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The overlooked AL rookie

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Jose Abreu and a duo of Yankee pitchers got most of the AL Rookie of the Year press, and deservedly so. But let's not forget the guy who finished second to Abreu.

Denis Poroy

Jose Abreu clearly deserved to be the AL Rookie of the Year, and the voters unanimously agreed. The second-place finisher, however, flew rather under the radar in 2014. Matt Shoemaker of the Angels put up a 3.04 ERA and 3.24 FIP in 136 innings, good enough for 2.1 fWAR. Those are solid numbers, sure, but how do they stack up against other AL rookies'?

For the purposes of this discussion, we'll stick to only pitchers, since Abreu was so clearly in a class of his own anyway. That leaves us with two Yankees and an Astro: Dellin Betances (third), Masahiro Tanaka (fifth), and Collin McHugh (fourth). The following table shows how they stack up against one another:

Player IP ERA FIP fWAR
Shoemaker 136.0 3.04 3.26 2.1
Betances 90.0 1.40 1.64 3.2
Tanaka 136.1 2.77 3.04 3.2
McHugh 154.2 2.73 3.11 3.3

It's not looking good for Shoemaker. As a starter, he has the edge on Betances in innings pitched, but comes in last in every other category. He's last in K/9, too. There's one category Shoemaker leads that probably explains much of the discrepancy between his play and the voting, though: wins. At 16-4, he got the better spin of the roulette wheel than did either Tanaka or McHugh, at 13-5 and 11-9 respectively.

As many have dissected the value of pitcher wins (hint: they don't have much), I won't do so here, but suffice it to say that Shoemaker was treated more favorably in the voting than some more accomplished peers.

Okay, so we've established there were probably better choices for the runner-up to Abreu. But what exactly is Shoemaker going to produce for the Angels in years to come? In what I guess is a sequel to last week's post, what follows is a brief compilation of various projections for Shoemaker, coupled with some nice graphs.

Steamer has Shoemaker throwing 182 innings in 2015 with a 4.04 ERA and 3.98 FIP. Those projections aren't at all surprising, given that Shoemaker was rather unimpressive for most of his minor-league tenure before breaking out in 2014. (In stints, including the minors, where he's thrown more than five innings, last year's FIP was his lowest – and in the majors to boot!)

A quick peek at Shoemaker's game log begins to tease out more information: from July 26th on, he allowed three or fewer runs in every appearance, allowing three earned only once, on September 5th. The next two charts might help explain why.

Shoemaker horizontal release

Shoemaker vertical release

The top chart is horizontal release point (zero is the center of the rubber, so from the catcher's POV righties are in the negatives), and the bottom one is vertical release point. Sometime in late June (possibly after the 27th, when he got rocked for 8 runs and 11 hits in 4 innings?), Shoemaker made a fairly significant mechanical adjustment, pushing his arm slot more towards pure overhand and less sidearm. I wasn't able to find any good GIFs to illustrate the point, but six inches in and two up means a lot in such a precise discipline.

I touched briefly last week on the Angels' side of the Adam Eaton deal, and how they got Tyler Skaggs and Hector Santiago. Both had solid if unspectacular years, with Santiago bouncing back and forth between the rotation and the bullpen (having been replaced by Shoemaker, actually) and Skaggs pitching consistently until being forced to undergo Tommy John surgery in August. With (injured) emerging ace Garrett Richards and a surprisingly spry 32-year-old Jered Weaver, the Angels should actually have a pretty solid rotation next year if everyone remains healthy. While that's a big if, especially since Richards isn't guaranteed back for Opening Day, a top four of Richards, Weaver, Shoemaker, and C.J. Wilson or Skaggs isn't half bad.

No, Shoemaker might not be the kind of star that the players he beat in the Rookie of the Year voting are. But that doesn't mean he can't be a solid contributor on an excellent team expected to contend once again next year.

. . .

Statistics courtesy of FanGraphs and Brooks Baseball.

Steven Silverman is a featured writer at Beyond the Box Score and a student at Carnegie Mellon University. He also writes for Batting Leadoff. You can follow him on Twitter at @Silver_Stats or email him at Steven@SilverStats.com.