Rookies settling in atop baseball’s leaderboards
The American League’s home run leader is a rookie. Same in the National League.
The AL batting race? A rookie is in front there, too.
Aaron Judge, Cody Bellinger and Ben Gamel have made quite an impression already during the first half of this 2017 season, with Judge and Bellinger slugging their way to stardom for the Yankees and Dodgers. Gamel, who played briefly for the Yankees last year before being traded, has settled in nicely in Seattle.
Judge and Bellinger are the two home run leaders, and Judge is also second in the AL batting race — nine points behind Gamel. If they keep this up, it should be another banner year for baseball’s top rookies.
Entering Sunday, Judge and Bellinger had already combined for 7.0 wins above replacement, according to Baseball-Reference.com. And Bellinger wasn’t even the leader in WAR among NL rookies — he was behind Colorado left-hander Kyle Freeland.
It looks increasingly likely that the two Rookie of the Year winners will combine for over 10.0 WAR, which is a reasonably rare occurrence. Here are other years when it’s happened. (WAR totals from Baseball-Reference.com in parentheses.)
1964: Tony Oliva (6.8) and Dick Allen (8.8). Oliva and Allen each led his league in total bases, while Oliva also took the first of two straight AL batting titles.
1968: Stan Bahnsen (5.9) and Johnny Bench (5.0). Bench needs no introduction, but Bahnsen had a fine year, too, winning 17 games with a 2.05 ERA for the Yankees.
1972: Carlton Fisk (7.3) and Jon Matlack (6.1). Fisk hit .293 with 22 homers and 61 RBIs to become an immediate standout in Boston.
1975: Fred Lynn (7.4) and John Montefusco (6.4). Lynn pulled off a rare sweep by winning AL MVP honors in addition to Rookie of the Year. He hit .331 with 21 homers and a league-leading .967 OPS.
1976: Mark Fidrych (9.6) and Pat Zachry (3.5). Who could forget “The Bird” and his 19-win debut for Detroit? Fidrych was a clear choice in the AL, but the NL vote was actually a tie between Zachry and Butch Metzger (1.5 WAR).
1984: Alvin Davis (5.9) and Dwight Gooden (5.7). Gooden’s 276 strikeouts were a sign of things to come in New York, while Davis hit .284 with 27 homers and 116 RBIs for the Mariners.
1993: Tim Salmon (5.2) and Mike Piazza (7.0). A Los Angeles-area sweep, with Piazza hitting 35 homers for the Dodgers, while Salmon hit 31 for the Angels.
1997: Nomar Garciaparra (6.6) and Scott Rolen (4.5). Garciaparra led the AL with 209 hits. Like Salmon and Piazza in ’93, both Garciaparra and Rolen were unanimous Rookie of the Year choices.
2001: Ichiro Suzuki (7.7) and Albert Pujols (6.6). Suzuki won MVP honors for the 116-win Mariners. Pujols hit .329 with 37 homers and 130 RBIs — but with Barry Bonds around, he’d have to wait a few years for his own MVPs.
2012: Mike Trout (10.8) and Bryce Harper (5.1). Trout’s season was so stupendous — it took a Triple Crown-winning Miguel Cabrera to deny him the MVP — that it overshadowed Harper’s 22 home runs at age 19.
2015: Carlos Correa (4.1) and Kris Bryant (5.9). Correa narrowly beat out Francisco Lindor in the AL vote.
2016: Michael Fulmer (4.9) and Corey Seager (6.1). Seager was a unanimous choice in the NL, and he finished third in the MVP vote.
Here are a few other developments from around baseball:
The Washington Nationals stole seven bases in a 6-1 victory over the Chicago Cubs on Tuesday night. Cubs catcher Miguel Montero blamed Jake Arrieta’s slow delivery for the steals, and Montero was later cut by Chicago.
The seven steals tied a franchise record for the Nationals, including their time in Montreal. By way of comparison, Washington’s regional rivals, the Baltimore Orioles, have 16 stolen bases all year.
Comerica Park’s spacious center field was home to two tremendous defensive plays this past week. Detroit’s Mikie Mahtook ran down a drive by Kansas City’s Salvador Perez on Tuesday, making a leaping catch against the wall in right-center. But on Saturday, Mahtook was on the other end of a defensive gem, when Cleveland’s Bradley Zimmer made a diving catch in left-center to take a hit away from him.
LINE OF THE WEEK
Mookie Betts, Boston, homered twice and drove in eight runs in a 15-1 win over Toronto on Sunday.
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