I laughed, I cried...it was better than stats!
Memories....of what Jeremy Hellickson did in 2010 may have helped him win the 2011 AL Rookie of the Year award.
Last year as a late-season callup, Hellickson was great. In 10 games (4 starts) he posted a 1.101 WHIP while striking out 33 in 36.1 innings pitched. He was a leading candidate for the 2011 AL ROY, the award he eventually won yesterday.
Don't get me wrong--he was really good in 2011. He posted a nifty 126 ERA+ over 189 IP and allowed just 7.0 hits per 9 innings. His walks were kind of high at 3.4 per 9 while his strikeouts were well below league-average at 5.6 per 9. He posted a 1.153 WHIP and 4.2 WAR, 12th-best among AL starting pitchers.
I'm also glad that his unflashy 13-10 record didn't deter voters...that follows the recent trend with guys like Felix Hernandez and Zack Greinke winning the AL Cy Young with unimpressive W-L records that didn't correlate with their individual performances.
But more on Hellickson's K rate: he's already the active leader in innings pitched among starters with an ERA+ of at least 120 and a K/9 rate under 6.0. That's because successful pitchers who maintain an ERA+ of 120 all strike out more batters. His low K rate is a good indicator of a future decline in performance. In fact there are 23 active starting pitchers with at least 200 IP and an ERA+ of 120 and Hellickson has the lowest K rate of them all.
However, Hellickson was better than fellow candidate Ivan Nova. Although Nova racked up the wins with a 16-4 record, he posted a lower ERA+ (119) and fewer innings (165.1) as well as fewer innings per start. He also had an even worse K rate than Hellickson, as Nova struck out just 5.3 batters per 9 innings pitched. And while Nova walked fewer, he gave up a ton more hits to the tune of a 1.331 WHIP.
Hellickson was better in 2011 and has a brighter future than Nova. The only edge I'd give to Nova in this year's ROY race was playing a huge roll for the Yankees as they suffered so many injuries to starting pitchers. But of course, Hellickson was also a rotation anchor for a playoff team...
Two other players got votes--Mark Trumbo and Eric Hosmer.
Trumbo had an interesting year. He posted a 113 OPS+ and 2.1 WAR, but had a just 25 walks to go with 120 strikeouts. Thus his OBP was a terrible .291 and it was his 61 extra-base hits that gave him a good OPS+. In the minors, Trumbo walked more and struck out less, so hopefully his eye will get better in the coming years.
Hosmer put up a 118 OPS+ with both a better walk rate and a better strikeout rate than Trumbo. He also generated 2.3 oWAR in 563 plate appearances, as compared to 1.8 oWAR for Trumbo in 573 plate appearances. (Hosmer did "earn" -1.0 dWAR--ouch.)
His second month in the majors, June, Hosmer had a rough go. He had a .312 OBP and .293 SLG. But from July 3rd on, his slash line was .312/.350/.511, with 14 HR and 51 RBI in 78 games. His WPA over that period was 1.760. If he did that over a whole season, it would have been good for the top 10 in the AL.
I know that the Rookie of the Year award is supposed to be based on just the performance this year, but if I had a vote, I would have given it to Hosmer. I think he's got the brightest future among this group.