Having seen the replay of McCutchen's three homer game repeatedly over the weekend, with Greg Brown's breathless Rookie of the Year proclamations leading the highlight, I got to wondering: Could Cutch really win the award with only four months in the league? The notion seemed hyperbolic at first, but I didn't realize that 2009's crop of rookies is fairly non-descript so far. These, to me, seem to be the players he's competing against:
J.A. Happ: 7-2 record 25 games (13 starts), 106 innings with 76/35 K/BB ratio, 1 complete game shutout, .228 batting avg against, 1.16 WHIP.
Writers will be drawn to his good won-loss record, and it doesn't hurt that he's performing well for the reigning champs. Should he string together some more wins and end up with 12 to 14, I think this award is his to lose. He should have tons of run support.
Randy Wells: 7-4 record in 15 starts, 2.84 ERA, 95 innings with a 60/21 K/BB ratio, .251 batting avg against, 1.15 WHIP.
His stats look a bit unsustainable to me, especially the ERA and WHIP, but some (including John Sickels) seem to think he's legit. The Cubs are surging, so he's going to be in the spotlight. Still, he doesn't seem to have the buzz that's going to attract writers.
Tommy Hanson: 5-2 record in 10 starts, 3.25 ERA in 61 innings with a 41/26 K/BB ratio, .241 batting avg against, 1.33 WHIP.
Hanson easily has the strongest pedigree of the pitchers and is the most likely to run off a series of dominant starts. If he refines his command a bit and ups his W-L record while pumping up the strikeouts, he could leapfrog the other candidates in a hurry. Of all the ROY candidates, he seems to be the most likely to have some attention grabbing big games that launch him into stardom.
Casey McGehee: .319/.367/.538 avg/on base/slugging in 182 ABs, .905 OPS, 9 homers, 35 RBI, 15/35 bb/k, 32 runs, 58 hits.
Probably the most consistently productive of the hitting candidates, McGehee has come out of nowhere to grab Milwaukee's starting third baseman gig. Still, his minor league numbers don't suggest that he's really a .905 OPS everyday major leaguer, and he figures to suffer some serious regression in his batting average and slugging. If Milwaukee jumps back in the race, he could start getting some serious buzz, but right now he seems to be a darkhorse.
Colby Rasmus: .252/.307/.426 avg/on base/slugging in 310 ABs, .732 OPS, 11 homers, 35 RBI, 22/60 bb/k, 47 runs, 78 hits.
A hot string of games made him seem poised to break out in the second half, but he has been slow to get on track since the All Star Break. Scouts love his tools, and he has been a hot prospect since he was drafted, but the numbers (especially the low on base percentage) don't really jump out at you yet. Still, if the Cards go on a hot streak, he'll have the national spotlight and could seize it.
Dexter Fowler: .254/.357/.389 avg/on base/slugging in 319 ABs, .746 OPS, 4 homers, 28 RBI, 24 steals, 53/89 bb/k, 81 hits, 47 runs.
Decent numbers across the board but no one stat, aside from steals, really stands out. Since he's now platooning in CF as Colorado tries to stay in the thick of the Wild Card race, his prognosis is mixed. Without a hot run of a games lifting his counting stats, he doesn't seem likely to jump to the top of the ROY fray.
Garrett Jones: .311/ .371/ .689 avg/on base/slugging in 106 ABs, .905 OPS, 10 homers, 17 RBI, 5 steals, 10/18 bb/k, 16 runs, 33 hits.
Talk about an out of nowhere candidate, there is no more unlikely candidate in the discussion that Garrett Jones. Still, he is already second among rookies with 10 homers and has gotten attention with his hot start, with as many people cheering his underdog story as are expecting him to fall flat on his face over his next 100 ABs. His case has been covered to death here, but if he runs off another 100 ABs like his first 100, he's definitely going be in the discussion for ROY, as strange as that sounds.
Andrew McCutchen: .292/.347/.484 avg/on base/slugging in 219 ABs, .831 OPS, 6 homers, 31 RBI, 9 steals, 17/43 bb/k, 37 runs, 64 hits.
That leaves us with Cutch. No doubt, his argument is largely based on his ability to both maintain his component numbers and increase his counting stats, and who knows if he'll be able to make the adjustments to scouting reports as pitchers start exploiting his flaws and inexperience. Whatever the case, he's already fourth in runs, fifth in hits, fourth in doubles, second in triples, fourth in RBI, and third in steals, and he's gaining quickly on those ahead of him. He's probably not going to have any more three homer, six RBI explosions, but he now has the nation's baseball writer's attention. It's up to him to keep it.
So what do you think? Can Cutch make 2009 something other than another rebuilding year?