A newcomer to the Houston Astros rotation, a big bat from the Southside of Chicago, and the second coming of Ken Griffey, Jr. in Seattle. All three of the BBWAA’s Rookie of the Year Finalists have had incredible seasons, and rightfully deserve to be lauded for their efforts. However, let’s not forget the darker sides of their seasons. Let’s look at the best and worst stats for each finalist, and see who comes out on top.
Luis Robert – OF – Chicago White Sox
Best Stat: 9 Stolen Bases
So this is obviously not the stat you thought we’d be highlighting. Sure, we could have looked at his 11 home runs, or his 47 hits, or even his 31 RBIs. Instead, we’re looking at his steals, because that’s what truly highlights Robert’s ability and potential.
Luis Robert has the ability to become a player like Mike Trout. Now that’s a big comparison, so let me walk it down to the basic level. With his speed, Robert poses an offensive threat across the board. You don’t want him on base, because he can run, stealing bases to the tune of 9 bags on 11 attempts. So you are forced to pitch to him, and the guy can rake. Having multiple weaponry within one player is a luxury not many teams have. Just so happens that Chicago has Robert and Eloy Jimenez in the same lineup, and will for the foreseeable future.
Worst Stat: .194 Average Away from Guaranteed Rate Field.
Obligatory “Guaranteed Rate Field” is a terrible name. This isn’t a good stat for Robert’s Rookie of the Year case, but it’s probably one that will change as he grows into the player we know he can be.
All that said, you can’t be hitting below the Mendoza Line in more than half of your games if you want to win the Rookie crown. If there’s a dark side to Robert’s first season in the league, it’s how he seems to lose his bat at the airport whenever he travels outside of Chicago.
Kyle Lewis – OF – Seattle Mariners
Best Stat: 11 Home Runs
It seems a bit rude to dismiss Luis Robert’s 11 home runs only to laud Kyle Lewis for his, but… we’re gonna do it anyway. Why? Because Kyle Lewis wasn’t supposed to hit 11 homers in 2020.
The last time Lewis hit 11 or more dingers was back in 2016 when he was still in college, and even then it was a full season. Kyle Lewis parked the same amount of home runs as Luis Robert. That wasn’t supposed to happen, but it did and it was magical. Very reminiscent of another Mariners outfielder who also happened to be a Rookie of the Year finalist as well.
Side note: Remember Gregg Olson? That’s who beat Ken Griffey, Jr. for the 1989 AL Rookie of the Year. Gregg. Olson.
It’s also important to remember that the only player to hit 20+ home runs for the Mariners in the last three years and not leave the team is Kyle Seager. This is a good sign of things to come for a franchise that is still looking to return to the glory days of the 1990s and early 2000s.
Worst Stat: 71 Strikeouts.
Almost going without saying, higher home run totals seem to come hand in hand with higher strikeout totals. Kyle Lewis’ season is no different. This is a relatively recent phenomenon for Lewis, who really only saw his strikeouts jump in the last two years in the minors. It’s not a dealbreaker statistic, but it leaves some room for criticism.
Cristian Javier – SP – Houston Astros
Best Stat: 0.998 WHIP
After losing Gerrit Cole to the Yankees in the offseason, the Astros rotation seemed to revolve around Justin Verlander and Zack Greinke with some flexible options for the back end spots. However, after Verlander got injured early on in the season, that plan was tossed and a more improvisational rotation emerged. Headlining that shift, was Cristian Javier.
Javier was the best pitcher for the Astros in 2020, no matter how you slice it. For a rookie pitcher, he put up some veteran numbers. Case in point, his sub-1.000 WHIP. In a time when the Astros seemed destined to spin their wheels in the mud, Javier stepped up and proved he has elite stuff.
Worst Stat: 11 Home Runs
Within that eliteness, however, is a home run problem. Javier gave up 36 hits over 54.1 innings in 2020. On those 36 hits, opposing teams scored 21 earned runs. One-third of those hits were home runs, and two-thirds of his earned runs came off home runs.
That’s not great. In a game where the longball reigns supreme, Javier’s one blindspot was a big one.
So who is your 2020 AL Rookie of the Year?
Luis Robert was one of the most exciting players in the AL this year, and his numbers are good. However, if the BBWAA leans into more of an all-around type of player, things could tip toward Kyle Lewis. It’ll all come down to whether or not the BBWAA wants to award power or prowess.