In this post from a couple weeks ago, I declared that Huston Street should be the AL Rookie of the Year. In the comments on that post, T.D. Hogg said this:
Robinson Cano is the obvious choice for rookie of the year, he plays under the great big new york lights that some veterans cant even handle, and while playing everyday under that pressure he has amassed a .291 batting average, thats great , not just good, for a rookie and good for a veteran. A pitcher should never win this award or , for that matter, any MVP award. They dont play everyday, and its unfair to take it away from a guy who busts his butt every day.
I was going to reply in the comments, but as I got going, I realized that it deserved a little more attention.
First of all, I think MVP and Rookie of the Year are two completely different things. I agree that a pitcher would have to be pretty amazing to win an MVP Award, and I don’t remember ever agreeing with a vote in which a pitcher won it. But the Rookie of the Year Award is for the rookie who does his job better than the other rookies do their jobs. That can be hard to judge because, as T.D. said, position players play every game, while pitchers play somewhere between one-half and one-fifth of the games. But a rookie pitcher can be just as good at his job as a rookie second baseman is, and sometimes (in the case of Huston Street vs. Robisnon Cano) better.
Let me show you some stats from this year:
These are the statistics for two closers this year. As you can see, the number are VERY similar. Other than the 20 more saves, you would look at these stats and think, “Those two guys had pretty comparable years.” The top guy’s ERA is better, but that is, as you can see, an actual difference of three earned runs over the course of a season. And among pitchers with at least 40 IP this season, these two guys are ranked 1 and 2, respectively, in ERA. So basically, if you had to choose between these two guys, you would take the top guy, but you wouldn’t be upset with either of them.
And let me tell you, if you took the top guy, you would not be disappointed. That top guy is Mariano Rivera, a guy who has a very real shot at the Cy Young Award this year in the AL. The bottom guy? Oh, that’s just Huston Street.
Robinson Cano has had a good year for a rookie, and he is certainly more deserving than some men who have won the Rookie of the Year Award in the past. But this award is not about the past, it is about who the best rookie in the American League is this year. And when you, as a relief pitcher, can hold your own in a statistical comparison with Mariano Rivera, the greatest living relief pitcher who just completed perhaps the greatest year of his career, then some second baseman is going to have to have a lot more than a “good year” to beat you out.
Without question: Huston Street.
EDITED TO ADD: Oh, and by the way, if you are going to give Cano extra credit as “a guy who busts his butt every day,” you need to take into account the fact that of the seventeen Major League second basemen who played enough innings to qualify, Cano ranks sixteenth (AKA “second-to-last”) in fielding percentage. The only second baseman in baseball with more errors than Cano is Alfonso Soriano who, as you no doubt recall, the Yankees traded because his prolific offensive numbers failed to make up for the fact that he played a horrible second base.
Cano had a good, not great, offensive season. He had a terrible, not bad, defensive season. Not good enough to beat the lights-out Huston Street.