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Posted January 4, 2014 by Ryan Walton in American League
 
 

Rookie Of The Year Awards That Almost Didn’t Happen

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Mike Trout

As the baseball award season came and went for 2013, I started looking at statistics of previous winners of the Rookie of the Year award. However, the year that interested me the most was the year before they won the award. With it being possible in Major League Baseball to play in a season without losing the “rookie” status it occurred to me that there must be years in which a winner came close to losing eligibility for the award in the year before they won it. After looking through the list of past winners I narrowed a list to the top five Rookie of the Year award winners that almost didn’t happen.

Mike Trout -2012

Everyone knows the story over the last two years that Trout has finished second to Miguel Cabrera in the MVP voting in each year. Trout’s rookie season, which won him the award, is one of the best rookie seasons in the history of the game. That could have been different if Trout had eight more at-bats the previous year.

In 2011 the Los Angeles Angels called up their prized prospect just two years removed from high school. In 123 at-bats Trout only hit .220/.281/.390 compared to his .326/.399/.564 in 2012. If Trout had eight more at-bats necessary to be in consideration for the award, Jeremy Hellickson of the Tampa Bay Rays would have still won the award. That would likely mean that Yoenis Cespedes would have won the 2012 award.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
2011 LAA 40 135 123 20 27 6 0 5 16 4 0 9 30 .220 .281 .390 .672
2012 LAA 139 639 559 129 182 27 8 30 83 49 5 67 139 .326 .399 .564 .963
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 1/4/2014.

Scott Rolen – 1997

Scott Rolen stopped one shy of the requirements as he had 130 at-bats in 1996. With the extra at-bat Rolen would have been just another rookie and the award for 1997 would have gone to one of a group of players without a large number of votes. After Rolen’s 140 points in the voting (All first place votes), there was Livan Hernandez (25 points), Matt Morris (25 points), Rich Loiselle (22 points), and Andruw Jones (15 points).

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+
1996 PHI 37 146 130 10 33 7 0 4 18 0 2 13 27 .254 .322 .400 .722 90
1997 PHI 156 657 561 93 159 35 3 21 92 16 6 76 138 .283 .377 .469 .846 121
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 1/4/2014.

Johnny Bench – 1968

In 1967 Bench finished five at-bats shy of being a rookie and was nothing to worry about at the plate with a .163 batting average. If Bench had qualified, the 1968 award would be in the hands of Jerry Koosman of the New York Mets. Koosman would have been a back-to-back winner for the Mets with Tom Seaver winning in 1967.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1967 CIN 26 93 86 7 14 3 1 1 6 0 1 5 19 .163 .207 .256 .462
1968 CIN 154 607 564 67 155 40 2 15 82 1 5 31 96 .275 .311 .433 .743
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 1/4/2014.

Jon Matlack – 1972

Another good young pitcher for the Mets in the late 60’s and early 70’s, Matlack finished a couple starts shy of being considered a rookie. The 50-inning limit might have been exceeded taking Matlack out of consideration from 1972’s award. In this case the award would have either gone to Dave Rader of the San Francisco Giants (four first place votes) or John Milner of the Mets (one first place vote). Milner might have received more votes than Rader based on numbers.

Year Tm W L ERA G GS CG SHO IP H R ER HR BB SO ERA+ WHIP
1971 NYM 0 3 4.14 7 6 0 0 37.0 31 18 17 2 15 24 83 1.243
1972 NYM 15 10 2.32 34 32 8 4 244.0 215 79 63 14 71 169 145 1.172
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 1/4/2014.

John Montefusco – 1975

In 1975 Montefusco beat out Gary Carter for the Rookie of the Year honors. Much like Matlack, the award would be different if Montefusco had a couple more starts (11 more innings) in 1974.

Year Tm W L ERA G GS CG SHO IP H R ER HR BB SO ERA+ WHIP
1974 SFG 3 2 4.81 7 5 1 1 39.1 41 22 21 3 19 34 80 1.525
1975 SFG 15 9 2.88 35 34 10 4 243.2 210 85 78 11 86 215 133 1.215
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 1/4/2014.
There were three other seasons that warranted mention: Jason Jennings (2002 NL ROY), Todd Hollandsworth (1996 NL ROY), and Steve Sax (1982 NL ROY)

Ryan Walton

 
Ryan Walton
Ryan Walton is a writer who lives in Southern California. You can follow Ryan on Twitter @RyanWaltonVBN