Niemann came up well short in the final voting trailing Andrew Bailey, Elvis Andrus, and Rick Porcello but it cannot be considered a disappointment considering just how awful his season started and ended. The middle months were fantastic and he somehow gained some invisible power to eliminate the longball from his game for the first time in his career, but the big horse wore down as the season went on. His numbers started diving toward the end yet the bullpen did him no favors blowing 3-4 wins for him when he had gutted his way through a start to qualify for the win. So, put down your Rays-colored glasses and just be appreciative of the fact Niemann finished in the top four. A’s fans can relate because their best guy did not even finish in the top five. Yes, Andrew Bailey won the award because a majority of the voters looked at his ERA like a kid stares at a shiny toy in the window and voted for him. I don’t want to knock Bailey – he had a terrific season taking over as the closer after both Joey Devine and Brad Ziegler went down and he helped guide me to two top finishes in big money fantasy leagues, but he wasn’t even the most valuable player on his own team.
The ironic thing is Brett Anderson helped set up part of Bailey’s success with his quality work. The 21 year old’s FIP (essentially ERA without the defense factor) was 3.69 – better than Gavin Floyd, John Lackey, A.J. Burnett, and Matt Garza to name a few. His 3.3 strikeout to walk ratio was 8th in the American League trailing the likes of Halladay, Greinke, Verlander, Pavano (what??), Beckett, Lester, and Baker. He also finished 10th in the American League in strikeouts, in his rookie season, with only 175 innings pitched.
A month ago, I did an interview with Jesse Spector of the NY Daily News where I was asked to pick the AL Rookie of the Year and I said Bailey as it was a prediction pick on who I thought the owners would vote for over who really should have won the award. Sue me for wanting to look right but that pretty shiny ERA was going to be too much for voters to overcome and it is a shame because the best value of the entire bunch was Anderson. This vote should have come down to the merits of Anderson’s pitching versus the merits of Elvis Andrus and how he personally reshaped the way things got done in Texas with his glove. No way Kevin Millwood or Scott Feldman have the year they had with Michael Young still at shortstop and Chris Davis or Hank Blalock at 3rd base.