Is Collin McHugh a Dark Horse for AL Rookie of the Year?


I know, I know. Everyone wants to hand the American League Rookie of the Year Award to Jose Abreu. Let us just take a step and think outside-of-the-box. Wednesday’s performance against a terrific Angels lineup has me wondering if Collin McHugh has a shot at stunning the baseball world with a Rookie of the Year bid.

Maybe you are like me and learning new things about baseball every day. I have actually considered McHugh as a rookie of the year candidate ever since Baseball-reference had his rookie status as “still intact.” The wheels started to turn and I said to myself “nah, pitchers can’t win that award.”

But the reality is that they have. More surprisingly, to me, is that the majority of pitchers that won were relief pitchers. So without further ado, here are the AL RoY winners since 2005:

2005: Huston Street (RHP); 2006: Justin Verlander (RHP); 2007: Dustin Pedroia (2B);  2008: Evan Longoria (3B); 2009: Andrew Bailey (RHP); 2010: Neftali Feliz (RHP); 2011: Jeremy Hellickson (RHP); 2012: Mike Trout (CF); 2013: Wil Myers (RF)

Five of the most recent winners for AL RoY were pitchers. Three of those five came from the bullpen arms. (Hey, Dellin Betances is having a strong season as a reliever for the Yankees!) Very intriguing results.

American League Rookie of the Year Candidates

There are actually several players that have had strong rookie seasons in 2014. Abreu has taken Major League Baseball by storm with 33 home runs and 99 RBI. His OPS is a stellar .985. Brock Holt is versatile for the Boston Red Sox and has been a highlight reel this season. Kevin Kiermaier also mixes in defensive gems with a great approach at the plate.

On the pitching side of things, nobody will forget Masahiro Tanaka‘s impressive debut. An unfortunate injury with his Ulnar Collateral Ligament is certainly not good news. Besides the strikeouts he was also pitching deep into games. His 18 starts led to 129 1/3 innings pitched — an average of 7.18 innings per start. Yordano Ventura of the Royals has a legitimate chance in competing with Abreu. Ventura, an impressive flame thrower from the Dominican Republic, is 11-9 with a 3.38 ERA during 152 innings pitched. He is also pitching for a team that is likely bound for October baseball.

The most recent pitcher of the month for the AL was the Angels’ Matt Shoemaker. He was the rookie of the month as well. Following the catastrophic injury to Garrett Richards, Shoemaker has truly stepped into a big time role as the Angels push forward with the best record in MLB.

George Springer

(Andrew Richardson-USA TODAY Sports)

Houston Astros Rookies

George Springer may have rivaled Abreu in the hitting aspect of the game as a rookie. My current desktop is a picture from early July and the jumbotron includes “has set franchise records for home runs (19) and RBI (50) prior to the all-star break.” But that is pertinent to the Astros rookie records and not the entirety of major league baseball. Plus, Springer’s OPS is only .804; hardly a comparison to Abreu’s impressive mark near 1.000. Springer has had a monthly honor for May AL Rookie of the Month.

Collin McHugh is the Astros best chance of having a Rookie of the Year recipient in the 2014 season. McHugh came to the Astros in a curious waiver claim from the Rockies organization. The numbers from his previous MLB appearances were not pretty.

But those all became discarded quickly, chiefly due to his dominance of the American League this season. With a little less than a month of the regular season left, McHugh has to be in rookie of the year considerations.

First, let us rewind to his 2014 season debut in the major leagues. Pitching line: 6 & 2/3 innings, 12 K, 3 H. Pretty damn impressive. No walks, no runs. That kind of pitching performance has mimicked itself a few times this season. In fact, 6 of McHugh’s 22 starts in 2014 have seen him go 6+ innings while not allowing a base on balls. This has contributed to a K/BB ratio that ranks in the top 10 in all of MLB.

One of the Social Media directors for CSN Houston, Howard Chen, noted that he has seen remarkable improvement from McHugh as the season comes a close:

I cannot help but wonder what we could have seen from McHugh had his blister issues not existed during the month of June. Within a 6-start period, beginning with a game on June 8 and ending with one July 6, Collin experienced notable control problems. Of the 47 walks that he has issued this season, 19 of them came within that stint of the season. Following the July 6 outing in which McHugh pitched just 4 innings, Collin served some time on the 15-day disabled list to get back to full health.

A somewhat rough return occurred at the end of July. He was able to pitch 6 1/3 and strike out 9 Marlins’ batters but allowed 4 earned runs. The Astros eventually lost that game and put McHugh’s win-loss record at 4-9 with a 3.45 ERA.

Now we can turn the page and fully begin to appreciate the real Collin McHugh. A healthy and dominant pitcher. His 7 & 2/3 inning performance with 0 walks, 4 hits, and 8 strikeouts against the Angels was impressive. The fact that he lowered his ERA from 2.98 to 2.89 is equally awesome. One last tidbit about his recent string of success. The past 7 starts he has allowed 2 or fewer runs. Actually, including the Wednesday win at home versus the Angels, McHugh has allowed 1 ER in 5 of his past 7 starts. Dazzling.

So perhaps the Houston Astros could have a rookie of the year, a home run king, the batting champion, and a league leader in stolen bases. Jeff Luhnow: thank you for a tremendously successful waiver claim.