Congratulations to 2011 MLB Rookies of the Year Craig Kimbrel of the Atlanta Braves and Jeremy Hellickson of the Tampa Bay Rays. Both pitchers enjoyed stellar first seasons en route to winning the award in their respective leagues.
Kimbrel's defining statistic was his 46 saves, which broke last year's rookie record of 40 set by former American League Rookie of the Year Neftali Feliz of the Texas Rangers. In addition, he was named NL Rookie of the Month for June and August. For his efforts, Kimbrel won the award unanimously, the first time this has happened in ten years.
As for Hellickson, he went 13-10 with a 2.95 ERA and 117 strikeouts. He was named AL Pitcher and Rookie of the Month in May.
The question is—did both deserve their awards?
Kimbrel certainly did. Saving 46 games is no easy task, and he was almost thrust into the role after former closer Billy Wagner retired. Nonetheless, he performed effectively enough to join the list of elite Braves closers, like John Smoltz and Wagner. Not only that, but his unanimous selection shows that the voters certainly picked the right man.
Hellickson, on the other hand, was not deserving of his award. A 13-10 record? 117 Strikeouts? These numbers belong to a spot starter. Not only that, but it's my belief that Hellickson's win might have been orchestrated because he was once the top prospect in baseball.
Sure, the Rays pitching staff was practically gutted last year, giving Hellickson the opportunity to start, but in all honesty, he was more deserving of a second-place finish.
Who deserves the award? Why, none other than Mark Trumbo, the slugging first baseman for the Los Angeles Angels. Trumbo, despite hitting .254, knocked 29 home runs, the most on the Angels, and took over permanently for former starter Kendrys Morales.
If one were to knock Trumbo for his low batting average, then the next best option would be Eric Hosmer of the Kansas City Royals. Hosmer was one of the few bright stars in an otherwise lost season for the Royals. He hit 19 home runs and had an .293 average.
Hosmer's debut was also greatly anticipated, as he ushered in the era of Dayton Moore's homegrown stars. This certainly would be a contributing factor, if the voters relied on qualitative data in addition to quantitative data.
And so we have it. Kimbrel deserves the award but Hellickson doesn't. Once again, another instance of short-sightedness by the BBWAA. Hellickson may have won, but it is Trumbo or Hosmer who should be putting the trophy up on their mantles.