EDITORS NOTE: The BBWAA has announced that Buster Posey wins the NL ROY award, while Neftali Feliz wisn the AL ROY
Special to BizofBaseball.com
Since being invited to join the BBWAA in 2008, I've been given the honor of voting for three awards. I think that while the BBWAA awards aren't perfect, I do believe that it's a solid system that is taken seriously by all voters. Sure, I'd like to see broadcasters eligible to vote, but this is a writers organization, so that's not changing any time soon. Last year, I had a controversial vote for the NL Cy Young, casting what many thought was the vote that cost Chris Carpenter the award. Cardinals fans still haven't forgiven me, despite the fact that I voted Adam Wainwright #1 over eventual winner Tim Lincecum.
My NL Rookie of the Year vote is unlikely to be as controversial, but I do think it will be more key, in the sense that I believe it will be an extremely close vote. Last season, I didn't even include the eventual winner, Chris Coghlan, on my three-man ballot. This year, it was a two man race for most of the second half. Once Jaime Garcia went down, it was pretty clear that the award would come down to Buster Posey and Jason Heyward. I cast my vote for Posey and as announced, Posey has won. The vote wasn't as close as I expected with Posey getting 20 first place votes and 9 second place votes, with Heyward getting a mirror of 9 and 20.
I think its fine that there are many different methodologies for how various voters make their selections, as long as those voters are also willing to "show their work." Mine was based on three factors: defensive position, opportunity, and results. Yes, for me, if all things were equal - and they were pretty close to that - then I feel playing catcher creates a "degree of difficulty" that would be worthy of tipping the results. Posey is not a great catcher by any measure, statistical or scouting, but he was good enough to not need a defensive caddy. He managed a solid but erratic pitching staff on a playoff contender and that has some value.
The argument on the last two are intertwined. Jason Heyward has the better counting stats, due in part to the fact that the Braves elected to have him start on Opening Day. Posey, held back either for "defensive seasoning" or for financial reasons, didn't have as much of an opportunity, but made the most of the time he had. Heyward had a higher "WAR" than Posey (5.0 to 3.9), but again, this is largely on the basis of opportunity. Posey didn't ask to be sent back down and it's hard to argue he could have done much more than what he did during his time in the minors to force his way up.
Posey had the better rate stats for the most part, making the most of his opportunities. Posey was healthier as well, showing no obvious slumps during his season. Admittedly, more time behind the plate might have caused problems, but it seemed that Bruce Bochy was able to spot Posey into the 1B slot as needed, keeping his bat while not exposing him to the physical problems catchers get with extensive time behind the plate. While Posey only played catcher about half the time of a normal, full season starter, I can't hold that against him. As someone who's called for players like Joe Mauer to be moved from behind the plate, it would be hypocritical to devalue the protection of Posey.
I also spoke to scouts, players, and executives, putting a special emphasis on those that had seen them play more than just a handful of times. While I saw a lot of video, that's hardly the same thing. Almost to a man, they couldn't put much differentiation between the two. The words "special" and "superstar" kept coming up, and it's hard to disagree. Both Posey and Heyward are the types of players, on and off the field, that a franchise can build around. They're similar ages, though two years will likely help Heyward when it comes to the career numbers and gives him a bit more projectability than Posey, who scouts think "is what he is." One said, "he's not going to get much better, but that's not a bad thing. He's one of the top catchers in the NL right now and if he gets better behind the plate, he could be in the conversation with [Joe] Mauer."
One NL Central pitcher who faced both couldn't add much. "They're both tough outs and seem to come to the plate with a plan. Heyward can hurt you more with the power, but he seemed to get exposed a bit more as the season went on. I think some of that was the physical toll. Posey just seemed to learn and get better. Now that they're both getting some playoff experience now makes me wonder if he'll go another level next year." (Note that the vote was turned in before the playoffs.)
If it was possible to cast a tied ballot, I would have seriously considered that. This was, for me, a very difficult decision, one I considered and reconsidered, writing it each way before finally hitting send on my emailed ballot to Jack O'Connell. Both Posey and Heyward will be getting plenty of awards as they move through what look to be great baseball careers. Congratulations to Buster Posey on the NL Rookie of the Year Award and to all the other BBWAA award winners to be announced over the week.
One final note: I considered voting for Neil Walker over Jaime Garcia. Walker has been in Indianapolis for a while and is a guy I rooted for once he finally got the chance with the Pirates. I couldn't make an objective case for him and don't believe that personal interests should enter into these awards, so I didn't. Interestingly, someone voted for Walker with a second place vote. I'd be very curious to hear the reasoning for that one. I don't know if the BBWAA will release the voting the way they did with the NL Cy Young last year.
Will Carroll is a member of both the BBWAA and the PFWA. He writes about fantasy football at SI.com and resides near Indianapolis. You can follow him at @injuryexpert on Twitter.
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