Brandon Beachy is not a name I hear very often when talking about Rookie of the Year candidates in the National League.
He’s hardly even mentioned among Braves fans. It’s usually Craig Kimbrel or Freddie Freeman—but not the Braves rookie hurler who boasts the second best strikeout rate (a.k.a. K/9) among all starters in Major League Baseball.
Yes, his K/9 (10.61) is second only to Zack Greinke of the Milwaukee Brewers, and his 3.81 strikeout-to-walk ratio (number of strikeouts per one walk) ranks 8th among all starters with at least 100 innings pitched. Since 1995, Beachy’s K/9 would rank fourth behind Kerry Wood, Mark Prior and Hideo Nomo among rookies.
The Braves [former] number five starter has been better than they could have hoped for, posting a 3.58 ERA in 135.2 innings pitched. His xFIP of 3.19 also shows that things could be a little better for him in the ERA department.
Beachy’s rookie campaign has indeed been a strong one, and if not for hiccups in his last two starts (8 ER, 9.2 IP, 9 H, 6 BB, 18 K)—he could have an ERA closer to 3.00.
How does Beachy stack up against the other candidates? Pretty good, actually.
National League Rookie’s fWAR (Fangraphs Wins Above Replacement):
Craig Kimbrel, CP, 3.3
Danny Espinosa, 2B, 3.3
Wilson Ramos, C, 2.9
Brandon Beachy, SP, 2.6
Vance Worley, SP, 2.6
Freddie Freeman, 1B, 1.5
He’s not far off the mark when it comes to Wins Above Replacement. WAR takes into account a player’s offensive and defensive contributions and then compares him to a replacement level player.
For pitchers, WAR is based off of FIP, or Fielding Independent Pitching (a form of ERA that accounts for things a pitcher can control: HR, K, BB, and HBP). Unfortunately, WAR isn’t a statistic that writers use to measure a player’s performance when it comes choosing a winner for MVP, Cy Young, or Rookie of the Year. I’ll look forward to the day that it is.
Beachy does have a few things working against him.
“The Kokimo Kid” has only won seven games compared to Vance Worley’s 11 wins. He doesn’t have many wins in part because he hasn’t been able to stay in games long enough, but he’s also helplessly watched more than a few of his wins disappear from the pine of the Atlanta dugout.
Also, starting pitchers don’t really get much love when it comes to the award, at least not recently anyway.
Since 2000, only three starting pitchers have been named Rookie of the Year in both the AL and NL, while four closers have claimed the honor (all in the AL). You can check out all of the winners and voting results here.
In 2009, J.A. Happ and Tommy Hanson finished second and third respectively behind Florida Marlins’ second baseman Chris Coghlan. Coghlan had a nice season, but it hardly compared to what Happ and Hanson did. I suppose it’s because Coghlan contributed everyday.
I’m not particularly a fan of the “he doesn’t play everyday” approach when it comes to crowning a Rookie of the Year. We’re looking for the top rookie, not an MVP. I understand that logic when it comes to the MVP because pitchers have their own distinguished accolade, and its intention is to crown the most valuable player.
Jason Jennings managed to win in 2002 despite posting a horrid 4.52 ERA. He did win 16 games, but the lack of competition surely helped him.
Beachy isn’t quite as fortunate as Jennings when it comes to his competition for the award, however. Freddie Freeman leads all rookies with 155 hits and a strong wRC+ of 123 (meaning he’s created 23% more runs than league average); Kimbrel has better numbers than last year’s winner, Neftali Feliz; and Danny Espinosa has strong numbers despite a .234 batting average.
I think Beachy will ultimately end up third or fourth in the voting, but he definitely deserves to be mentioned among the top candidates. Whatever the case, it is entirely possible that the Braves could dominate the top three spots in the voting. Wouldn’t that be something?
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