The baseball world seems to have crowned the Dodgers’ outfielder, Cody Bellinger, as Rookie of the Year. I, who am still bitter about Corey Seager winning over Trea Turner last year, would like very much for that not to happen. Unfortunately, ROY candidates who play a full season get more attention and are able to contribute for a longer period of time. But what if we had a full season of Paul DeJong? His contributions at the plate are comparable to Bellinger’s. He has been a bigger asset to the Cardinals than Bellinger has been to LA because the Dodgers have a higher floor. In my (very biased) opinion, Paul DeJong DeServes serious ROY consideration.
Let’s first address the inherent problem with hoping for a DeJong upset. Glance at the raw stats and Bellinger beats DeJong in almost every category. Doubles, homers, fWAR, baserunning, etc. You name it, Bellinger probably wins ...
But often not by much.
Bellinger vs DeJong
While it takes about 16.5 plate appearances for DeJong to hit a homer, Bellinger does it in 12.6. His isolated power is actually much higher than DeJong’s, which was the biggest surprise to me. When DeJong hits balls, he’s hitting them hard, evidenced by the 39 percent of his hits that go for extra bases. Bellinger just hits harder, I guess. Take a look at the wRC+. DeJong is 23 percent better than league average, but Bellinger is 43 percent above league average. However, their strikeouts and extra-base hits occur at about the same rate. DeJong also has 99 fewer plate appearances than Bellinger, so that is a hit on his fWAR total.
His average is practically identical against lefties (.290) and righties (.291) because it’s not so much pitcher handedness that matters, he’ll just crush any fastball. These two have some freaky similarities, though. Bellinger also has identical averages against lefties (.270) and righties (.271). But DeJong is a bit better. Yes, his batting average is twenty points higher than Bellinger’s, which is literally the only category he wins. But still, it’s a win!
I think a lot of this comes down to how you think about Rookie of the Year. For me, it’s like the MVP award for newbies. In addition to looking at raw stats, it should be about how much value they add to the team and where the team would be without them. Without Cody Bellinger, the Dodgers would still probably be in first place because of their ridiculously good rotation and strong offense. DeJong, however, has been one of the only consistent offensive forces for a Cardinals team in disarray. It’s weird to say, but he has been part of the Pham-Wong life raft keeping the team’s head above water. DeJong started out fairly streaky, dipped again in late July, but now he keeps shattering Cardinal (and baseball) rookie records.
DeJong was the first rookie since 1900 with more than six extra-base hits in a three-game series. He hit a home run in his first major league at-bat, and his 8-homer July set a Cardinals record for most ever by a rookie in a single month. And, he is the second-highest slugging shortstop in major league history, his .546 behind only Trevor Story’s .567 last season. Also, let’s not forget this play from last night:
Even after spending the first two months of the season in the minor leagues, Paul DeJong spends a lot of time near the top of the Cardinals leaderboards. He is third overall in fWAR (2.2), average (.291), and wRC+ (123) of players with 300+ plate appearances. His .362 wOBA is second on the team. DeJong’s .546 slugging percentage and twenty home runs lead the ball club.
So where does Bellinger rank for the Dodgers? I took the same parameters I used for DeJong and compared where each ranks in the grand scheme of the team.
Bellinger vs DeJong Team Rankings
Again, they are freakishly similar. DeJong bests Bellinger in average and fWAR, but they rank similarly in the other areas. We need to, then, consider the wider context of the teams. The Dodgers have ten players worth two or more wins while the Cardinals only have seven. Four of those Dodger players are pitchers, and three are starters. They excel in everything! The Dodgers are a well-rounded team with great value at the plate, in the field, and on the mound.
The Cardinals are not. Two of their top three players in fWAR missed at least six weeks at the beginning of the season because they were in the minor leagues. (That would be Tommy Pham and Paul DeJong.) The other one, Jedd Gyorko, is currently on the DL with a hamstring issue. St. Louis is at a weird sort of in-between point where they need players to excel so they look more like the Cardinals we know and love and less like, say, the Padres.
So who is more of a difference maker? For me, it’s DeJong. The Dodgers have all the pieces they need to be a great team. The Cardinals are trying to claw their way back into the division race (Even if the front office seems determined to make that impossible.), but they are not in fighting distance without Paul DeJong.
If Rookie of the Year is only about raw offensive value and individual capability, Bellinger wins. However, if you put their individual value within the context of their team, DeJong is shouldering more of the burden for wins in a shorter time period. The Dodgers won’t depend on Bellinger the same way the Cardinals are dependent on Paul DeJong’s success during the stretch run. To me, that makes him Rookie of the Year.
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Audrey Stark is a contributor at Viva El Birdos. You can follow her on Twitter @highstarksunday.