The Toronto Blue Jays have an exciting young starter in Alek Manoah and he’s been incredible. But, may not be Rookie of the Year
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The Toronto Blue Jays have themselves a rather nice young starting pitcher in Alek Manoah. The 23 year old was drafted 11th overall in 2019 and has not looked back. He has impressed since being called up on May 27 of this season. His presence has certainly helped the rotation, both for this season and those to come. His performance has led some to suggest he could/should/would get some attention for AL Rookie of the Year. But, the odds are stacked against him.
Manoah has made 13 starts and pitched to a 3.18 ERA. He’s collected a K% of 27.4% to pair with a walk rate of 8.8%. Thanks to his fastball/sinker/slider combo, he is enjoying success. Of his 78 strike outs (in 68 innings), 29 have come off his fastball, 15 off his sinker and 31 off his slider, according to Baseball Savant. We could dive further into his performance, but the following screenshot from Baseball Savant demonstrates rather nicely just how good he’s been.
Look at all that red! In case you are wondering, his numbers are in line with what would be expected from him. Sometimes players perform higher (or lower) than their expected stats, but for Manoah, his ERA is 3.18 and his xERA is 3.54. His FIP is 4.05 and his xFIP is 4.10. So, we can reasonably assume he is for real. If you doubt his stuff, you can’t doubt his competitive edge, which makes him that much more a force moving forward as he continues to improve.
It’s easy to see why some home town fans are ready to anoint him the 2021 AL Rookie of the Year. However, it isn’t quote that easy. There are a number of others who will get
more some consideration.
The Rookie of the Year Award is not based on whether the player’s team makes the playoffs, which is kinda sorta one of the unwritten requirements for other awards like the MVP. So, the field can be wide open from year to year. And, this year there may be a couple candidates that surprise you.
Over at Fangraphs, Sara Sanchez has a look at the field and, more to the point, who the likely finalists are. Obviously, the season isn’t over yet, but it is fun to think about these sort of things. Sanchez has TB’s Randy Arozarena leading the pack with Houston’s Luis Garcia next and Adolis Garcia rounding out the top 3. Texas’ Dane Dunning and TB’ Shane McClanahan are tied with Garcia. Sanchez is using straight WAR values to create this list and whether voters weigh this, or how heavily they do, is anyone’s guess. More and more folks are looking past the traditional numbers, so it is a fair way to go for the purposes of this conversation.
At this time, the criteria for the award should be noted (via the Sanchez piece): “Rookie of the Year honors can go to any player as long as they were the most outstanding rookie in the American or National League. Aside from some debates about what qualifies as a rookie — fewer than 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched or fewer than 45 days on the active roster (excluding time on the Injured List and/or roster expansion in September) — that is about as straightforward as it gets for MLB”
Arozarena is in his third year and still retains his rookie status. He is one of the more exciting players in baseball and really made a name for himself during the 2020 playoffs. He currently has an fWAR value of 2.6 and is projected to finish with 3.3 fWAR. Adolis Garcia is the other hitter in the top 5 and has cooled off from his extremely hot start to this season. That said, he’s projected to finish with 2.3 fWAR (tied with Dunning and McClanahan). Luis Garcia is projected to see 2.8 fWAR.
Currently, Manoah, the youngest of this group, has 0.8 fWAR (remember, he didn’t come up until the end of May). He’s had 13 starts and will likely see ~5 more, so if writers are looking at WAR, he will likely find himself with not enough time to make up the difference. For the fun of it, I put him side by side with the other three pitchers:
Manoah: 5-2, 3.18 ERA, 68 IP, 27.4% K%, 8.8% BB%
Luis Garcia: 9-6, 3.39 ERA, 116.2 IP, 28.9% K%, 7.7% BB%
Dane Dunning: 5-8, 4.31 ERA, 104.1 IP, 21.9% K%, 8% BB%
McClanahan: 8-4, 3.63 ERA, 94.1 IP, 28.5% K%, 7.8% BB%
No, I don’t like picking cherries. Why do you ask?
At the end of the day, this whole conversation is not all that important in the grand scheme of things. I’m sure it would be to many fans and to Manoah himself and his family. But, to the fortunes of the Toronto Blue Jays, the result won’t change things one way or another. However, the real takeaway, here is that Alek Manoah is right there among other rookies. He stacks up well against the others and, with some more time, could move even higher up the list. But, he doesn’t. And, that’s just fine. We will be watching Alek Manoah pitch for the Blue Jays for quite a few years, which is far more important. And, besides…we still have the MVP race, right?
*Featured Image Courtesy Of DaveMe Images. Prints Available For Purchase.
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Shaun Doyle is a long time Blue Jays fan and writer! He decided to put those things together and create Jays From the Couch. Shaun is the host of Jays From the Couch Radio, which is highly ranked in iTunes, and he has appeared on TV and radio spots.