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Is Mark Trumbo Rookie of the Year?

9/21/2011

I got my ballot via e-mail a few weeks ago. I'm voting for American League Cy Young this season, which is great aside from the fact that a 3-year-old could figure out that Justin Verlander is it.

Every other award has one drama-filled week to go. One of the juiciest races, AL rookie of the year, is the most relevant to the Angels. Should it be first baseman Mark Trumbo, who has stepped into a power vacuum and led the Angels in home runs and RBIs in his first full year?

It's a convoluted question, in part because ROY is the only award that mingles pitchers and hitters (though Verlander might gather MVP votes in a rare maneuver).

Four of the past six AL ROY awards went to pitchers. The most recent, Neftali Feliz, picked up 71 percent of the first-place votes. Things were a little closer the previous season, when Oakland closer Andrew Bailey only got 46 percent and Texas shortstop Elvis Andrus finished second at 29 percent.

Another complicating factor is the mainstreaming of statistical analysis. Ten years ago, Trumbo probably would have been a lock because he has a healthy lead among rookies with 87 RBIs. That measuring stick has been devalued by some in recent years, because it's largely beyond the hitter's control. Trumbo's 29 home runs, which also lead the league for rookies, are well within his control, of course and he's also playing half his games in one of the most pitcher-friendly parks in baseball.

By one key measure, on-base plus slugging, Trumbo (.784) is trailing both Kansas City's Eric Hosmer (.817) and Seattle's Dustin Ackley (.786). Trumbo very rarely walks, a trait that hurts him in some modern voters' eyes.

The field has narrowed among pitchers. Jeremy Hellickson of Tampa Bay (13-10, 2.91 ERA, 1.14 WHIP) and Ivan Nova of the New York Yankees (16-4, 3.62 ERA, 1.33 WHIP) both have good cases. The Angels' Jordan Walden and Seattle's Michael Pineda might get some votes, but Walden leads the league with eight blown saves and Pineda was struggling before Seattle shut him down to control his innings.

In wins above replacement, a formula that tries to sum up a player's total value to a team, Ackley leads all AL rookies at 2.7, Trumbo is next at 2.5 and then come Nova (2.4), Hellickson and Toronto catcher J.P. Arencibia (1.7). Ackley, however, hasn't been up all season and his 303 at-bats are about 200 fewer than Trumbo's.

If voters view ROY as a mini-MVP award, the two clear frontrunners are Trumbo and Nova, because every other candidate plays either for a bad team or an also-ran. Put everything together, and Trumbo stands out because he's not lacking in any of the analyses.