Jaime Garcia and The Rookie of the Year Award


Every caption I think of comes off sounding like a threat to send mailbombs to Baseball Writers of America members, so I'm just going to quit trying.
  • Every caption I think of comes off sounding like a threat to send mailbombs to Baseball Writers of America members, so I'm just going to quit trying.
So over the weekend, I was sitting alone in my darkened shack watching any and all sports coverage I could find on the television. (This is standard operating procedure for me, by the way; picture Ted Kaczynski except WAY into women's curling.)

Much of said coverage, of course, was of the ESPN variety, specifically the Baseball Tonight variety. And in the watching of this coverage, I noticed a rather distressing thing: Jaime Garcia, a.k.a. the Best Left-Handed Starter the Cardinals Have Had Since Rick Ankiel Was Still a Pitcher, is getting absolutely no love. 

Actually, I shouldn't single out ESPN or Baseball Tonight. This seems to be an issue that cuts across pretty much all media outlets. Which, of course, is actually more worrisome, since we need at least someone to notice what Jaime is doing.

What he's doing is putting together a historically great rookie season, and literally no one seems to care. 

Several times over the past few weeks, I've heard the Rookie of the Year award brought up, and every single time it comes up I hear the same two National League players mentioned: Jason Heyward and Buster Posey. Both are certainly deserving players, but what I don't understand is why Garcia isn't even in the conversation. 

Heyward came into the season with all the hype on his side; if it weren't for the lovefest that Stephen Strasburg's sudden descent from heaven has engendered, Heyward would easily have been the most hyped rookie since Mark Prior came into the league. He homered in his first major league plate appearance, and most basically conceded the ROY award to him by the time the ball landed in the bleachers. Since that time, Heyward has had a pretty remarkable season, producing a triple-slash line of .265/.378/.452, with 14 home runs and 9 stolen bases. He's shown plenty of power, and his walk rate is remarkable for a player in just his rookie season. He's also shown excellent defensive acumen, and has produced a WAR number of 3.1 already. All in all, it really doesn't get much better that what Heyward has done this season. 

Unless, that is, your name just happens to be Buster Posey, in which case it actually does get a little better. Posey didn't start the season in the big leagues, instead joining the Giants at the end of May. Since that time, he's hit like a man possessed by the spirit of Ty Cobb, with a triple-slash of .341/.385/.518. That's good for an OPS+ of 136, compared to 126 for Heyward. Unfortunately for Posey, his very low walk total and high BABIP suggests he's likely in for some regression, but to this point in the season he's been unbelievably good. 

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​So sure, both of those players have been outstanding this year, producing 3.1 and 3.0 WAR, respectively. It's only natural that two players who have been so very good get all the press for rookie of the year, right? 

But hold on a second. Jaime Garcia hasn't exactly been a slouch this year, either. In fact, depending on how you want to look at it, Jaime has probably been better than either Heyward or Posey in 2010. 

To date, Garcia has made 24 starts, covering 141.1 innings. In those starts he has gone 11-6 with a 2.42 ERA. That ERA is the seventh-best in baseball, sixth-best in the National League. (Clay Buchholz being the only AL entrant above Garcia.) Unlike Posey, he's been with the major league club the whole season, and hasn't spent any time on the disabled list like Heyward. His ERA+ is a whopping 165, meaning he's actually been better in relation to league average than either of the two position players. 

The only measure Garcia lags a bit behind the other two is in WAR, where he's produced 2.8 wins, but I'm not a huge fan of using WAR to compare pitchers and hitters. Regardless, the mere fact he's managed to stay nearly even with the others is a pretty remarkable feat in itself. 

Unfortunately, I think Jaime might be suffering from the same malady we often consider when talking about Cy Young voting: a severe lack of wins. Sure, he's got eleven victories to his credit (and hell, wins are a useless stat anyway, but you know perfectly well the people who vote on these things totally look at them), but that doesn't put him even on the leaderboard. Of course, Garcia has also been hurt by a lack of run support and bullpen failings; he really should have four or five more wins pretty easily. I wonder if his record were 14-6 if he would be getting more attention. 

Do you want to know just how good Garcia has been? Consider that he has garnered tons of comparisons to Fernando Valenzuela, another left-hander of Mexican descent who was brilliant in his rookie year. In Valenzuela's rookie campaign of 1981, when he won both the Rookie of the Year and Cy Yound awards, he was 13-7, with a 2.48 ERA and 135 ERA+. Garcia has actually been better than that historically great season. And yet still, Jaime doesn't seem to get noticed except by those of us who watch him every time out. Hell, even Jaime's brilliant start Sunday rated barely a mention. 

Regardless of who ends up winning the Rookie of the Year this season, I'm sure they'll be deserving. You really can't go wrong with any of several choices this year, which has been a banner campaign for the youngsters. Still, it's very disappointing to me to hear two players get tons of press and praise, while a candidate who's been just as deserving is the invisible man. 

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