The 2012 campaign for the Chicago White Sox provided baseball with truly unexpected storylines for a majority of the year and right fielder Alex Rios is one of them. Rios had such a tremendous season that he should be the first member of the White Sox to win the AL Comeback Player of the Year award since Jim Thome did it in 2006.
That's right, Rios deserves the AL Comeback Player of the Year.
The reasons behind this bold statement begin by looking at the single criterion a player needs to meet in order to be eligible. MLB defines the winner as a player “who has re-emerged on the baseball field during the season.”
In other words, a candidate must have been a star who had a horrible season and came back the following year to post numbers similar to those that made him a star in the first place.
He has the numbers for Cy Young consideration, but Rodney was never a very good pitcher prior to this season. Sure, Rodney pitched efficiently in ’05 and ’06, but he also posted an ERA over 4.24 from 2007-11.
Due to that stretch of extended futility, Rodney does not qualify as a player who re-emerged this year and should not be in consideration for the AL Comeback POY.
Rios tops all other potential winners based on statistics.
He compiled some impressive offensive numbers this year and, for a position player, statistics make the difference. Rios hit .304, belted 25 home runs, collected 91 RBIs and swiped 23 bases during the 2012 season.
His steady presence batting fifth allowed first-year manager Robin Ventura to bat Pierzynski sixth for much of the season in an attempt to balance out an otherwise uneven offense.
His average is more impressive when his 2011 end-of-year numbers are examined.
ESPN cited Elias Sports Bureau when pointing out that “Rios batted only .227 last season, and his increase of 74 points is the largest increase from 2011 to 2012 for any player who qualified for the batting title both seasons.”
Joe Nathan, from the Texas Rangers and Torii Hunter from the L.A. Angels had much better seasons than a year ago, but the difference between their '11 and '12 seasons is nowhere near as great for the two of them as it is for Rios.
Another candidate, White Sox DH Adam Dunn, had a season that is largely overrated.
He did hit 41 home runs to go with 96 RBIs while carrying the team for a large part of the first half, but 222 strikeouts and far too many wasted plate appearances down the stretch doom him as much as his .204 batting average.
Finally, Jake Peavy is right there with Rios and will likely garner much of the attention. Peavy came back from experimental latissimus dorsi surgery to post an 11-12 record along with a 3.37 ERA and 194 strikeouts in 219 innings.
He also finished in the Top 10 in almost every pitching measurable, but the contributions Rios made on a daily basis give him the slight edge.
It is going to be interesting to see how the AL Comeback POY voting plays out and don’t be surprised if Peavy wins it, but Rios bounced back more during the 2012 season and should walk away with the hardware. @SuggestSmith