Picking a favorite for the Rookie of the Year Award is always complicated when the two best candidates are a pitcher and a position player. The two candidates that rise above all other National League rookies are Wade Miley of the Diamondbacks and that Harper kid from the Nationals that you may have heard about. Harper, of course, has gotten all the attention and his every move is documented. And rightly so. He just turned nineteen and has all the tools and desire to be a star in the league for years to come. Plus, his team has made the playoffs after a 31 year absence. All of those things make Harper attractive and he has to be the favorite with sports writers due to familiarity and...well...hubris. But there is a stronger candidate from this observation post who has not been the toast of the town and his team is not in the playoffs--Wade Miley.
Again, it's a bit difficult to pick between apples and oranges. WAR tries to bridge that argument. But though it is a good starting point, WAR is not the total answer. Here is how the sites rate the two players in WAR:
- Baseball-reference.com: Miley - 3.5, Harper - 4.5
- Fangraphs.com: Miley - 4.5 , Harper - 4.6
- Baseball Prospectus: Miley - 2.6 ,Harper - 3.9
If you go simply by WAR, it would appear to be Harper as he averages over the three sites at 4.33 compared to Miley's 3.2 average. But again. WAR is just a starting point. All the sites build a position player's fielding into their equation and nobody can agree on the best system for measuring fielding and nobody is real happy with what we currently have. A full 1.2 wins for fielding are part of Fangraphs' valuation, for example.
WPA is another item we can look at. Win Probability Added measures how much a player's efforts added to or took away from a team's effort to win ballgames during the course of the season. Harper has the edge here again as his WPA on B-R is 1.6 and at Fangraphs is 2.12. Miley's WPA are 1.22 on B-R and 1.20 on Fangraphs.
Yeah, it looks like a case is being built for Harper. But there is more. Let's compare Harper's OPS+ to Miley's ERA+. Harper's OPS+ is 115 compared to Miley's 128. In other words, compared to league average (use 100 as a round number), Harper is 15 points above all league average batters whereas Miley is 28 points above league average pitchers.
There is also their relative rank to the leaderboard. Harper (according to Fangraphs) is the 29th best position player in baseball this season. Miley is the 13th best pitcher. Miley is also eighth among all starters in home runs per nine innings allowed despite pitching half his games in Arizona where the ball flies. Miley is also eighth in walks allowed per nine innings, which for a rookie, is amazing. On the other hand, Harper is not among the top ten in any of the major offensive categories.
Miley pitches in one of the worst parks for pitchers in baseball. Even so, his OPS against is better at home than it is on the road. He led the Diamondbacks' starters in ERA, WHIP, BB/9 and SO/BB ratio. Harper led his team in runs scored. That's it.
Don't get the post wrong. Harper is an exciting young player who is going to provide his team value for years to come. But to choose one rookie that stood out in terms of team performance, home ballparks, and overall comparison with the league's players, Wade Miley has had a more impressive rookie season.