Monday, November 13, 2006

Ramirez and Verlander named American and National League Rookies of the Year.

Major League Baseball handed out some more post-season hardware today as the Rookies of the Year in the American and National Leagues were announced. Yahoo News AP wire excerpt:

NEW YORK - Hanley Ramirez of the Florida Marlins won a tight race for NL Rookie of the Year, and Detroit Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander took home the AL award Monday.

Ramirez beat out Washington Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman by four points in balloting by the Baseball Writers' Association of America — the closest NL vote since the current format was adopted 26 years ago. The speedy shortstop got 14 of 30 first-place votes and finished with 105 points. Zimmerman received 10 first-place votes and totaled 101 points. Three of the top four NL finishers were Marlins. Second baseman Dan Uggla came in third, getting the other six first-place votes, and pitcher Josh Johnson was fourth.

Verlander easily won the AL honor after his closest competitors in a race dominated by pitchers were sidelined late in the season because of injuries. The hard-throwing right-hander, who helped the surprising Tigers reach the World Series, was listed first on 26 of 28 ballots for a total of 133 points. Boston closer Jonathan Papelbon came in second with 63 points, and Minnesota lefty Francisco Liriano finished third.

The 23-year-old Verlander, who went 17-9 with a 3.63 ERA, became the first starting pitcher to win AL Rookie of the Year since Dave Righetti of the New York Yankees in 1981. The last Tigers player to receive the honor was second baseman Lou Whitaker in 1978.

Ramirez gave the Marlins their second Rookie of the Year in four years, joining ace pitcher Dontrelle Willis
(who won the ward in 2003). The 22-year-old Ramirez, acquired from Boston last November in a deal for Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell, batted .292 with 17 homers, 59 RBIs, 119 runs and 51 stolen bases. Ramirez also hit 46 doubles and 11 triples.

Voters select their top three choices and points are tabulated on a 5-3-1 basis. Before 1980, writers voted for just one rookie.

Zimmerman, who actually appeared on more ballots than Ramirez (29-27), hit .287 with 20 homers, 110 RBIs and 47 doubles. He also played strong defense at third base.

Six Marlins received votes, the most for one team on a rookie ballot. Pitchers Scott Olsen and Anibal Sanchez were also mentioned, along with outfielder Josh Willingham.

I'm good with these choices. If Papelbon and Liriano had stayed healthy and effective, the vote may have turned out differently, but they didn't, and Verlander had a terrific season. Even though Verlander faltered badly with fielding problems in the World Series, he's a fireballer who can reach 99 MPH at times. Given the way Tigers manager Jim Leyland handled him in 2006, and how he will likely continue to handle him going forward, there is no reason that Verlander cannot continue to improve and become a truly dominant starter.

As the excerpt indicated, the NL choice was a much tougher one, as revealed by the numbers. Ramirez is yet another Red Sox farmhand who was traded away. It appears that the "can't miss" tag observers pinned on him was accurate. Ramirez was part of the aforementioned deal that sent pitcher Josh Beckett and third baseman Mike Lowell to the Sox. It looks like he'll become a terrific player, and the fact that he is no longer a Red Sox may actually help him develop, since the Sox aren't known for daring baserunning, which is definitely part of Ramirez's game.

Congratulations guys!

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