Billy Hamilton’s rookie season has been Topic A for many Reds fans and Redleg Nation has reflected that prominence.

Jason Linden projected that Hamilton would hit .255/.315/.330 in his season preview and Jason revisited the young center fielder’s season in May, June and September. Regarding stolen bases, Brian Erts set the context for our expectations in his detailed analysis of history’s greatest base stealers. We’ve written about Hamilton’s place in the batting order. Back in April, I suggested eighth. Ben Rubin put forward the idea that Hamilton bat ninth. And recently, Nick Kirby wrote about Hamilton’s second-half struggles.

As the Reds’ dismal season draws to merciful conclusion, scant few of the organization’s players are in legitimate discussion for postseason awards. One of those is Billy Hamilton, who has been considered a leader in the race for NL Rookie of the Year most of the season. In July, John Ring wrote about the Reds history with the NLROY award, suggesting that Hamilton might be the first player in a Cincinnati uniform to win it this century.

Hamilton’s main competition is Mets’ pitcher Jacob deGrom. Today, we have posts from two writers who agreed to take opposing sides of the NLROY debate.

First, Ben Rubin takes the side of deGrom:

For much of the season, Billy Hamilton has been the presumptive frontrunner for NL Rookie of the Year. But a new candidate has emerged in Mets pitcher Jacob deGrom, who has been red-hot of late. Combined with Hamilton’s recent struggles, deGrom’s late-season emergence has turned this into an actual race. But questions remain regarding whether deGrom, called up part-way through the season and missing significant time due to injury, has pitched enough innings to be considered a legitimate contender. Sources ranging from mainstream national press like Jon Heyman (CBS Sports) to Jesse Borek (blogredmachine) think so.

Obviously, as Reds fans, we all want to see Hamilton win. Bringing home a ROY trophy (and maybe a Cy Young as well) to the Queen City would go a long way to sooth the hurt of what has been a shocking and disappointing season. But what does the competition look like? Does deGrom actually have a chance to steal the award in the last weeks of the season?

Bryan Price thinks not. When asked about the race, Price responded “A guy…[who] plays every day and is playing Gold Glove defense, there’s no question he’s the Rookie of the Year to me.” (Rosecrans)

But is he right? How often do the voters choose a pitcher vs. an everyday player? Since the ROY award was split between the two leagues, in 1949, the National League has chosen a pitcher only 20 times. However, two of those have been in the past 3 years, and of the 25 men who have finished in the top five for the past five years, 11 of them have been pitchers.

This may very well be a function of the post-steroid “era of the pitcher.” However, because it so difficult to compare across eras, it makes sense to compare in this era, and it seems recently the voters have been much more willing to give pitchers the benefit of the doubt. So the question is how deGrom compares to those recent winners and runners up.

It is also a safe assumption that although many at this site would prefer to see pitchers evaluated on the advanced metrics that more closely measure a pitcher’s contribution to the game, more than likely the Rookie of the Year voters will be influenced primarily by W-L record, ERA and on the counting stat of strikeouts. Here are those stats for the winners and top 5 finishers from the past 5 years:

Table3

But the question is not whether deGrom is a legitimate ROY candidate but whether he is good enough to win. The BWAA voters select their first, second, and third choices, and winning the award is based on a points system that assigns decreasing numbers of points for lower ballot positions. So, in order to be considered a potential winner, deGrom would have to be capable of garnering not just votes but first place votes.

Of the 11 pitchers above, Miller, Ryu, Teheran, Worley, and Collmenter received no first place votes; their totals come entirely from second and third place votes. Garcia received about 3% of the first place vote, and Hanson received 6%, so they were probably not viable 1st place candidates either. So the four who were legitimate contenders for the award were Fernandez and Kimbrel (who won) and Miley and Happ (who finished 2nd). Check out the numbers when we break it down that way:

Table2

Note: I excluded Kimbrel from the W-L calculations, since he is a relief pitcher, and reliever W-L is not really comparable to starter W-L. I realize this gives me a sample size of 1 in the winners’ W-L column.

Surprisingly there is not a whole lot of difference between the top 5 qualifiers and the first place vote getters, and Jacob deGrom compares favorably in both categories. His win totals are a bit low as a result of how little of the season he has played, but his ERA plays well in both groupings, and his strikeout totals will almost certainly pass the average for both qualifiers and contenders by the end of the year.

Putting him in the conversation with the winners, Fernandez and Kimbrel is a different story. But does he need to be as good as them? Happ and Miley lost the award to Bryce Harper (.270/.340/.477) and Chris Coghlan (.321/.390/.460) respectively. Billy Hamilton’s line as of today is (.253/.295/.358).

Maybe Price is right and the voters will weight Hamilton’s excellent defense, generational speed, and more extensive playing time. If ever there was a case for evaluating a player based on unconventional criteria, it’s Billy Hamilton. But as Reds fans, if we’re honest with ourselves, we probably need to admit that the field is weaker than it was when either Happ or Miley almost won the ROY, and that deGrom is more than qualified to keep that company.

For the record, not only do I hope Hamilton wins, but at the end of the day, I think he should. Don’t be surprised however, if the BBWAA disagrees. *All stats from baseball-reference.com

On the other side, Jux Berg argues Billy Hamilton’s case:

Although it’s not as much of a runaway as it appeared earlier this season, Billy Hamilton deserves to be the first Cincinnati Red named Rookie of the Year since Scott Williamson in 1999. The reason for the debate is no doubt Hamilton essentially hitting “the rookie wall” after the all-star break. The 23-year-old has not homered and has only driven in six runs in the second half of the season while his batting average has dropped from .285 to .256.

But this award is not based on one half of a season. And if you look at what Hamilton has been able to do, he is worthy of the honor.

Speed

Long before he made it to the big leagues, everybody knew Billy’s number one skill was his wheels. And while 56 stolen bases doesn’t sound like a whole heckuva lot historically (Vince Coleman holds the all-time rookie record with 110), in this day and age, it’s a significant achievement—especially when everyone knows you’re going to be running before you take your leadoff. 56 swipes ranks second in all of major league baseball in 2014.

Hamilton’s speed has also played a role in reaching base. His 26 infield hits rank second in MLB. Plus, the simple threat of how fast Billy is has caused catchers, pitchers and infielders to make numerous errant throws this season.

Defense

We’ve seen a marked improvement in Cincinnati’s center field defense from 2013 to 2014. Fangraphs ranked Shin-Soo Choo last in all of baseball in 2013 among centerfielders. Fangraphs ranks Hamilton as the second best defensive centerfielder in 2014. Billy’s only committed two errors this year. Building upon the Fangraphs ranking: If you look at the leaders, once you get past the first three players (Juan Lagares – NYM, Billy Hamilton – CIN, Jackie Bradley – BOS), there is a monumental drop off to where the rest of baseball’s centerfielders check in.

Perhaps the most surprising feature of Hamilton’s arsenal has been his throwing ability. His nine outfield assists rank in the Top 10 in MLB for outfielders.

We’ve also seen Billy pull off a number of highlight reel snags out there, so his style points should be high enough to help his cause.

Another check on Billy Hamilton’s ledger: He came up through the minor leagues at a completely different position. He moved from shortstop to centerfield in two years … and he looks like he’s been playing centerfield since tee-ball.

Offense

Billy “Cool Papa” Hamilton leads all National League rookies in WAR (3.5), games (147), runs (72) and of course, stolen bases (56). His 48 RBI even outdistance the rest of the NL rookie crop.

Hamilton’s plate coverage and ability to use all fields from both sides of the plate has resulted in 140 hits this year, which is good for second on the team.

Good For Baseball

You could make the argument that an award such as Rookie of the Year should be based on more than just the raw numbers. A player’s character and flare should be factored in as well. Billy has brought excitement to every stadium he’s played in. He’s humble both with the media and the fans. He’s always smiling.

It would not be going out on a limb to suggest that Hamilton projects as a future all-star. If you want to celebrate your best young stars, awarding Billy ROY honors would go a long way toward doing that.

There you have it, baseball writers: Vote Billy Hamilton for 2014 National League Rookie of the Year!