Monday, September 21, 2015

Why Francisco Lindor should win AL Rookie of the Year

When you hear someone say American League or AL Rookie of the Year admit it the first name that you think of is Houston Astros’ star shortstop Carlos Correa.  But there is another candidate who has been sneaky good and could take home the award.  That candidate is also a shortstop, but this one hails about 1,300 miles north in the The Rock and Roll Capital of the World.  Francisco Lindor, the shortstop for the Cleveland Indians is only 21, already one of the best shortstops in baseball and is the AL Rookie of the Year candidate that has my vote even if many have already handed the award to Correa.

Lindor was called up on June 14, 2015 and has since played 86 games posting a Wins Above Replacement of 3.8, while Correa was called up on June 8, 2015 and has since played 87 games posting a Wins Above Replacement of 2.7.  If you look at some other offensive metrics however they are neck and neck, such as they both have a wOBA of .357.  Then if you look at weighted runs created plus (wRC+) Lindor sits at 128, while Correa sits at 127.  So while they are both well above league average (28% and 27% respectively) only one of them can win the award.  As you can see they are pretty equal in terms of overall offensive, with Correa maybe having the slight advantage being a power hitting shortstop (18 HRs vs. Lindor’s 10 HR).  But defense is where Lindor takes home the award.

Too often people see web gems that players make and automatically think that a guy must be a good defensive player.  When in actuality there is no correlation between the two and Carlos Correa is a prime example of this (at least in 2015).  For example, he has made some of the best plays in baseball this year (as you can see below) but if you look at the metrics he is a well below average defensive shortstop (once again at least in 2015) while Lindor is in that top tier.  

The Cleveland Indians’ shortstops not named Francisco Lindor have a combined to cost the Indians 1 run, while Lindor has saved 7 on his own, which is good enough to rank fifth among all MLB shortstops, while Correa’s -2 would be tied for 14th.  Another advanced defensive metric Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR) also shows just how good Lindor is at fielding his position.  Through 751.1 defensive innings he has a UZR of 6.7 which ranks 7th in all of baseball.  And if you adjust it per 150 defensive games he has a UZR/150 of 15.1 which ranks 5th in all of baseball.  Compare this to Correa who has a UZR of -4.1 which ranks 17th and a UZR/150 of -10.9 which ranks 23rd, right ahead of Marcus Semien of the Oakland Athletics who you will never hear anyone call a good defensive player.  Overall defensive value ranks Lindor (10.5) first on the Indians, 8th among MLB shortstops and 17th among all MLB players.  While it ranks Correa (-0.2) 28th on the Astros, 21st among MLB shortstops and 83rd among all MLB players.  But my absolute favorite Lindor statistic is his inside edge fielding, where he has fielded 83.3% of the plays ruled unlikely (10-40% chance of being fielded), 77.8% of the plays ruled even (40-60% chance of being fielded), 100.0% of the plays ruled likely (60-90% chance of being fielded) and 96.0% of the plays ruled routine (90-100% chance of being fielded).  While there is a 433 defensive innings difference between Lindor and the consensus best defensive shortstop in all of baseball, Andrelton Simmons, Lindor’s percentages are not only better but they blow Simmons away in fact (unlikely: 30.0%, even: 33.3%, likely: 83.3%, routine: 99.5%).  There is one exception to this and that is plays ruled remote (1-10% chance of being fielded) where Lindor has not made any of these, Simmons has made 6.7% of them in 2015.  Then compare this to Correa who has fielded 60% of the unlikely plays, 60% of the even plays, 81.8% of the likely plays and 96.6% of the routine plays, in about the same number of defensive innings.

Carlos Correa has the talent to be the top shortstop in Major League Baseball and one of the elite players in baseball and in a few years most likely will be.  But for the moment Francisco Lindor is the all around better player and the top rookie in the American League and it is for that reason that he should win American League Rookie of the Year in 2015.

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