Weekly Wroundtable: Who Was Cleveland's Best Rookie?

When the BBWAA released the results of its 2011 AL Rookie of the Year vote last week, a funny thing happened: not a single Cleveland Indians player got a vote. I didn’t expect a Tribe rookie to win, a surprising team whose rise was fueled by young players being completely snubbed seemed a little bit wrong.

That’s why, in this edition of the Weekly Wroundtable, we ask: Who was your Indians Rookie of the Year?

In addition to Ed Carroll and myself, Indians Prospect Insider‘s Andrew Zajac was kind enough to offer his thoughts on who the Tribe’s top gumshoe was. Huge thanks to Andrew for taking the time to contribute!

Andrew Zajac: Jason Kipnis. After playing roughly half season in Columbus where he was named to the All-Star team and the Future’s Game, Kipnis was called up to the big leagues on July 22 with the hopes of providing a spark to an Indians offense that needed it. Kipnis did just that, moving from eighth to second in the batting order quickly and hitting a home run in four consecutive games from July 31 to August 3. During his home run streak, his platoon partner, Orlando Cabrera, was traded to the San Francisco Giants. 

An oblique injury sent Kipnis to the disabled list in mid-August and kept him there for nearly a month. During that time, the Indians began to fade in the American League Central race. However, returning to the lineup for most of September, Kipnis picked up where he left off, continuing to prove he is the second baseman for the Indians for 2012 and beyond.

He finished with a .272 AVG, with 9 2B, 3B, and 7 HR, while driving in 19. He also held a .333 OBP/.507 SLG/.841 OPS. Had he played for a whole season with the Tribe, he very well could have been in the race for American League Rookie of the Year award.

Lewie Pollis: Kipnis was great. It’s amazing how quickly he adjusted to MLB pitching and he’s already one of my favorite players. He’s incredibly fun to watch, and I see him anchoring the middle of the order for a long time. But given his extremely limited playing time this year—it’s not his fault that he was limited to 36 games, but he was—I have to give my vote to Vinnie Pestano.

I’m not sure which of Pestano’s numbers this year is the most eye-popping. His 2.32 ERA was fantastic, but his 2.23 SIERA was amazing, especially considering that DIPS stats tend to be less extreme than ERAs. He notched a 3.5 K/BB ratio and a 1.05 WHIP while holding opposing hitters to a meager .184/.275/.302 triple-slash. The best part, though, was his 12.2 K/9 rate—I couldn’t even do that in a video game.

How he didn’t get any support from the BBWAA is beyond me. Forget about saves—the most arbitrary of statistics—and there’s no real argument to made for Jordan Walden (who got a vote) over Pestano. To me, that fWAR had him as (slightly) more valuable than Rookie of the Year Jeremy Hellickson means he was at least deserving of a bottom-of-the-ballot token vote.

Ed Carroll: The Indians received significant contributions from three rookies in 2011, and while I think the higher-profile rookies (Kipnis and Lonnie Chisenhall) are going to have bigger impacts as major leaguers, Pestano was huge for the club in 2011.

Pestano won a job in the bullpen out of spring training and quickly worked his way to the back of the pen, becoming one of Manny Acta’s go-to guys.  Pestano pitched 62 innings in 68 games and had a 2.67 FIP and a fWAR of 1.5. Oh yeah, Pestano also had an absurd 12.19 K/9 rate.

Other than a rough July (which really exposed the entire Indians’ team, and not just Pestano), Acta didn’t have to worry about adventerous eighth innings with Pestano. Vinnie was able to stay consistent for the whole year, and that’s why he’s my Indians Rookie of the Year.

Who's your Indians Rookie of the Year?

  • Vinnie Pestano (79%, 30 Votes)
  • Jason Kipnis (21%, 8 Votes)
  • Lonnie Chisenhall (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Someone else (0%, 0 Votes)

Total Voters: 38

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Tags: Jason Kipnis Vinnie Pestano

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