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November 14, 2011 at 11:54 AM

Michael Pineda fifth, Dustin Ackley sixth in AL Rookie of the Year voting

Michael Pineda lost his chance at American League Rookie of the Year when he put up a very average looking string of outings after the All Star Break, coinciding with the decision by the Mariners to back him off a bit. That said, I find it difficult to reconcile him dropping all the way to fifth.
Oversll, I have no qualms about Tampa Bay starting pitcher Jeremy Hellickson taking home the prize, given his solid year-round performance and then his work down the stretch in helping the Rays make the playoffs.
As a tiebreaker, that September stuff really pays off. Voters like to take intangibles into account and it’s tough to compare the pressure faced by Hellickson to that of Pineda, who was having his opponents hand picked for him in the end along with ample opportunity to rest.
A great year still for Pineda. But in the end, he was victimized by the same sort of momentum swing that he’d benefitted from early on when his fastball seemed to come out of nowhere and take baseball by surprise. That momentum helped land him a surprising All-Star berth when he was already beginning to cool off.
And it really helped seal Hellickson’s candidacy when his team was front and center in September.

Dustin Ackley finished sixth and actually got a first place vote that eluded Pineda. But players who debut in June rarely get significant Rookie of the Year consideration because of the smaller sample size of games. What numbers would Ackley have finished with if subjected to a prolonged slump those two additional months before he made the majors?
Starting and finishing a season does matter to voters.
Some fans and bloggers have suggested that Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) and other stats would play more into Pineda’s favor. I agree they do, but don’t think they should have vaulted him to the top.
I like FIP as an absolute tiebreaker between two deadlocked pitchers where there is no other clear determinant.
But folks should remember that FIP was created more as a predictor stat to try to tell you what might happen in the future. It is not really meant to be used to tell you what should have happened in the past as opposed to what actually happened.
Note 3:40 p.m.: Some have objected to me calling FIP a predictor stat since it does indeed measure actual results. My bad. What I mean to say is, the compilation of results measured by FIP might be better suited to predicting who could have a better ERA down the road or be a better future FA signing than telling us which pitcher was better than the other. Unless the ERA was very, very close, which was not the case for Pineda and Hellickson. FIP creates a hypothetical situation in which pitchers operate in a vacuum with no defense around them, which is not the case in an actual game. It measures some components of pitching, while not taking into account stuff like whether a pitcher tried for a ground ball at the expense of a strikeout because of the on-field situation and quality of defense behind him. FIP will tell us what happened in its measurement of certain things and how it should have impacted ERA if all pitchers played in games without eight other guys around them. But it’s tough to base awards on a scenario that doesn’t exist. In the end, the guys playing around a pitcher will have an impact on things like strikeouts, walks and other things we like to think are “independent” of stuff. If you have a good D, you might pitch around certain guys and walk them, knowing you can double them up. Just some examples. FIP is good, but I don’t think it can be the complete gauge of who the best pitcher is. Especially with a huge ERA gap.

In the end, you give awards based on results. Not on what you thought those results should have been. Always works that way in any field. Always will.
But having two guys in the top six for this award is something the Mariners can take pride in. Now, it’s time to forget it and parlay it into something bigger.



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