his home games in a tough park for hitters, and by most (all?) accounts he has played brilliantly at third base, too. Hanley Ramirez is a shortstop and has stolen 50 bases. These guys seem so close that we have to look for help. Let's look at Baseball Prospectus' VORP (value over replacement player), which doesn't include defensive performance (except actually playing), and Bill James' win shares (which do include defense):




Hanley Ramirez SS 45.7 22


Dan Uggla 2B 44.5 23


Ryan Zimmerman 3B 23.0 22


Win shares don't help at all. And there's no practical difference between Ramirez and Uggla in VORP (and no, I don't know why these three are so close in win shares but Zimmerman trails so badly in VORP). However you look at teammates (and double-play partners) Ramirez and Uggla, it comes down to this: Uggla's the better hitter, but Ramirez balances that with his defense and his baserunning.


Is there a right answer? Each player has one shiny thing to his credit; Uggla has that record, and Ramirez has those steals. Some voters will be particularly impressed by one, some by the other. My guess is the steals will trump the homers. But it might come down to which of them plays better in the Marlins' last 10 games.

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