The All-Star Break is upon us, and until game action starts up again on Friday, we're going to do a brief season in review of the 2012 MLB season thusfar. Our staff has voted on a variety of awards, and we're going to roll them out over the next four days.
The AL Rookie of the Year award really isn't much of a race right now. In fact, our winner was unanimous. I asked the staff for a ballot of three names, awarding points in a 3-2-1 order.
AL Rookie of the Year
1) Mike Trout (21 points, seven first place votes)
2) Yu Darvish (ten points)
3) Will Middlebrooks (seven points)
4) Ryan Cook (one point)
This is no contest. Mike Trout isn't just the best rookie in the American League, he's probably the best player in the league too (but you'll find out how we voted for that on Thursday). Trout has only played in 64 of the Angels' 86 games, and he's compiled a 4.8 win season already. Trout's 4.8 fWAR is more than double that of Darvish, and 3.5 wins more than Quintin Berry, who has the second best fWAR among all AL rookie hitters. This isn't just a great rookie season that's going to lead to Trout probably sweeping the votes in the Rookie of the Year voting…this is a season that's going to go down as one of the best rookie years in baseball history. A 20 year-old center fielder is taking baseball by storm, and that man is named Mike Trout.
Coming over to the Rangers from Japan for nine figures (including the posting fee), Yu Darvish had expectations set very high. The 25 year-old has been pretty good this year, making the AL All-Star team as the winner of the Final Vote, but hasn't been transcendant like Hideo Nomo in 1995. In Nomo's rookie year at age 26, he had a higher strikeout rate than Darvish, a lower walk rate, and an ERA that a run lower. Don't get me wrong here, I'm not calling Darvish a bust by any means. He's striking out over ten batters per nine innings, has a mid-3.00 ERA in the hitters paradise of Arlington, and has a groundball rate of 47.7%. Darvish has been good….just not great. And he definitely hasn't been on another level like Trout, or a game-changer like Nomo.
Will Middlebrooks has played only 48 games for the Red Sox this year, but has been so impressive that the team sent long-time veteran Kevin Youkilis packing in a trade to the White Sox. Middlebrooks has belted ten homers this year, is hitting a shade under .300, and has an .873 OPS. But he's walking less than 5% of the time, is striking out north of 20%, and missed the last week of games before the All-Star Break with an injury to his hamstring.
Ryan Cook was one of the "extra" pieces in the Trevor Cahil trade this winter between the A's and Diamondbacks. In 38 1/3 innings this year, Cook has struck out a batter per inning while claiming Oakland's closer role, saving eight games since taking over the spot in the middle of June. Cook is also in Kansas City as the team's lone All-Star rep, and has a sexy 1.41 ERA. With a walk rate near five though, that ERA will likely start to go up. But hey, at least the A's replaced closer Andrew Bailey (also dealt this offseason) with ease, and didn't need to pay an established arm serious money.