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Nitpicking the ROY Voting

This week saw the announcement of the Rookie of the Year awards. And I don't have a quarrel with
league's winner. In fact, the writers selected the same two players that I did in my own 2007 wrap piece.

Some would gripe about the election of Ryan Braun, whose value with the bat is mitigated by the horror show he put on at third base. I'm not discounting that argument as it clearly has merit. But that's not what this column is about. This column is about the down-ballot choices made by some voters. The vote tally shows that sabermetric writers and analysts still have a lot of work to do.

The first egregious example is the less serious one. Kyle Kendrick came in 5th in the NL tally. That's not so objectionable, but he got a single second place vote, ahead of Braun, which is an inexcusably silly error. Nobody in their right minds would say that Kendrick had a better season with his 121 innings of work and reasonable, but not world-beating 3.87 ERA/3.94 RA than Braun had with his astounding .324/.370/.634 season. Braun destroyed Kendrick in VORP 57.2 to 27.1. It's one thing to give a courtesy vote to the hometown rook or to the pitcher who played well down the stretch and played a big part in a remarkable comeback. I don't agree with either of those uses of a vote, but they're forgivable if they're at the very bottom of the ballot. To put that guy ahead of a historic year, much less so. In the end, the plurality got this thing more or less right as Braun-Tulowitzki-Hunter Pense is a reasonable 1-2-3.

In the AL, the problem was much more widespread, due in no small part to the much weaker field. Dustin Pedroia was a runaway winner as he should have been. In fact he should have been a unanimous selection. The thing that sticks out in the AL vote tally is the presence of my 2007 Rey Sanchez Award winner, Delmon Young in second place. You can easily find the reason why voters were drawn to him. He hit .280 with 93 RBI. The problem is that he didn't walk or hit for power, dragging his value. .288/.316/.408 doesn't cut it for an everyday right fielder. Young will have a nice career. He's too talented to hang out in the land of below average corner outfielders for more than a year or two. But he's going to drag down his talented Rays teammates if he continues to fail at developing secondary skills.

There were even 3 writers who thought that Young was BETTER than Pedroia, giving him their first place votes. Given that Pedroia hit .317/.380/.442 as a second baseman, there really is no comparison. Pedroia lapped Young in value and even a little thought could have revealed this to the BBWAA. Kudos to the 8 writers who got it right and left Young off their ballots.

For the record, a short, incomplete list of players who would have been much better selections for a down-ballot ROY candidate than Young: Brian Bannister (who had one undeserved 1st place vote himself), Hideki Okajima, Joakim Soria, Jeremy Guthrie, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Young's teammate Akinori Iwamura, Reggie Willits, and Joba Chamberlain.

Next week we get to see what cringe-inducing choices the voters made for MVP.