There’s been a lot of commotion surrounding the AL MVP race, but the closest award race coming down the stretch is undoubtedly for NL Rookie of the Year. Both candidates are from the Braves, and both have been incredible stories that have helped their team turn things around after a sluggish start. So who should win the award if it were decided today?
Tale of the tape
If this were strictly a pitching award, Strider would run away with it. He’s been far and away the best rookie pitcher, and frankly, he’s been one of the best starting pitchers in all of baseball. Because he began the year in the bullpen, he doesn’t even have enough innings to qualify for FanGraphs WAR leaderboard. However, if he did, he would be ranked sixth in MLB, just behind Sandy Alcantara, who everyone believes should be the NL Cy Young.
Think about that for a second. Strider has thrown 70 fewer innings than Alcantara this season and is behind him by just 0.1 WAR. There’s a good chance that by the end of the season, Strider has more fWAR than Alcantara, and Strider didn’t even begin starting until almost June. He is striking out nearly 40% of all batters he’s faced and has a walk rate of 8.5%. His FIP of 1.82 would be the lowest of all qualified pitchers, well ahead of Kevin Gausman, who sits at 2.17. Strider isn’t just producing at a Rookie of the Year level; he would likely be the NL Cy Young had he begun the season as a starter.
Not to be outdone, I would argue Michael Harris has been even more valuable to the Braves than Strider this season. The moment he was called up, this team flipped a switch, and without him, Atlanta’s outfield would be in shambles. Harris has a case to win the Gold Glove this season, but his offense has been equally as spectacular. He’s hitting .310 with 15 homers over 90 games. He’s also swiped 16 bags and has only been caught once. Harris is a true 30/30 threat with elite defense, and any other year, he would run away with the NL Rookie of the Year award.
So, who should it be?
Right now, I have to give the award to Strider by a razor-thin margin, and there’s enough time left in the season for things to change. However, Strider is performing like a Cy Young as a rookie. He’s continuously shattering records every time he toes the rubber. We’ve seen rookies perform like Michael Harris in the past, but we haven’t seen rookies do what Strider is doing. That is what I believe will be the difference come time to vote for the NL Rookie of the Year.
Photographer: Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire