American League Rookie of the Year: Jacoby Ellsbury or Evan Longoria?

Scott StantonCorrespondent IOctober 23, 2008

With Game One of the 2008 World Series in the books, the beginning of the end is near. Teams are clearing out their lockers and heading home for the winter, and the Baseball Writers' Association of America is determining Cy Young winners, MVPs, Managers of the Year, and Rookies of the Year for each league.

To be considered a rookie, you must have fewer than 130 at-bats, 50 innings pitched, or 45 days on the active roster of a major-league club before Sept. 1 of any previous season. This year, the two prime candidates for Rookie of the Year are Jacoby Ellsbury of the Boston Red Sox and Evan Longoria of the Tampa Bay Rays.

Most of the chatter is about Evan Longoria—and with good reason. The 23-year-old out of Long Beach State played an integral part in helping turn the Rays' organization around. Tampa Bay went from worst to first in the American League in just one year and earned the franchise its first ever trip to the Fall Classic.

Longo finished the regular season with a .272 batting average, an on-base percentage of .343, and a slugging average of .531. But it's his home-run column that shines the brightest on his stat sheet, having gone yard 27 times throughout the regular season. 

Longoria got 122 hits in 448 at-bats, 31 of those being doubles and two being triples.  He also accumulated 67 runs, 85 runs batted in, and seven stolen bases. 

But like most rookies, it wasn't all wine and roses for Longoria. He struck out 122 times on offense. Committing 12 errors in 329 total chances on defense ranked him third in the American League for most errors committed.

In all of the excitement surrounding the Rays' Cinderella story this year, Boston outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury seems to have taken a backseat to Evan Longoria in Rookie of the Year talk. 

But why? The stats seem to be in his favor.

Ellsbury finished the regular season on a 16-game hit streak, leaving him with a .280 batting average, slightly higher than Longoria's. But that wasn't the only column in which the speedster outperformed Longoria. Ellsbury earned more runs (98), hits (155), triples (seven), and stolen bases (50). 

An argument could be made that Ellsbury had more chances because Longoria was out with a broken wrist for most of August and the first part of September, while Ellsbury avoided the DL all season. 

Despite Ellsbury's having to split playing time with Coco Crisp, he did get 106 more at-bats than Longoria. With that said, it also means he had more opportunities to strike out. It's something Ellsbury only did 80 times in his 554 plate appearances, while Longoria was dealt 122 K's in his 448 trips to the plate.

Then there's Ellsbury's defense. Normally a center fielder, Ellsbury showed his talent and versatility as an outfielder this season. He filled in for J.D. Drew in right field while Drew was experiencing back problems and shared playing time with Coco Crisp in center field.

Ellsbury stepped up to fill the spot in left field when Jason Bay's daughter was born and more notably when Manny Ramirez had a "sore" left knee. (Wait, I mean right. Oh, did I say it was the left one last time? That's what I meant then, left.)

But what is more important than his versatility in the outfield is the fact that he's remained perfect while covering each position. Out of 336 total chances this season, Ellsbury has maintained a 1.000 fielding percentage.



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