Most discussions about the 2014 American League Rookie of the Year Award have it as a two-man race between Jose Abreu and Masahiro Tanaka. This is very strange because Kansas City Royals rookie Yordana Ventura is not flying under anyone’s radar. Thus far, Ventura has been turning heads as the hardest throwing starter in the majors with an average fastball of 96 MPH and has topped out at 102.9 (both best in the majors among starters).
Ventura is not a very well kept secret. The baseball world knows who he is. So why isn’t he seen as on the same level as Abreu or Tanaka? For this argument I’ll simplify things by only comparing Ventura to the other starting pitcher. Tanaka deserves his place as a front-runner for the award, but the argument that has him ahead of Ventura is far from indisputable.
Tanaka is a better innings eater. He’s gone at least seven innings in all but one start, and he still managed 6.1 in that effort. Ventura, on the other hand, has averaged six innings per start, which has more to do with the paranoia of burning him out than overly high pitch counts.
In strikeouts, a slight edge also has to go to Tanaka. He’s compiled 51 in 42.2 innings with six walks, compared to 41 strikeouts in 36 innings with 11 walks for Ventura. If the Rookie of the Year goes to a pitcher, the bottom line should be who put their team in a better position to win, not actual wins. Tanaka shouldn’t be given an advantage because his team has averaged 5.8 runs per game while the Royals have only given their candidate 3.5 in his starts.
It all comes down to the fact that Ventura has put his team in a slightly better position to win. It’s not his fault that they may not do it as often. Tanaka may get a few more Ks and last an inning longer, but Ventura allows the fewest runs. His ERA of 2.00 compared to Tanaka’s 2.53 isn’t the only factor, but it is the strongest.
Ventura is certainly not running away in the Rookie of the Year race, but he is right there with the other guys. There is a strong argument for all three rookies mentioned in this article. It’s strange that Ventura’s is being overlooked so often.