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Taking a Closer Look at Rookie of the Year

How good are the top rookies each year? Here's how they stack up.

The 2020 rookie class was a strong one, but how does it compare to past rookie classes? I took a look at all of the rookies who received votes for the Rookie of the Year award from 2015-2020 and compared them to each other to see who really had the best rookie season.

In 2020, there were 10 rookies from the American League who received votes for Rookie of the Year: Kyle Lewis, Luis Robert, Sean Murphy, Willi Castro, Ryan Mountcastle, Jared Walsh, Brady Singer, Jesús Luzardo, Cristian Javier, and James Karinchak. The tables below show each player’s stats for the 2020 season.

2020 American League Rookie Hitters
2020 American League Rookie Pitchers

Lewis unanimously won the American League Rookie of the Year award, earning all 30 first-place votes. As a group, the six hitters who received votes collectively had a .278 BA, .487 SLG, .351 OBP, .352 wOBA, 26.5 K%, and 10.1 BB%.

The four pitchers who received votes collectively allowed a .216 opponent BA, .372 SLG, .288 OBP, ,283 wOBA, 27.3 K%, and 8.7 BB%.

In the National League, there were nine rookies who received votes for Rookie of the Year: Jake Cronenworth, Alec Bohm, Andres Gimenez, Ke’Bryan Hayes, Dustin May, Tony Gonsolin, Ian Anderson, Sixto Sanchez, and Devin Williams. The tables below show each player’s stats for the 2020 season.

2020 National League Rookie Hitters
2020 National League Rookie Pitchers

 

Williams won the National League Rookie of the Year award, earning 14 first-place votes and beating out Bohm and Croenenworth. As a group, the four hitters who received votes collectively had a .310 BA, .493 SLG, .375 OBP, .367 wOBA, 19.1 K%, and 8.0 BB%.

The five pitchers who received votes collectively allowed a .196 opponent BA, .295 SLG, .269 OBP, .243 wOBA, 27.3 K%, and 7.0 BB%.

The next group of players is the 2019 rookies who received votes for Rookie of the Year. There were eight players who received votes for American League Rookie of the Year: Yordan Álvarez, John Means, Brandon Lowe, Eloy Jimenez, Cavan Biggio, Luis Arraez, Vladimir Guerrero Jr./strong>., and Oscar Mercado. The tables below show each player’s stats for the 2019 season.

2019 American League Rookie Hitters
2019 American League Rookie Pitchers

Although Álvarez only played 87 games in 2019, he unanimously won the American League Rookie of the Year award. As a group, the seven hitters who received votes collectively had a .278 BA, .484 SLG, .350 OBP, .351 wOBA, 22.4 K%, and 9.5 BB%.

The only pitcher who received a vote, Means, allowed a .234 BA, .417 SLG, .285 OBP, .295 wOBA, 19.0 K%, and 6.0 BB%.

There were six players who received votes for National League Rookie of the Year: Pete Alonso, Mike Soroka, Fernando Tatis Jr., Bryan Reynolds, Dakota Hudson, and Victor Robles. The tables below show each player’s stats for the 2019 season.

2019 National League Rookie Hitters
2019 National League Rookie Pitchers

In 2019, Alonso won National League Rookie of the Year, just narrowly missing the mark of winning unanimously by one first-place vote. The four hitters who received votes collectively had a .282 BA, .519 SLG, .354 OBP, .365 wOBA, 25.0 K%, 7.8 BB%.

The two pitchers who received votes collectively allowed a .241 BA, .372 SLG, .310 OBP, .295 wOBA, 19.2 K%, and 8.1 BB%.

In 2018, there were six rookies from the American League who received votes for Rookie of the Year: Shohei Ohtani, Miguel Andújar, Gleyber Torres, Joey Wendle, Daniel Palka, and Ryan Yarbrough. The tables below show each player’s stats for the 2018 season.

2018 American League Rookie Hitters
2018 American League Rookie Pitchers

Two-way star Ohtani won 2018 American League Rookie of the Year honors for his contributions at the plate and on the mound. The five hitters who received votes collectively had a .280 BA, .496 SLG, .331 OBP, .352 wOBA, 23.4 K%, and 6.4 BB%.

The two pitchers who received votes collectively allowed a .236 BA, .393 SLG, .304 OBP, .305 wOBA, 22.9 K%, and 7.9 BB%.

There were eight players who received votes for National League Rookie of the Year: Ronald Acuña Jr., Juan Soto, Walker Buehler, Brian Anderson, Jack Flaherty, Harrison Bader, Yoshihisa Hirano, and Jeff McNeil. The tables below show each player’s stats for the 2018 season.

2018 National League Rookie Hitters
2018 National League Rookie Pitchers

Acuña won 2018 National League Rookie of the Year, earning 27 of 30 first-place votes. The five hitters who received votes collectively had a .286 BA, .468 SLG, .362 OBP, .359 wOBA, 21.7 K%, and 9.2 BB%.

The three pitchers who received votes collectively allowed a .198 BA, .325 SLG, .272 OBP, .265 wOBA, 27.8 K%, and 7.9 BB%.

There were six players who received votes for 2017 American League Rookie of the Year: Aaron Judge, Andrew Benintendi, Trey Mancini, Matt Olson, Yuli Gurriel, and Jordan Montgomery. The tables below show each player’s stats for the 2017 season.

2017 American League Rookie Hitters
2017 American League Rookie Pitchers

Judge unanimously won the 2017 American League Rookie of the Year award, earning all 30 first-place votes. The five hitters who received votes collectively had a .284 BA, .517 SLG, .357 OBP, .369 wOBA, 21.7 K%, and 9.4 BB%.

The only pitcher who received a vote, Montgomery, allowed a .236 opponent BA, .387 SLG, .297 OBP, .295 wOBA, 22.2 K%, and 7.9 BB%.

There were nine players who received votes for 2017 National League Rookie of the Year: Cody Bellinger, Paul DeJong, Josh Bell, Rhys Hoskins, German Marquez, Manuel Margot, Kyle Freeland, Luis Castillo, and Ian Happ. The tables below show each player’s stats for the 2017 season.

2017 National League Rookie Hitters
2017 National League Rookie Pitchers

Just like Judge, Bellinger unanimously won the 2017 National League Rookie of the Year award. The six hitters who received votes collectively had a .264 BA, .506 SLG, .330 OBP, .352 wOBA, 24.4 K%, and 8.7 BB%.

The three pitchers who received votes collectively allowed a .263 opponent BA, .436 SLG, .328 OBP, .327 wOBA, 20.2 K%, and 7.8 BB%.

There were seven players who received votes for 2016 American League Rookie of the Year: Michael Fulmer, Gary Sanchez, Tyler Naquin, Chris Devenski, Edwin Diaz, Nomar Mazara, and Tim Anderson. The tables below show each player’s stats for the 2016 season.

2016 American League Rookie Hitters
2016 American League Rookie Pitchers

Fulmer won the 2016 American League Rookie of the Year award, earning 26 of 30 first-place votes. The four hitters who received votes collectively had a  .282 BA, .477 SLG, .336 OBP, .345 wOBA, 25.0 K%, and 7.0 BB%.

The three pitchers who received votes collectively allowed a .222 opponent BA, .337 SLG, .278 OBP, .269 wOBA, 25.5 K%, and 6.1 BB%.

There were eight players who received votes for 2016 National League Rookie of the Year: Corey Seager, Trea Turner, Kenta Maeda, Trevor Story, Aledmys Diaz, Jon Gray, Steven Matz, and Seung Hwan Oh. The tables below show each player’s stats for the 2016 season.

2016 National League Rookie Hitters
2016 National League Rookie Pitchers

Seager unanimously won the 2016 National League Rookie of the Year award, earning all 30 first-place votes. The four hitters who received votes collectively had a .304 BA, .533 SLG, .362 OBP, .377 wOBA, 20.3 K%, and 7.6 BB%.

The four pitchers who received votes collectively allowed a .234 BA, .360 SLG, .296 OBP, .285 wOBA, 26.0 K%, and 6.9 BB%.

There were seven players who received votes for 2015 American League Rookie of the Year: Carlos Correa, Francisco Lindor, Miguel Sano, Roberto Osuna, Billy Burns, Eddie Rosario, and Delino DeShields. The tables below show each player’s stats for the 2015 season.

2015 American League Rookie Hitters
2015 American League Rookie Pitchers

Correa narrowly beat out Lindor to win the 2015 American League Rookie of the Year award. The six hitters who received votes collectively had a .281 BA, .450 SLG, .339 OBP, .340 wOBA, 20.8 K%, and 7.9 BB%.

The only pitcher to receive a vote, Osuna, allowed a .191 BA, .351 SLG, .241 OBP, .253 wOBA, 27.7 K%, and 5.9 BB%.

There were seven players who received votes for 2015 National League Rookie of the Year: Kris Bryant, Matt Duffy, Jung Ho Kang, Noah Syndergaard, Justin Bour, Joc Pederson, and Stephen Piscotty. The tables below show each player’s stats for the 2015 season.

2015 National League Rookie Hitters
2015 National League Rookie Pitchers

Bryant unanimously won the 2015 National League Rookie of the Year award, earning all 30 first-place votes. The six hitters who received votes collectively had a  .270 BA, .457 SLG, .348 OBP, .349 wOBA, 23.9 K%, and 9.3 BB%.

The only pitcher who received a vote, Syndergaard, allowed a .225 BA, .378 SLG, .268 OBP, .279 wOBA, 27.5 K%, and 5.1 BB%.

The table below shows a comparison of all Rookie of the Year winners from 2015-2020 for all hitters. From this table, a few things jump out right away. The first thing that we can see from this table is that Kris Bryant was the luckiest hitter of all players listed. He had the highest BABIP and the lowest xBA, which means he caught a few breaks throughout the season. The next thing that jumps out is how impressive Yordan Álvarez’s rookie season was. His numbers are certainly a little misleading since the sample size is just 87 games, but he made the most of his opportunity in those games. He leads all hitters in the table in BA, SLG, and wOBA.

2015-2020 Rookie of the Year Winners (Hitters)

The next table shows a comparison of all pitchers who have won Rookie of the Year from 2015-2020. If we just look at the numbers in the table, Devin Williams clearly leads all pitchers by a wide margin. However, there are several reasons for this. First of all, the 2020 season was just 60 games, compared to 162 games for Ohtani and Fulmer. Secondly, Williams is a reliever. Which means it is inevitable that his numbers will look better compared to starting pitchers. If we look at innings pitched for each pitcher, Williams threw just 27.0 innings, while Ohtani threw 51.2 innings and Fulmer threw 159.0 innings. With that being said, Williams still had an incredible 2020 season. He was dominant the whole season and made batters look foolish nearly every time he took the mound.

2015-2020 Rookie of the Year Winners (Pitchers)

Yordan Álvarez’s 2019 rookie season and Devin Williams‘ 2020 rookie season are two of the best we’ve ever seen, but how do the rookie classes compare to each other? The tables below show the stats for the rookie classes of hitters and pitchers who received votes for Rookie of the Year in both the American League and National League from 2015-2020.

2015-2020 Rookie Classes (Hitters Who Received Votes)
2015-2020 Rookie Classes (Pitchers Who Received Votes)

From these tables, there are a few things that jump out. For the hitters, the class of 2020 NL rookies and 2016 NL rookies stand out from the pack. However, the sample size for the 2020 hitters is understandably much smaller since there were far fewer games. It’s nearly impossible to say for sure how the 2020 NL rookies would have compared to the rest of the rookie classes in a normal 162-game season, but they clearly excelled in a shortened 60-game season, leading the group in BA, BABIP, and xBA.

It is a similar story with the pitchers from these tables. The class of 2020 NL rookies and 2015 AL rookies stand out, but the sample sizes are very different. Similar to the 2020 hitters, the 2020 pitchers threw far fewer innings and faced fewer batters, so it’s hard to really say how they would compare in a 162-game season. However, if we just look at the numbers in the table, the 2020 NL pitchers allowed the lowest SLG, wOBA, and xwOBA.

Looking at the expected stats from both the hitters and pitchers in the tables, nearly every rookie class over-performed their expected stats. The 2017 AL rookies were the only group of hitters to have a higher xwOBA than wOBA. For pitchers, the 2015 NL rookies, 2020 AL rookies, and 2017 NL rookies were the only groups of pitchers to have a lower xwOBA than wOBA. The 2015 NL rookies, 2016 NL rookies, and 2017 NL rookies were the only groups of pitchers to have a lower xBA than BA.

The Rookie of the Year award honors the American League and National League’s best rookies each year, but some rookie classes were clearly stronger than others. Although the sample sizes for each class of rookies is different, the 2020 National League rookie hitters and pitchers stand out from the rest of the pack.  Not only have we seen some strong classes of rookies, but there have been several stand-out performers throughout the years. From Yordan Álvarez’s incredible 2019 rookie season to Devin Williams‘ historic 2020 rookie season, we have seen some truly amazing performances from the game’s youngest stars.

(Photos by Icon Sportswire) | Adapted by Doug Carlin (@Bdougals on Twitter)

Nicholas Hatch

Nicholas is a recent graduate of UW-Milwaukee where he studied Economics and Business. He is a diehard Brewers fan and has a passion for baseball and analytics

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