I waited a day before writing this.
The second I saw that Buster Posey won the NL Rookie of the Year Award, I wanted to write about why Jason Heyward should have won, but I waited a day to see if it was just an impulsive reaction to my favorite player just missing out.
It’s not. Jason Heyward should have won the 2010 Rookie of the Year Award.
I’m not trying to take anything away from Buster Posey.
He had a great season, was an integral part of the Giants winning the World Series and is the best young catcher in the game. But Heyward was better.
On the surface, Posey looks like a good choice over Heyward. He finished the year with a higher OPS and batting average than the Braves rookie. Although Posey played in fewer games, he matched Heyward’s homerun total.
What voters seemingly failed to realize, is that we live in an age where there is a deeper understanding of how well a player performs, and stats like WAR, OPS+ and Win Probability Added can measure a players performance better than what you find on the back of a baseball card.
I’ll start off with OPS+.
When Heyward’s astonishing OBP from this past season is brought up, many have pointed to the fact that Posey finished the season with a higher OPS than Heyward. But with all the advanced statistical measures available today we can use OPS+, which includes ballpark factors to help decide who the better hitter was. Heyward beats Posey in OPS+ (131 to 129), so if they played on the same team, it’s likely that Heyward would have ended up with the better OPS, and actually had the better offensive season.
Secondly, I’ll get into Win Probability Added. As any fan watching a game knows; all homeruns aren’t created equal. A solo shot in a tie game in the bottom of the ninth is much more important to someone’s team than a solo shot in when leading by 10 runs.
Heyward absolutely dominated Posey in Win Probability Added this past season. In total, Heyward finished with a WPA of 4.82, more than three times as much as Posey’s 1.09. In other words: Heyward, who using OPS+ was the better hitter, got his hits when it mattered more to his team.
Finally, we’ll look at WAR, or Wins Above Replacement. This stat essentially tells how many more wins a team got with a certain player than it would have with a replacement level (AAA or unsigned free agent) player.
One reason that I like WAR in this situation, is that when Fangraphs calculates WAR, they have a positional component, that accounts for differences between two positions (let’s say right fielders and catchers). Because right field is easier to play and a replacement level right fielder would likely produce more than a replacement level catcher, Posey gets a boost in his WAR.
Yet, even with the positional differences, Heyward comes out on top again with 5.0 WAR to Posey’s 3.9.
All told, Heyward was a better player than Posey in 2010. He finished the year with a slightly better offensive season and even when positional differences are accounted for, added more wins to his team’s total than Posey did. Jason Heyward got robbed, and should’ve been the 2010 NL Rookie of the Year.