My earliest memory of the Rookie of the Year award came in the early ’90s. I was born and raised in California and I was and still am a Dodgers fan. From 1992 to 1996, for five straight years, a player from the Dodgers was named NL Rookie of the Year (Eric Karros, Mike Piazza, Raul Mondesi, Hideo Nomo and Todd Hollandsworth). This streak broke the previous record, which was actually held by the Dodgers as well. From 1979 to 1982, Los Angeles had four straight NL ROYs (Rick Sutcliffe, Steve Howe, Fernando Valenzuela and Steve Sax).
It’s definitely a great honor. The awards’ winners reads like a list of who’s who in baseball: Longoria, Beltran, Posey, Braun, Pujols, Pedroia, H. Ramirez, Howard, Verlander and so on. Hopefully for the players who win the award this year, it is only the first of many achievements throughout their careers.
AL Rookie of the Mid-Season
Michael Pineda, Seattle Mariners
Since his first start of the year, Pineda has been building a strong case for AL ROY. Through 15 starts, he’s amassed a 7-4 record, 94 Ks, 2.45 ERA and 1.00 WHIP. Even the highest expectations weren’t this high. Everyone knew he was good, but this good? His 8.84 strikeouts per nine innings rate is tops in the American League, ahead of second-place Felix Hernandez (8.75). Beyond the numbers, he’s helped turn around what was the worst team in the AL last year. Seattle is currently 39-39 and only 1.5 games back of the AL West leading Texas Rangers.
Honorable mention: Zach Britton, Baltimore Orioles
Britton is a very distant second right now. Unlike the power-pitching Pineda, Britton relies on precision and his defense to make outs. He has the fifth highest groundball rate in the AL (54.6 percent). Though 93 innings, he only has 56 strikeouts but that fits his style. By working the zone with his fastball and change while mixing it up with his breaking ball, Britton is able to ‘finesse’ his way through games. Many expected Brian Matusz to be the young pitcher leading Baltimore’s staff, but Britton has filled the role nicely in his place.
NL Rookie of the Mid-Season
Dillon Gee, New York Mets
As Pineda continues to steal headlines, it’s Gee who has the best record of all rookie pitchers. He’s 8-1 and didn’t lose his first game until June 21. New York may be fourth in the NL East at the moment, but they look to be better this year in spite of numerous injuries to key players. Part of that is due to the emergence of Gee. Although his .242 BABIP suggests that he’s been getting a little lucky this year, he’s still pitching very effectively. In his brief stint in the majors last year, he did show that he could get the job done. In 2010, he made five starts while maintaining a 2.18 ERA and 1.21 WHIP. But in order to win the award, he’ll need to maintain his solid 3.32 ERA and pitch more innings (76.0).
Honorable mention: Danny Espinosa, Washington Nationals
With Jim Riggleman recently stealing headlines for his premature resignation, the Nats aren’t receiving enough attention for their performance on the field. In particular, Espinosa has had a terrific first half. Disregard for a moment his .242 batting average and instead focus on his 14 homers, 47 RBIs, 39 runs, four triples and nine steals. He leads all rookies (150 AB minimum) in those categories. His above-average defense also adds another dimension to his talented arsenal.