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Joe Panik should win the National League Rookie of the Year award

By Timmy Kennedy
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Joe Panik should win the National League Rookie of the Year award. Why, you may ask? Okay, I’ll admit, he isn’t as an attractive of choice as you may want, but, that shouldn’t matter. Sadly, people prototypically want to see sexy players like Yasiel Puig winning the award: A player you can see knocking balls out of the park, and a player you can see on Baseball Tonight’s web gems on a regular basis, something Panik isn’t.

You may be thinking, “Hey, that’s exactly what I want to see in a rookie.” If you are, you’re wrong, sorry. Just like how the Most Valuable Player of the year has to consider the most complete player; someone who can hit, run and field, all whilst truly leading the way on his team, the Rookie of the Year award must follow the same rules. It should be awarded to the best rookie, not the most exciting player.

Right now you’re asking the question, “What is the best rookie, then? I loved Puig, and all the excitement.” The bottom line is, raw talent is nothing to judge a rookie on, every major leaguer has the raw talent, otherwise they would never have been called up. Being a good rookie is all about the ability of adjusting to the big leagues, the ability to slow the game down and demonstrating a baseball brain, oh, and some nice metrics, of course.

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Puig, to continue the aforementioned example, is everything a ‘good rookie’ isn’t. He makes stupid mental mistakes, forgets how many outs there are, fails to hit the cutoff man, doesn’t slow the game down, tries to prove his bat by swinging hard, blah, blah, blah. You get the picture, just because Panik isn’t as electrifying shouldn’t take him out of the running for Rookie of the Year. For the Jacob deGrom lovers shouting at the screen right now, people simply need a low ERA to get behind and to love a pitcher, fact. Oh yes, and Panik has the metrics to win the award. Now I’ve got your interest.

Right from day one, when he pinch hit against the Arizona Diamondbacks on his major league debut, he exhibited that he has the mentality of a big leaguer. Unlike almost every other rookie in the history of baseball, Panik was patient in his first at bat. Stereotypically, first timers try to prove themselves to their managers by swinging their way onto the team. Panik, on the other hand? Nope. He took a walk. The second baseman battled off some tough pitches, had several exceptional takes, and eventually forced his way aboard with a base on balls. Magical, folks.

Panik’s statistics regarding the matter are extraordinary. His Z-contact% of 93 ranks 20th among all National League players and first among all National League rookies, obviously. Furthermore, he has a O-contact% of 72, an O-swing% of 26, which ranks in the top thirty of all National League hitters, which, once more, is pretty exceptional for a rookie. I told you he had some nice metrics.

Experts often talk about ‘slowing the game down.’ A trait which is considered to be quintessential in a rook’. Rather than attempting to rush everything and panic, the infielder was calm and collected once more. He let the ball come to him, took his time, and has since become an excellent defensive player. Slapping the tag of excellent defensive player on him doesn’t stem from his arm, his range or anything of the sort, rather his attitude, and ability to slow the game down. Everything I, and you should, love in a rookie.

His DRS is positive, coming in at a solid one. His RZR is a tidy .823, he has also made 16 plays out of the zone – an OOZ of 16. Most importantly, his UZR is 1.1 and more impressively his UZR/150 is 2.4. So, yeah, Panik is a really nice player on defense, because of, well, everything I wrote above, and these metrics. Metrics never lie. Fangraphs never lies.

Panik’s batting average of .300 ranks head and shoulders above any other rookie in the league. His on base percentage is second best, his wRC+ of 108 is third and his wRAA of 1.7 sits him fourth – both hugely important statistics. His miniscule K% of only 10.9 ranks him second, and his rather impressive clutch rating of 0.7 leaves him seventh in the National League. He also has a tidy wOBA of .316 and a WAR of 1.3. All in all, Panik is evidently one of the best rookie hitters. When matched with his solid defense and his unrivalled attitude and mentality, it surely makes him a candidate for the rookie of the year award.

What’s more impressive is to consider where he hits. Unlike many rookies, he isn’t hidden down at the bottom of the order, where, in reality, he doesn’t matter copious amounts. Nope, Panik hits second in the Giants order. Collectively, along side, Angel Pagan, Buster Posey, Hunter Pence and Pablo Sandoval they form the ‘Killer P’s.’ There’s a reason he has been given a nickname as such, it’s the sort of nickname that is merited. Earned. Deserved.

All considered, there’s no reason to rule out Joe Panik of the running for National League Rookie of the Year. He has everything going for him, great metrics, hitting in the teeth of the order for a playoff bound team, an unrivalled plate discipline, solid defense. Yeah, he essentially has everything going for him, except one thing: He isn’t Jacob deGrom. The New York Mets’ rookie ace is his biggest competition, but don’t rule out Joe just yet. Don’t panik. Sorry, it’s very hard not use a panic pun.

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