Hosmer’s Rookie-Of-The-Year Miss Is A Blessing in Disguise

Eric Homser finished third in the AL Rookie of the Year voting. Royals fans probably felt he deserved to finish even higher.

Photo Courtesy of Minda Haas

But perhaps they should count themselves lucky their young star didn’t come closer to winning the award.

Hosmer finished a distant third to Tampa Bay’s Jeremy Hellickson and the Angels’ Mark Trumbo. But Hosmer appears destined to win many more awards. And judging by the Royals’ track record with Rookie of the Year award winners, it’s for the best that he didn’t win this one.

In the Royals’ very first season, Lou Piniella took the award. There was certainly nothing wrong with Piniella’s career, except that not enough of it took place in KC. Piniella had five good seasons with the Royals – he hit .286 with 45 homers and 348 RBI’s during that stretch. But sadly Piniella departed just before he, and the Royals, had their best seasons.

The problem isn’t so much that they traded Piniella. It’s what they received in return.

I’m not old enough to remember the trade of Piniella for reliever Lindy McDaniel, but in hindsight it looks nothing short of senseless. Piniella was 30 at the time of the trade. McDaniel was 38.

McDaniel wasn’t awful, just old. He pitched in 78 games in two seasons in KC, amassing a 6-5 record with two saves. But then he was done. Piniella, meanwhile, played 11 seasons in New York, and had at least six really good years. In all, he hit 102 homers, drove in 766 runs, and finished with a .291 average.

The Royals hope Hosmer doesn’t wind up like the only first baseman in team history to win the Rookie of the Year honor.

Bob Hamelin took the award in a remarkable 1994 strike-shortened season. He belted 24 homers, and his other numbers were pretty impressive too. He batted a respectable .282, with a .388 OBP, .599 SLG, and .987 OPS. Had he been allowed to play a full season in 1994, it is estimated that Hamelin would have hit 32 home runs.

But Hamelin was already 26, battled weight problems and had a history of injuries before his rookie year. Whether due to injuries, poor eyesight, or general lack of ability, Hamelin couldn’t sustain that kind of success. He crashed hard the next season, hitting .168 with just 7 homers.

After another disastrous season in 1996, Hamelin was released just before spring training in 1997. Hamelin bounced back with Detroit that season, pulling it together to hit 18 homers and bat .270. But those two good seasons stand in stark contrast to the rest of his career. Hamelin hit more than a third of his career homers in that magical rookie year and never played more than 110 games in a season.

The third Royal to win the rookie award is definitely the best of the group. At just 22, Carlos Beltran exploded on the big league scene as part of a talented young KC lineup that included Jermaine Dye, Johnny Damon, Mike Sweeney and Joe Randa.

Beltran’s 22 homers, 108 RBI’s and .293 average only told half the story. Beltran tore up the base paths as a dangerous leadoff man and flashed his five-tools as a standout centerfielder.

Unfortunately, agent Scott Boras thought Beltran’s star would shine brighter in some other galaxy. In the middle of his sixth season, Beltran was dealt in a blockbuster trade that netted the Royals the marginal talents of Mark Teahen, John Buck and Mike Wood.

Beltran was one of baseball’s best for a decade. But in 2009, at just 32, injuries reduced Beltran to just a shadow of his former self. Royals fans look back with regret that one of their greatest players played on just one winning team while in KC.

The last Royal to win Rookie of the Year was Angel Berroa in 2003. Berroa was just one of several shortstops to break the team’s heart during the past decade. Berroa won the award with some impressive numbers for a shortstop – 17 homers and a .287 average. But even in his award-winning season, he struck out a lot and had a low OPS.

Things only got worse from that point. By age 26 the wheels had fallen completely off, and the Royals moved on to another in the string of disappointing shortstops.

So the Royals had two Rookies of the Year who maintained a significant level of success, but left Kansas City in the prime of their careers. And they had two others who dropped off dramatically after their freshman seasons.

Such a drop-off is not a rarity for Rookies of the Year, according to Jeff Zimmerman of Royals Review. He wrote back in late September that more than half of the winners of the award regressed in their second season:

  • 12 of 20 saw their AVG drop. Overall the average dropped 10 points the next year
  • 11 of 20 saw their OBP drop. Overall the average dropped 3 points the next year
  • 13 of 20 saw their SLG drop. Overall the average dropped 10 points the next year

Note that Zimmerman didn’t specify if those statistics represent the last 20 AL award winners, or the last 10 winners in the NL and AL. But the trend would indicate, regardless, that many top rookies actually perform at a level they cannot sustain.

If Hosmer’s stock trends up instead of down, Royal fans won’t mind a bit that he missed out on the Rookie of the Year award.

After all, another 21 year-old once finished 3rd in the rookie balloting, and things turned out pretty well for him. His name was George Brett.

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