Preview: NL Rookie of the Year

Sabean held Posey back for two months. That’s not fair!

I’ll tend to agree that Sabean didn’t need to keep Posey down for two months, but playing “What If” games is a bad idea. Sure, there’s nothing that outright suggests that Posey’s production is illegitimate in any way, and he could have produced another couple of wins in those two months to put him over Heyward. On the other hand, Posey could have figured out something in AAA over those two months that helped him produce when he came to the MLB, and if he had come up earlier, he would not have learned what he did, leading to worse production. He could have also lucked into good production. He could have learned what he did in AAA while in the MLB and produced eventually after a slow start. The point is that NO ONE knows how Posey would have done in those two months, and each of those scenarios have wide-ranging effects on Posey’s production. What we DO know is that Heyward produced what he did over those months. Certainty trumps uncertainty. I’m sorry that Posey had to be the victim of service-time shenanigans, but we can’t do anything about it. You just can’t give Posey credit for that which he didn’t do.

Posey produced the same offense while playing a tougher position.

This is a little harder to dispel. Heyward’s slash line of .277/.393/.456 has similar production value to Posey’s .303/.357/.505 as their OPS+ of 131 and 129, respectively, are nearly identical. Heyward puts more distance between himself (.376 wOBA) and Posey (.368) in wOBA (OBP is weighted heavier because there’s a higher correlation between OBP and runs than SLG and runs–remember, scoring runs is as good as knocking them in), but it’s pretty close and that nagging position thing still exists. It’s harder to do that as a catcher than as a right fielder, and Posey is a catcher, which should give him extra credit (of sorts). But here’s the thing—Posey didn’t catch all of that time. Posey played first base for over a month (30 games) while Bengie Molina caught, and the position adjustment for playing first hurts (well not really “hurts”; it just makes his production less impressive in relation other first basemen instead of in relation to other catchers) Posey’s value. The 76 games behind the plate help his cause, but those games at first definitely hurt his case. Add in that Heyward played well in right (+5.8 UZR), and the position adjustment does not have that big of an impact.

The question, then, becomes how much do those games at first really hurt Posey. That’s a difficult question, and it brings more “What If” questions (What if Posey had caught those games? Would those extra games have tired him more? Etc.). Let’s just not get into those for the same reasons we addressed in the previous section. The more nagging problem is the actual calculations, which aren’t as cut-and-dry. You can argue specifics, but as I stated previously, we’re talking about a pretty staggering difference between the overall productions of the players. That difference is primarily due to Heyward’s 142 games vs. Posey’s 108, and Heyward played in right field for all of those games (76 of those playing an inferior position to Posey, 32 playing a superior position, and 34 just existing when Posey didn’t and doing well in that time—you don’t get points for simply existing). Yes, Posey’s rate stats are similar to Heyward’s (even their counting numbers, HR—18 each—and RBI—72 to 68—are similar), but Heyward was playing well and adding value while Posey “learned” in AAA.

Posey got his team into the postseason.

 

So did Heyward, and Heyward was just as good and probably better in the final months than Buster (wOBAs of .408 and .367 for Heyward vs. .325 and .343 for Posey; the positional adjustment might make up for the huge offensive difference). And yeah, the Giants offense wasn’t great, but the Braves were also missing Chipper Jones and Martin Prado while no one else stepped up. This was a bad piece of evidence to begin with, and Heyward even wins it.

Posey did better in the playoffs and helped his team move farther along.

Regular season awards are just that—regular season awards. It doesn’t matter what either did in the playoffs because all ballots were sent in before the playoffs started.

Heyward’s younger.

This is obviously not in favor of Posey, but you might see this argued in Heyward’s favor. And it’s just as bad of an argument as the others above. All that matters is how well they played. Age matters in projection, not production.

Listen, Posey is awesome. I love the guy, and I hope he has a long career. He can be better than Joe Mauer because of his power (if he draws more walks, which is certainly possible given his history), and he may last longer at catcher because of his build. But the ROY award is for their first season. Posey probably got screwed by service-time issues, but life isn’t always fair. Heyward got to play from Day 1, and he did an amazing job. Posey did an amazing job as well, but he didn’t do it as long. Yes, you can make the argument that Posey would have done well in the time he was in the minors, but it’s not a concrete one. Again, certainty trumps uncertainty. We know Heyward produced, but we don’t know about Posey. As for who will actually win the award, I’d bet on Posey because he was getting the publicity at the end of the season, but remembering that I like Posey, Posey getting the award would be a mistake, just not one anyone is likely to regret.

8 thoughts on “Preview: NL Rookie of the Year

  1. take your WAR and shove it!!!!!!!!!!!!

    you're obviously not a baseball writer, just a statistician.
    where's your FEEL for the game???????????

  2. Mark, I have a problem with the argument that Hayward deserves the award because he produced over a full season. I would buy that argument for any other award, but not ROY. 2010 WAS Posey's rookie year. He's not going to get another one.

    Similarly, I would not use WAR here. WAR is not the best way to compare a full season to a partial season.

    I think Posey deserves credit for playing the tougher position. Even in a partial season, Posey's WAR was fifth best among all MLB catchers. Heyward finished 7th in WAR among right fielders. Posey looks even more impressive if you use stats that don't penalize Posey for his partial year. For all catchers with at least 400 plate appearances, Posey finished 2nd in wOPA, behind only Joe Mauer. Heyward finished 6th in wOPA for right fielders with the same number of appearances.

    You might also consider Heyward's .335 BABiP. He's probably not going to be able to sustain that.

    Finally … I know that we're not supposed to look at the post-season, but I peeked. Advantage to Posey here also.

  3. C'mon NAM, I write for this blog also and I've made my argument for Posey. You're not being rational if you fail to see the strong case that can also be made for Heyward.

    Also, No. Cals pronounce the Rs at the end of their words.