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Tuesday, November 16, 2010
Arguing for the greatness of Tabata


Yesterday, we learned that one voter, Dejan Kovacevic, left Jason Heyward completely off his Rookie of the Year ballot. In his Twitter feed, Kovacevic gamely offered a good-natured defense, starting here:

Re: ROY voting. Felt very firmly about Posey, thus chose him 1st. Felt Walker/Tabata had strong years, comparable to rest of class. (More)

Neither Walker nor Tabata is off-the-board choice, as seen from list of NL rookies with 400 PA, ranked by OPS.

Why 400 rather than 500? You tell me. But here's the list, including OPS (first) and PA:

1. Buster Posey 862/443
2. Jason Heyward 849/623
3. Neil Walker 811/469
4. Ike Davis 791/601
5. Gaby Sanchez 788/643
6. Starlin Castro 755/506
7. Jose Tabata 746/441
8. Ian Desmond 700/574
9. Roger Bernadina 691/461
10. Alcides Escobar 614/552

The first thing you might notice is that Alcides Escobar really, really can't hit (or didn't, anyway). The second thing you might notice is that Heyward finished with a higher OPS than Walker, a much higher OPS than Tabata, and many more PA than both of them.

It's hard for me to understand the reasoning here, unless Kovacevic figured if Posey's 443 plate appearances weren't an issue, nobody else's were, either. That doesn't explain the massive difference between Heyward's OPS and Tabata's. But we're just getting started ...

Obviously saw way more of Walker/Tabata than others, but that also gave perspective on them performing at high level in poor lineup/setting.

Tabata did not perform at "high" level. OPS slightly better than league average, finished roughly one win above replacement level. Also, no obvious reason to award extra credit to rookies on lousy teams.

No one else cast a vote for Walker, an easy-to-make case for a top-three ROY performer. That, to me, underscores importance of local views.

Actually, the results would seem to underscore the irrelevance of local views, except on those rare occasions when a local view actually swings the vote. In this case, Walker's single second-place vote will (soon) be merely a forgotten footnote.

Can one make a top-three case for Walker? Sure. He didn't play a lot, but when he played he played second base and he hit a half-ton. He wouldn't have been my second-place guy because of Posey and Heyward, and he wouldn't have been my third-place guy because of Jaime Garcia. But I can sort of almost understand third.

Local writers will see/appreciate things a player can do that others might not. That counts, for a player's good facets and bad.

I can see Alvarez's OPS, for example, and know first-hand that he feasted off September subs down the stretch for a lot of his numbers.


Ah, the "You have to see him play every day" argument. I think the last time I heard that one, John Sterling was trying to convince me (or rather, his radio listeners) that I just couldn't appreciate Derek Jeter's defense because I didn't watch enough Yankee games. So easy to make, so easy to refute.

You don't have to see Alvarez every day, though, to know what sort of pitchers he faced in September. Anyone who's interested can look that stuff up.

It's a 162-game sked, but here are post-break NL hits leaders among ALL players, not just rookies.

Yes, it is a 162-game schedule. Why should we tie a Rookie of the Year case to the second half? Tabata's 93 second-half hits ranked second in the National League; Walker's 87 were tied for fifth. I have no idea why we should care. The hits and the runs and the wins count exactly the same in August as in June.

Also, even with all those hits, Tabata wasn't great in the second half. The great majority of those hits were singles, he drew very few walks, and his second-half OPS was still much lower than Heyward's full-schedule OPS.

Last one: Tabata's defense in PNC's huge LF, compared to ALL major-league players, per UZR/150 on FanGraphs.

His UZR wasn't all that impressive, actually. I mean, it was good: 11.4 ranked fifth among the 16 players with at least 750 innings in left field. But it's a thin reed upon which to hang a Rookie of the Year case. Especially considering Tabata's relatively weak hitting statistics.

If you ignore Jaime Garcia, it's not impossible to get Neil Walker into your top three. If you interpret every scrap of information in Jose Tabata's favor, maybe you can make a top-five case for him. I couldn't do it. But I'm of just slightly-above-average intelligence.

The problem is that in all of this, there's not a single mention of Heyward. It's one thing to build up Walker and Tabata. But for justify leaving Heyward off his ballot entirely, Kovacevic would also have to somehow tear Heyward down. And he hasn't made any effort to do that.

It's wonderful that we know which voter left Heyward off the ballot. It's more wonderful that this voter took the time to explain his ballot, and marshaled a fair number of facts.

There's still something missing, though. And it's the biggest thing: What was wrong with Jason Heyward?