Bryce Harper walked away with National League Rookie of the Year honors last night, and it was much deserved. He had arguably the best rookie season by a teenager in the history of baseball, and the company of Mel Ott, Tony Conigliaro, and Ken Griffey, Jr. when comparing Harper to other teenagers only helps solidify that point. So, why was the difference between Harper and runner up Wade Miley only four first place votes and seven points overall?
First, let me be unequivocally clear. Wade Miley had a stellar rookie season, and in most other years, he may have been a lock for the award. Harper's 4.9 WAR compares well to Miley's 4.8 WAR, and they were both talked about regularly as the top rookies in the NL throughout the season. However, there are three main reasons that I think Harper was a lock for the award.
1. Age – During the 2012 season, Bryce Harper was 19 years old, while Wade Miley was 25. This is surely the most astounding factor here. Miley toiled in the Diamondbacks minor league system for four years with plenty of time to work out any issues and get used to the rigors of a full baseball season. Harper got one full year in the minors in 2011, then he got less than a month in 2012 before his call up. The 19-year-old phenom got called up as someone who could have a significant offensive impact for a playoff-contending baseball team.
2. Intangibles/Impact – When Bryce Harper was on the field or at the plate, there was a buzz on the field. His at-bats were must-watch, seconded only by his ability to run the base paths. When Harper was on base, you had to watch, because you never knew when he was going to steal home or steal second and then third base in the same at-bat. He did both this season. While Miley was important to the D-Backs, he couldn't have possibly had the kind of impact in 29 starts that Bryce Harper had in 139 games.
3. Expectations – Fair or not, the expectations game is relevant when talking about Rookie of the Year candidates. People expected great things from Harper, and he lived up to, and maybe even exceeded, those expectations. Miley, on the other hand, came out of nowhere in his mid-20s and had a solid September call up in 2011. Otherwise, he probably wouldn't have even gotten the opportunity this season.
It's definitely difficult to compare rookie position players to pitchers. Besides WAR and a few other stats, it's comparing apples and oranges in a lot of ways. However, if the goal of the award is to select the game's young star and the one that had the most impact on his team, Harper was the obvious decision.