Monday, November 13, 2006

Verlander Wins Rookie of Year

Justin Verlander won the American League Rookie of the Year award today in a landslide vote. Verlander received 26 of 28 first place votes as he outpaced a strong rookie crop which included Jonathan Papelbon, Francisco Liriano, Kenji Johjima, Jered Weaver, Nick Markakis and Ian Kinsler. It was such an outstanding group of rookies this year that Tiger teammate Joel Zumaya failed to get even a third place vote. Verlander was the first Tiger to win the award since Lou Whitaker in 1978.

Verlander led the team and finished 7th in the league with a 3.63 ERA in 186 innings pitched. He was the first American League starting pitcher to win the award since Dave Righetti in 1981 which says something about how rare it is for a rookie pitcher to break out so quickly at the Major League level. The last Tiger pitcher to win the award was Mark Fidrych in 1976. Verlander did not have anywhere near the impact on the baseball world that "The Bird" had but he was very instrumental in the Tigers winning their first pennant since 1984.

Verlander and Zumaya combined to be one of the best rookie pitching duos in recent history. The last time the Tigers had two rookies have so much success at about the same time was in 1976-1977 when Fidrych and Dave Rozema had back to back outstanding seasons. Rozema lost out in the Rookie of the Year race to Eddie Murray but was the league's best rookie pitcher that year.

A comparison of Tiger rookie pitchers is shown in Table 1 below. Note that ERA+ represents the ERA adjusted for league average and ballpark. For example, Verlander had a 125 ERA+ which means that he was 25% above league average. Based on this statistics, Verlander did not fare quite as well as Fidrych and Rozema in his first season. Hopefully he'll last longer than those two.

Table 1: Comparison of Tiger Rookie Pitchers

Pitcher

Year

IP

W-L

SO

BB

ERA

ERA+

Verlander

2006

186

17-9

124

60

3.63

125

Zumaya

2006

83.1

6-3

97

42

1.94

232

Rozema

1977

218.3

15-7

92

34

3.09

140

Fidrych

1976

250.1

19-9

97

53

2.34

158

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