Trying to parse the upcoming schedules, pitching matchups and the ebbs and flows of each playoff contender sounds like the logical thing to do, except we can’t logically figure out if any of it matters. The only thing we can say for sure is that the Dodgers are worthless, and even then their extra-innings win against the Rockies yesterday tested the bounds of believability.
So instead of trying to figure out if the Giants will do their part and win 2 of 3 in Wrigley Field before heading to Denver for the series-to-end-all-series (at least until the Giants face San Diego at home to end the season), let’s focus on something we can logically predict: the National League Rookie of the Year race. A race that has gotten clearer in that the amount of contenders has dropped, but murkier due to the recent performances of the guys we’re going to focus on later in this post.
First, let’s give these guys a hearty congratulations for making this season the precursor to the NL finally overtaking the AL in the next few years as the dominant league: Gaby Sanchez, Tyler Colvin, Starlin Castro, Ike Davis, Mike Stanton, Jonny Venters, Jon Niese, Hisanori Takanashi, Mike Leake, Jhoulys Chacin, Stephen Strasburg and Madison Bumgarner, you are all better rookies than 99% of the freshmen in the AL. But you won’t win the NL ROY.
(Seriously, have you taken a look at what the AL rookies are doing? What a crapfest. Even their only good rookie starter, Daniel Hudson, was traded to the D-Backs for Edwin Jackson. It’s Neftali Feliz and that’s it in the AL. Of course, if Carlos Santana didn’t get his knee wrecked they’d have at least one good offensive guy, but anything that takes away that sense of smug superiority away from AL/DH backers should be celebrated, in this blogger’s opinion.)
Like the NL West, the NL ROY is a 3-horse race. While everyone who comes to AT&T Park and sees a microphone will tell you Buster Posey’s the favorite lately, there are two other guys — on teams with similar records, so the “contending team” thing shouldn’t factor in — who’ve also been called locks to win at different points this season. No matter what happens, this is going to be the most interesting ROY vote in recent memory. Here’s the trio, in no particular order:
1. Jason Heyward (.286/.402/.478, 18 HR, 71 RBI, 81 R, 9 SB, 3.1 UZR/150, 4.6 WAR)
Even though it doesn’t make a lot of sense, baseball writers, announcers and even players love to obsess over individual months. Every time a new month starts, Duane Kuiper and Mike Krukow use the turning of the calendar page as fodder for their pregame show segment. Player of the Month awards are highly publicized and considered building blocks for end-of-the-year awards.
Heyward has a lot going for him. His skills allow fans, scouts and writers to use one of the most overused words in the baseball lexicon, “tools.” His debut, though overshadowed by Strasburg’s first start (He’s the next Walter Johnson, right Bob Costas?), was storybook. And he’s picking a great time to have 2.5 great months in a row. After struggling through June and missing the first half of July, Heyward’s last three months look like this:
Unless he goes 0-for-50 to finish the year, Heyward has a great shot.
Lasting impression: Tools, tools, tools, and a strong finish after supposedly wearing down in the middle of the year.
BASG odds of winning: 3/2
2. Jaime Garcia (13-8, 2.70 ERA, 163.1 IP, 1.32 WHIP, 132 K, 64 BB, .243 BAA, 3.2 WAR)
Garcia will get the same love everyone on the Cardinals seems to in October (What a BASEBALL TOWN! They all wear RED!), because we’re all supposed to worship at the alter of midwestern sensibilities because they’re real ‘mericans over there in that ol’ heartland and stuff.
However, Garcia may end up as the victim of his own amazing start to this season. Garcia was unbelievable early on, with an ERA that didn’t reach 2.00 until his 15th start. Since then, Garcia has been good but not great. He was considered the favorite to win the award, at least around here, after he had three straight starts without giving up an earned run (the second of which a complete game shutout of the Giants, a game where he supposedly proved his worthiness over Posey, who was taken out early after going 0-for-3 with a K).
Then the whole “what have you done for me last month” thing comes into play. And as great as Jason Heyward’s September has been, Garcia’s has been that mediocre (1-2, 5.94 ERA, 1.56 WHIP .286 BAA). While Heyward and the next guy on this list can pretty much cruise and still get plenty of ROY consideration, Garcia’s going to need a couple good starts to end the season or he’ll end up in third place.
Lasting impression: Not exactly overpowering, but a huge contributor on a pennant contender who should be on his way to a 10-year career as a starter.
BASG odds of winning: 3/1
3. Buster Posey (.325/.374/.517, 14 HR, 61 RBI, 51 R, 0 SB, 34% CS, 3.7 WAR)
First, the good: a July that men will someday write sonnets about (.417/.466/.699, NL Player of the Month award and a 21-game hitting streak); leads NL rookies in batting average and slugging; plays the most physically demanding position and catches perhaps the most difficult pitching staff to handle in the Majors; possesses the best name of any rookie since Oil Can Boyd.
Now, the bad: He plays many of his games after 75% of the voters have either gone to sleep or drank their fourth cocktail; some injury or something delayed Posey’s season from starting until May 29.
It would be easy to come to the conclusion that Posey would be the shoo-in for the NL ROY if he played the full season. And since he didn’t exactly rest in Triple-A (meaning you can’t assume he would have worn down if he started the year with the Giants), that’s probably true. While some people might take Heyward for the long term due to his obvious athletic gifts and incredible patience (Heyward walks more than twice as often as Posey), Posey has captured the imagination of many simply because his swing is so pure. Still, I get the feeling that Posey’s team needs to make the playoffs for him to win the Rookie of the Year award, while Heyward can ride Bobby Cox’s coattails and win even if the Braves fall short. To come clean, I’m only basing this on ESPN’s over-the-top promotion of Heyward earlier in the season and the whole East Coast bias thing.
Lasting impression: The NL version of Joe Mauer, only with Derek Jeter’s swing. Held down by Sabean/Baer/Neukom for two months too long.
BASG odds of winning: 2/1