Monday, November 16, 2009

Coghlan Beats Out Happ for ROY

On Monday, Florida Marlins outfielder, Chris Coghlan, was awarded the National League Rookie of the Year with 17 first place votes and 105 total points. Coghlan beat out Phillies starting pitcher, JA Happ, who had 10 first place votes and 94 total points. Following Coghlan and Happ in the ROY voting was Tommy Hanson(37), Andrew McCutchen(25), and Casey McGehee(18).

Coghlan was one of the best hitters in the majors in the second half of the season as he collected 113 hits, most in the majors. On the other hand, Happ was amongst the league leaders with a 2.93 ERA and a .750 winning percentage. Both players had outstanding seasons and the voting was deservedly close. Coghlan was more than deserving of the award but this particular race does raise a few issues.

The voting for the rookie of the year award is by far the vaguest of any offseason award given to players. This issue mainly exists, because unlike other awards, the voters must compare the value of starting pitchers, relief pitchers, and position players. This act is very difficult because the responsibilities of each player are very different and therefore the statistics are almost impossible to compare. The other issue present is whether or not success throughout the season is weighted equally as success at the end of the season.

When comparing a position player who plays every day, to a starting pitcher who only pitches about once a week, it becomes very difficult to determine who provides more value to their respective teams. Certain voters feel that everyday players naturally provide more value to a team than a pitcher, and those voters, based on lack of competition amongst everyday players, leaned to Coghlan. The voters that traditionally believe that pitchers provide more value had to decide between Happ and third place finisher, Tommy Hanson. Therefore if Happ and Coghlan were the only two candidates being considered, Happ would have come away with the award because he would have received many of the first place votes that were given to Hanson.

When reviewing the seasons of both Coghlan and Happ, they displayed two very different levels of competition throughout the season. Happ was one of the most consistent pitchers in the league throughout the season, at no point did he have a losing record and after his ERA dropped below 3.00 on May 7th, only once did it rise above 3.00 throughout the entire season. On the other hand, even though Coghlan displayed very good season ending statistics, he was hitting only .250 through July 31st. This is also a testament to how great he was at the end of the season but it is hard to just ignore how inept he was for the first half of the season. Based on the outcome of this award it is clear that voters are willing to weigh the end of the season more than the overall body of work throughout the season.

When directly comparing the seasons of Coghlan and Happ it is obvious that one cannot compare their statistics independently as one is a position player and one is a pitcher. In order to compare the two players, one must compare their statistics in relevance to the league. When doing this, both players appear identical as Coghlan and Happ were both 11th in the major leagues in avg. and ERA respectively. Again, when comparing more secondary statistics such as OBP and WHIP, Coghlan ranks 25th, compared to 21st for Happ. So when analyzing these statistics for both players in relevance to the league, no clear advantage can be given.

The only appropriate way to directly compare these players is by utilizing the WARP statistic. WARP, is defined as the number of wins a player contributed, above what a replacement level hitter, fielder, and pitcher would have done, with adjustments only within the current season. This is an extremely valuable statistic in this situation as it compares pitchers and hitters on the same level. When analyzing these two players in reference to WARP, Happ has a very significant advantage over Coghlan as he possesses a 4.9 compared to only 2.7 for Coghlan. As some people may be unaware of a WARP, to give a point of reference, C.C. Sabathia who is a strong candidate for the AL Cy Young award has a 5.9 WARP.

When analyzing many of the statistics and issues surrounding this year's NL ROY, it is clear as to why Happ had lost out to Coghlan in the ROY race, even if Happ did have a superior season.

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