When the Cardinals and Reds get together for a pleasant (ahem) weekend of hardball in Cincinnati, there will be a competition within the competition.
National League Rookie of the Year.
Dylan Carlson for your St. Louis Cardinals.
Jonathan India for their Cincinnati Reds.
Thing is, I don’t think India or Carlson are the frontrunners at this point. But they’re in contention.
If Miami starting pitcher Trevor Rogers maintains his outstanding performance, he’ll likely be the heavy favorite to win the award. Among qualifying NL starters Rogers is third with 3.2 WAR (FanGraphs version). His ERA (2.37) is fourth best among qualifying starters. His fielding independent earned run average (2.55) ranks second. And he’s seventh in the league with an average of 10.6 strikeouts per nine innings.
That’s a mighty strong resume for a Rookie of the Year candidacy. If you’re objective, you can understand why Rogers would have the advantage over position players such as India, Carlson, Miami middle-infielder Jazz Chisholm, Pittsburgh third baseman Ke’Bryan Hayes, and Chicago third baseman Patrick Wisdom. Others could barge into contention including Cincinnati’s Tyler Stephenson.
But Rogers clearly is the one to catch.
What about India vs. Carlson and other position-player hopefuls?
Let’s look at a few categories, with all stats through Thursday’s game ….
Wins Above Replacement (WAR)
Adjusted Runs Created (wRC+)
(100 is league average.)
OPS (onbase pct. + slugging)
This is the sum of a player’s performance in runs created, defensive runs saved and baserunning — with a positional adjustment included. And playing time is a factor because it impacts the metrics for runs created and defensive runs saved. More is better. And pitchers can be accounted for through pitching runs created, defense and whatever offense they provide. So Rogers is on the leaderboard here.
Carlson, 62 total runs
Carlson’s defense in center field (minus four defensive runs saved) and right field (minus one) isn’t helpful to his cause. India, however, is a minus four defensively in runs saved at second base. For both players their defensive metrics could improve, and change the look here.
Carlson is the best base runner in this group according to the baserunning runs metric. And Carlson has a good lead over India in the net baserunning gain as calculated by Bill James. Carlson is a plus five; India a minus four.
As for offensive runs created, Carlson’s extensive playing time is definitely a factor in padding his total. And he deserves credit for playing virtually every game and compiling 402 plate appearances so far.
Example: because runs created are basically a counting stat, this gives Carlson an edge over Ke’Bryan Hayes who missed considerable time with a wrist injury.
Here’s the rookie leaderboard for offensive runs created:
India has a better hitting slash line — average, OBP, slug — than Carlson.
India has also been a terrific leadoff hitter for the potent Reds lineup. In 184 plate appearances in the top spot he’s batting .292 with a huge .443 onbase percentage and .444 slug. That’s a .887 OPS.
In 100 plate appearances at leadoff Carlson is hitting .242 with a .750 OPS. And compared to India, Carlson’s leadoff OBP (.310) is much lower. And that OBP is the obvious difference between them, at least so far, as leadoff men.
I’ve tried to give you the pertinent information.
If voters are paying attention, Rogers would be No. 1 on the ballot right now — but he’ll have to hold up.
In St. Louis, media people will push for Carlson. There’s been a lot of media cheerleading for Carlson. This not only overstates his case and falsely builds up expectations — but the homerism overlooks India.
In Cincinnati, media folks will push India. And that’s legit. But if my friends in the Cincinnati market are pushing Carlson off to the side and pretending he isn’t a strong candidate, then they’re being just as silly as STL media that trumpet for Carlson while dismissing other bonafide contenders.
Carlson and India have plenty of time to build up their profiles. I wouldn’t rule out a late charge by the immensely talented Ke’Bryan Hayes.
At this point — subject to change — my top three would be (1) Rogers (2) India (3) Carlson.
Thanks for reading and have a fantastic weekend!
Check out Bernie’s sports-talk show on 590-AM The Fan, KFNS. It airs Monday through Thursday from 3-6 p.m. and Friday from 4-6 p.m. You can listen live online and download the Bernie Show podcast at 590thefan.com … the 590 app works great and is available in your preferred app store.
The weekly “Seeing Red” podcast with Bernie and Will Leitch is available at 590thefan.com …
Follow Bernie on Twitter @miklasz
* All stats used here are sourced from FanGraphs, Baseball Reference/Stathead, Bill James Online, Baseball Savant and Brooks Baseball Net unless otherwise noted.
For the last 35 years Bernie Miklasz has entertained, enlightened, and connected with generations of St. Louis sports fans.
While best known for his voice as the lead sports columnist at the Post-Dispatch for 26 years, Bernie has also written for The Athletic, Dallas Morning News and Baltimore News American. Bernie has hosted radio shows in St. Louis, Dallas, Baltimore and Washington D.C.
Bernie, his wife Kirsten and their cats reside in the Skinker-DeBaliviere neighborhood of St. Louis.