Today I will be completing my historical Rookie of the Year comparisons. The MLB website only traces the Jack Robinson award, and ignores any awards that might have been given out prior to that, so that’s what I’m doing. Besides, as we creep backward toward the dead ball era, the stats can only get farther away from the Pujolsian stratosphere.
Let’s get started. This last set of data includes ROY stats from the entire decade of the 50’s and then a couple of players from the 40’s. All players have been compared to Albert Pujols’ 2001 season by way of my modified similarity score technique.
|Albert Pujols||Saint Louis Cardinals||2001||1000|
|Willie McCovey||San Francisco Giants||1959||991|
|Walt Dropo||Boston Red Sox||1950||973|
|Frank Robinson||Cincinnati Reds||1956||926|
|Orlando Cepeda||San Francisco Giants||1958||919|
|Gil McDougald||New York Yankees||1951||881|
|Roy Sievers||Saint Louis Browns||1949||880|
|Alvin Dark||Boston Braves||1948||872|
|Wally Moon||Saint Louis Cardinals||1954||868|
|Jack Robinson||Brooklyn Dodgers||1947||855|
|Bob Allison||Washington Senators||1959||849|
|Willie Mays||New York Giants||1951||844|
|Harvey Kuenn||Detroit Tigers||1953||840|
|Sam Jethroe||Boston Braves||1950||837|
|Jim Gilliam||Brooklyn Dodgers||1953||832|
|Bill Virdon||Saint Louis Cardinals||1955||831|
|Tony Kubek||New York Yankees||1957||807|
|Albie Pearson||Washington Senators||1958||766|
|Luis Aparicio||Chicago White Sox||1956||764|
A fascinating list, to be sure. All along, I’ve kept track of the players who were most statistically comparable to Sir Albert, and I’ll publish a separate post detailing the double handful of players who managed to come within 100 points of the best rookie hitter of all time (it feels good to be able to say that and know it to be true).
One thing that’s bothering me, though I am loath to bring it up: Willie McCovey. Statistically speaking, he is the past player who comes the closest to Pujols. But in his rookie season, McCovey’s stats looked like this:
|Willie McCovey||San Francisco Giants||52||192||32||68||9||5||13||38||2||22||35||.354||.656|
Fifty-two games? That’s it? Far be it from me to suggest putting an asterisk next to the name of the man who lent his name to the stadium that the modern era’s greatest asterisk plays in, but that seems absurd. No other player skated to ROY on a smaller sample of his talent. He was a great player throughout his career, but I’m stunned to see him as a ROY. I’ve got my eye on you, San Francisco…
I’ve never been much of a baseball historian. Most of these names are completely unfamiliar to me. But paging back through the archives with a purpose has really awakened me to the joy of baseball’s past. It’s the same thrill I get out of reading any kind of history – the attempt to imagine what it must have been like to live in that era. The vicarious thrill is made more piquant by the narrow focus of the ballpark. I hope some of you have enjoyed it as well.