Jeremy Hellickson and the Rookie of the Year

ST. PETERSBURG, FL - July 19: Pitcher Jeremy Hellickson #58 of the Tampa Bay Rays starts against the New York Yankees July 19, 2011 at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida. Hellickson was the winner. The Rays won 3 - 2. (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)

There's been much debate over who should win the various individual awards this season. Who deserves the Cy Young, Verlander or Sabathia, Halladay or Kershaw? Who's the AL MVP, Bautista or someone else? The only one of the individual award the Rays any chance at winning is Rookie of the Year, with Jeremy Hellickson their prime candidate.

This season's crop of rookies may not be as talented as recent years' but that doesn't mean Hellickson is without good competition. Does he stand a chance? Let's take a look at the challengers:

fWAR

bWAR

ERA

wOBA

Dustin Ackley

3.0

2.6

0.375

Michael Pineda

3.0

2.5

3.74

Zach Britton

2.3

1.4

4.22

Mark Trumbo

2.2

2.0

0.330

Josh Reddick

2.2

1.6

0.356

Ivan Nova

2.1

2.3

3.89

Jordan Walden

1.9

2.0

2.60

Desmond Jennings

1.9

2.1

0.404

Jeremy Hellickson

1.7

3.3

2.90


The different measures of WAR tend to vary like this, with fWAR using FIP and UZR while rWAR is based more on runs allowed and Total Zone Rating. I prefer fWAR, and not just because they pay me. I agree to a point with Matt Klaassen of FanGraphs that WAR shouldn't be looked at as the be all end all for rookies because playing time isn't going to be even and someone like Jennings who was a late call up could have a hot ~70 games and surpass the total of a Pineda, etc. Playing time should matter to a degree.

Going strictly by fWAR I don't think the race is particularly close. Ackley is an every day player who fields his position well. That type of player is more valuable than Pineda, despite their identical fWAR. Since voters rarely rely on advanced metrics you can look at his line of .304/.378/.477 and be impressed no matter his experience level. Even using bWAR Ackley is super impressive. He's going to play in roughly 90 games. He should be the winner and would get my vote if I had one, but things don't always work out as they should.

The other serious contenders are Michael Pineda, Mark Trumbo and Jordan Walden. Pineda has been excellent all season, and he leads Hellickson in FIP and xFIP. What he doesn't have are the wins (9) or ERA advantage. As much as Felix Hernandez winning the Cy Young last year with a low win total was a boon for the sabermetric community I don't think the same courtesy will be extended to Pineda, especially because of the wide gap in ERA - though that may change before the season ends.

Trumbo is only on this list because he's going to hit 30 home runs and voters love that. His sub .300 OBP should automatically disqualify him since whatever value those 30 homers added are negated greatly by the amount of outs he's creating. He'll still get votes. As will his teammate Walden, who is going to lead all AL rookies in saves and sport a sub 3.00 ERA. Reddick, Nova and Britton, while good, haven't been outstanding enough to surpass our top five. Jennings is going to be a case of playing time. Personally I don't believe, in a year with many viable candidates, that someone who plays in fewer than half his teams' games should win.

That brings us to Hellickson's candidacy. He currently leads all Major League rookies in innings pitched and his 2.90 ERA is first in the AL and second in baseball to only Vance Worely. He's also second in wins to Ivan Nova. The voters are going to look at his shiny ERA (assuming it stays that way) and win total for a good team and will likely throw votes his way. The truth is the ERA, and his bWAR, is helped a great deal by the Rays' defense. They have to be on their toes considering his K/9 of 5.86 is by far the lowest at any point of his career, and his walk rate the highest. Those show up in his FIP and xFIP which are hardly stellar at 4.24 and 4.52. He'll get his share of votes and might even finish in the top three, but as much as I love Hellickson there are just too many better options this season.

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