A Look at One Writer’s American League Rookie of the Year Ballot by David Laurila November 10, 2020 I had the honor of voting for this year’s American League Rookie of the Year award, and the biggest challenge was — not unpredictably — how to weigh performances over a 60-game season. Adding a layer of difficulty was the fact that some of the best numbers were put up by players who weren’t with their team for the duration of the campaign. Willi Castro and Ryan Mountcastle excelled with the bat — especially Castro — but each had only 140 plate appearances. Sean Murphy, who augmented his solid offense with strong defense behind the plate, had exactly that same number. Are 140 plate appearances enough in a truncated campaign? Following a fair bit of deliberation, I decided that they aren’t. As a result, all three players fell off my consideration list. And then there were the pitchers. Not a single rookie in the junior circuit threw as many as 65 innings, and the most dominant of the bunch totaled just 27 frames. This made for an especially difficult dilemma. Would it be reasonable to give one of my three votes to a lights-out pitcher whose relative workload was akin to that of the position players I’d chosen to discount? Moreover, had any of the higher-innings hurlers done enough to preclude me from making what amounts to a contradictory choice? We’ll get to that in a moment. Given that Kyle Lewis garnered all 30 first-place votes, and that Luis Robert garnered nearly all of the 30 second-place votes, it’s obvious what the top of my ballot looked like. The ordering wasn’t a particularly hard decision. While one could reasonably argue that Robert’s defense was as valuable as Lewis’s offense — their respective WAR totals (Lewis 1.7, Robert 1.5) reflect that — the Mariners’ outfielder dwarfed his White Sox counterpart in both wOBA and wRC+. Like my BBWAA brethren, I opted for the better offensive production. That brings us to pitchers, my third-place vote, and the most time-consuming part of the process. Whittling down my initial pitcher list didn’t take terribly long. Among those considered, but ultimately lopped off, were Pete Fairbanks, Matt Foster, Codi Heuer, and Cristian Javier. That left two pitchers to choose between, and to say I dithered on that decision would be an understatement. Truth be told, I probably changed my mind half a dozen times. Justus Sheffield threw the third-most innings among AL rookie pitchers, and he had a 3.17 FIP to go with a 3.58 ERA. (By comparison, Javier had a 4.94 FIP and a 3.48 ERA.) Moreover, the Seattle southpaw’s 1.6 WAR was tops among his rookie-eligible pitching peers. James Karinchak tied for the most appearances (27) among AL rookie pitchers, and his 1.1 WAR was bested only by Sheffield’s total. Most impressively, the Cleveland reliever allowed just 14 hits and fanned an eye-popping 53 batters in 27 innings. I solicited opinions before deciding between the two. I checked in with several FanGraphs colleagues, as well as a handful of highly-respected writers from around the country. The dozen or so recommendations varied, albeit with a clear consensus: Karinchak merited my third-place vote. And when push came to shove, that’s whose name I opted to check. Small sample size or not, Karinchak’s dominance was too hard to ignore. My ballot: 1. Kyle Lewis, 2. Luis Robert, 3. James Karinchak.