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Second Best Rookie SeasonPosted on August 31, 2012 at 06:38 AM.
The 2012 season will be remembered for a number of things. It will be remembered for the great pitching performances, the Orioles and Aís surprising the league, the Dodgers taking on the entire Red Sox payroll, and so many other great moments, both big and small. But, 2012 will be the year we say that Mike Trout had the greatest rookie season in Major League Baseball.
There is no doubting that Trout has compiled the greatest statistical season by a rookie ever. He leads the league in runs scored, batting average, slugging percentage, OPS, and stolen bases. His .339/.401/.588 batting line along with 22 doubles, 6 triples, 25 home runs, 74 RBI, 102 runs scored, and 41 stolen bases are already the best rookie statistics of all-time. He also leads Major League Baseball in WAR at 9.1. He still has a month to go.
With Trout holding the number one spot down, there are a few candidates who can lay claim to having what will be forever known as the second best statistical rookie season of all-time.
Jackie Robinson, for whom the rookie of the year award is named after, is in a separate category. Although his statistics wonít compare to the other rookies, the circumstances that surrounded his rookie season make his season the greatest of all-time. Robinsonís courage, his restraint, and his ability to maintain his excellence in all of that is awe inspiring. But, statistically, Robinson wonít match Trout or some of the other rookies in the discussion. He is still the greatest rookie of all-time, just not the one with the greatest statistical season of all-time.
Other candidates include Ichiro Suzuki, who hit .350/.381/.457 and won both the Rookie of the Year and the Most Valuable Player Award. But, Suzuki was a rookie by definition, but not in reality as he had been a professional in the Japanese League before coming to America. Albert Pujols, Mike Piazza, Fred Lynn, Nomar Garciaparra, Frank Robinson, Fernando Valenzuela, Tony Oliva, Ryan Braun, and Ted Williams all had spectacular rookie seasons. With the exception of Braun, all of them were at least a 6.3 WAR player.
As great as their seasons were, none are the second best statistical rookie season of all-time. The number two best rookie season resulted in a 7.1 WAR player. But, his season was largely overlooked because of how the game was viewed as this player finished a distant third in the Rookie of the Year voting and a distant 6th in the Cy Young Award voting. His 1986 season may be one of the most overlooked seasons in Major League Baseball history.
Mark Eichhorn isnít a household name. He was a middle reliever who made his Major League debut in 1982 for seven starts as a member of the Toronto Blue Jays. He wouldnít reappear in the Majors until 1986 as a member of the Blue Jaysí bullpen.
The 1986 season will always be remembered for the great World Series between the New York Mets and the Boston Red Sox. But, it was also the year Roger Clemens won both the Cy Young Award and MVP Award. Don Mattingly was in the midst of a stretch where he would be the best player in the game. Kirby Puckett blasted 31 home runs and was officially on his way towards his Hall of Fame career. Mike Schmidt and Mike Scott took the National League Awards, while the debuts of Jose Canseco, Wally Joyner, Barry Bonds, and Kevin Mitchell highlighted one of Baseballís best seasons.
But, Mark Eichhorn put together one of the most ignored great seasons of all-time. The 25 year old submarine reliever would appear in 68 games out of the Blue Jays bullpen that season, even finishing 38 games and compiling 10 saves. In those 68 games, he pitched an incredible 157 innings, while allowing just 105 hits, 45 walks, and striking out 166 batters. He compiled a record of 14-6 along with a 1.72 ERA and a 0.955 WHIP.
Among American League pitchers with at least 150 innings (he was the only reliever in that criteria), he was 12th in the AL with his 14 wins. His 9.52 K/9 and 0.42 HR/9 marks were second best. And, his 7.1 WAR was third best amongst pitchers, behind just Ted Higuera of the Brewers (9.1) and Roger Clemens (8.6). In fact his 7.1 WAR was tied for 5th best in the American League.
Back then, WAR was still just a term used in history textbooks. Baseball wasnít measured as it is today. Eichhorn was simply a middle reliever, the least glamorous position on a Major League roster. That was the reason why Eichhorn was bypassed for the Rookie of the Year Award despite having more value and better statistics than the American League winner, Jose Canseco who hit .240/.318/.457 with 33 home runs and 117 RBI. By WAR standards, Canseco was just 2.8. Wally Joyner, who finished second, was a 2.9 WAR player. No other AL rookie was over a 2.0 WAR player.
Even if the discussion moves away from WAR--which is by no means a perfect statistic--Eichhornís season was remarkable. His 157 innings were 48th most in the AL. That may not sound like much, but he was the only reliever in the top 50 in innings pitched. While he was obviously used extensively that season, his month of August is one of the best reliever pitching performances ever. He was used in 17 games and pitched 39.2 innings while allowing just 21 hits, 5 runs, 1 home run, 7 walks, and striking out 36 strikeouts. He followed that month with a stellar final month with another 15 appearances and 27 innings. He gave up just 10 runs in his final 66.2 innings of the seasons.
For the season, he held batters to a meek .192/.261/.288 batting line.
It was one of the most impactful seasons by a middle reliever in modern baseball history.
Mark Eichhorn went on to post a solid Major League career that lasted until 1996. During his last full season of 1994, he appeared in 43 games and pitched 71 innings while compiling a 2.15 ERA. But, he posted a career low strikeout rate and missed all of 1995 due to injuries before making it back in 1996 for 24 appearances. In all, he appeared in 563 games (7 starts) and compiled a 3.00 ERA in 885 innings along with averages of 8.4 H/9, 0.5 HR/9, 2.7 BB/9, and 6.5 K/9.
His career was one that many pitchers would aspire to have. But, his rookie season is one of the greatest seasons ever. It has been largely ignored and will likely continue to be. Middle relievers donít get much recognition today, even though the better ones pitch in more high leverage situations than most closers.
Mike Trout is the best statistical rookie ever. Mark Eichhorn is number two, even if nobody knew it then or remembers it now.
BORN: April 17, 1975 (38)
JOINED: Oct 26, 2003 (9 years, 238 days ago)
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