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The Race for the NL Rookie of the Year

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The race is on. Normally, were it a foot race, Billy Hamilton would smoke the competition, much in the same way he has likely done ever since he was old enough to balance himself up on two feet. This is a race that Billy cannot run away with, no matter how hard he tries. This is Hamilton vs. Jacob deGrom, and the voters will decide.

At the All-Star break just two months ago, Hamilton was in a class all by himself. He was setting baseball ablaze with his speed and defense, and was even surprising some people with his power and ability to bunt. It was not wrong to assume that Hamilton would take the vote for Rookie of the Year in a landslide.

Of course, Mets starting pitcher Jacob deGrom would have something to say about all this. Just prior to the All-Star break, deGrom had to win his final two starts just to pull his record to 3-5. Since then, he has lost only once and that was in his only non-quality start of the entire second half.

With Billy having had extra time in the big leagues this season, being there from the beginning (deGrom’s first start came on May 15), deGrom would have to put together a performance that voters could point to and say that is the guy to vote for. He would do just that on Monday night, as he tied Jim Deshaies’ modern-day record for strikeouts to begin a ballgame. Punching out the first eight Miami Marlins he would face before allowing a base hit to the opposing pitcher, deGrom’s face (and hair) was plastered all over the media. So much so, that following the performance, both Kevin Millar and Chris Rose of Intentional Talk on the MLB Network, stated that they would vote for him to get the award over Hamilton.

A statistical side-by-side does not work as well when comparing a batter to a pitcher, but the argument is a curious one. Some of the very same people who are saying that Clayton Kershaw should not win the National League MVP award due to the fact that he’s a pitcher, are saying that deGrom should win the Rookie of the Year award. While one has the word “valuable” in it, isn’t the ROY virtually the equivalent of MVP, just for rookies?

Does it matter all that much if Hamilton wins the award or not? Back in 2008, a young Canadian first baseman was blazing the trail and cementing himself as the face of the franchise for a decade and a half to come. He clobbered the ball, batting .297 with 24 home runs and 84 RBI, yet Joey Votto lost out to a young Chicago Cubs catcher by the name of Geovany Soto. Although Soto won the award, which player would you rather have on your roster?

As the two thoroughbreds come down the stretch, Hamilton will have 11 games remaining, opposed to deGrom’s two starts. Hamilton has a realistic chance at 60 stolen bases and deGrom has a realistic chance of dropping his ERA under 2.50. Both make compelling cases for the award—it’s just too bad they can’t actually race for it.

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