What Constitutes a Rookie?

As we are all aware, Evan Longoria and Geovany Soto took home Rookie of the Year hardware for the 2008 season. They were both incredibly deserving, as Longoria produced an .874 OPS and 1.71 WPA/LI in just 122 games, while adding plus defense at third base. Soto posted an OPS of .868 and a 1.36 WPA/LI as the Cubs backstop. There were several other players who may have won the award in another season, such as Mike Aviles, Hiroki Kuroda, and Joey Votto, but one player that does not fit this bill is Edinson Volquez.

Now, before you jump on my back for saying Volquez deserved no part of the Rookie of the Year award, let me explain myself! It has nothing to do with his statistics: a 3.21 ERA, 9.46 K/9, and 1.67 WPA/LI definitely deserves plenty of recognition. It’s just that, well, Edinson Volquez… is… not… a… rookie.

Yep, that’s correct, he is not a rookie, and yet he managed to receive three second-place votes in this year’s balloting, finishing fourth on the National League ballot. The overall qualifying rules for determining a rookie are not that tough, either, as in no prior season or seasons, can a player accrue more than 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched. In 2005, Volquez logged 12.2 innings. He added another 33.1 in 2006, and an additional 34 in 2007, giving him exactly 80 innings pitched entering this season. Had he produced this year’s numbers last season he would have qualified, but he was 30 innings over the qualifying total entering 2008, and yet this error still managed to happen.

Now, I’m not going to say newspaper writers or those voting are idiots, or anything like that, or add in any hot-shot about their evaluation techniques, but I will say this: I took part in three different season-long polls during which multiple bloggers voted on the Rookie of the Year, Cy Young Award, and MVP each and every week, and we knew from the get-go that Volquez was not a rookie. If we—bloggers in our mothers basement—knew this guy was not a rookie, how is it that Edinson managed to finish in fourth place on the official ballot?

I guess from now on, Major League Baseball needs to clarify with the award-voters that just because you have not heard of someone, it does not automatically make them a rookie. Now I’m waiting for a story to surface that Carlos Quentin and his 395 pre-2008 at-bats finished in third place in the junior circuit. This may be an easy mistake, and ultimately it did not affect the overall finish in the National League, but many fans take these awards very seriously, and if those voting are not even going to follow the rules or do a little bit of research, their voting privileges should be revoked.

Eric is an accountant and statistical analyst from Philadelphia. He also covers the Phillies at Phillies Nation and can be found here on Twitter.

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