How hard is it, for a rookie to break into the majors and play every day? Elvis Andrus is the only American League rookie with enough plate appearances to qualify for the batting title. And even he has started only 115 of the Rangers' 136 games.
Which would make for a pretty boring Rookie of the Year discussion, if not for 1) a few candidates who have played nearly as much as Andrus, and 2) pitchers.
Entering this season, the prohibitive co-favorites for Rookie of the Year were David Price and Matt Wieters. Well, Wieters hasn't really hit and Price has only seven wins, which only suggests how hard this rookie-predicting business can be, in March.
Only five American League rookies have more than 300 plate appearances: Andrus, Chicago's Chris Getz and Gordon Beckham, Baltimore's Nolan Reimold, and Cleveland's Luis Valbuena. Getz and Valbuena are both second basemen who haven't hit as well as Andrus, a shortstop. So they're both out.
Which leaves (among the hitters) only Andrus, Reimold (outfield) and Beckham (third base). In playing time, the ranking is Andrus, Reimold, Beckham. In hitting, it's Reimold, Beckham, Andrus. And defensively it's Andrus, Beckham, Reimold.
Yes, that hardly qualifies as analysis. But if you do the actual analysis, the answer's the same: Andrus is the best rookie in the American League due to his playing time and his defense. And (sorry, Sox fans) it's not close. If the voters are paying any sort of attention at all, Andrus should get a bunch of first-place votes and those other guys shouldn't get any at all.
Ah, but what about the pitchers? Nobody's been paying much attention outside of the East Bay, but young Andrew Bailey's racked up 23 saves while posting a 2.06 ERA. Completely under the radar, he seems to have established himself as one of the league's six or eight best closers. Meanwhile, there are two fine rookie starters, as Tampa Bay's Jeff Niemann is 12-5 with a 3.67 ERA and Detroit's Rick Porcello is 12-8, 4.18. And Toronto's Ricky Romero has 11 wins and a 4.15 ERA.
Usually the outcome of these things is fairly obvious in September. But do you have any idea who's going to win this award? I don't give Bailey much of a chance for all the obvious reasons, and I would vote for Andrus for all those obvious reasons. But anybody who has a big September could jump to the head of the class.