Braun: NL Rookie of the Year

It’s official: Ryan Braun is your National League rookie of the year.

The Brewers’ third baseman won the 2007 Jackie Robinson National League Rookie of the Year Award on Monday from the Baseball Writers Association of America. Braun edged Colorado shortstop Troy Tulowitzki to become Milwaukee’s first rookie of the year since shortstop Pat Listach won the American League honor in 1992.

Braun was listed first on 17 of 32 ballots, second on 14 ballots, and third on one ballot for a combined score of 128 points, based on the 5-3-1 tabulation system. Tulowitzki was first on 15 ballots and second on the other 17 for a combined score of 126 points. The two-point differential between first place and second place was the closest in the NL since the current system was adopted in 1980. Other players receiving votes were Hunter Pence of the Houston Astros and Chris Young of the Arizona Diamondbacks; however, these players were way out of contention, grabbing only 15 and 10 total points, respectively.

Braun saw the close race coming. On the final day of the season, while the Rockies were still neck-and-neck with the San Diego Padres for the NL Wild Card, he made a prediction.

“If they win,” Braun said, referring to Tulowitzki’s Colorado club, “then he’ll win.”

In 2007, Braun batted 0.324 and led NL rookies with 34 home runs and a 0.634 slugging percentage. In the process, Braun broke McGwire’s rookie record of 0.618 slugging percentage when he played for Oakland in 1987. Braun also had 97 RBIs and 15 stolen bases.

He ranked in the top four among NL rookies in average, slugging percentage, extra-base hits, RBIs, runs, total bases, triples, multi-hit games, hits, batting average, stolen bases and on-base percentage.

Braun didn’t play the entire season: he made his major league debut on May 2, and he played in a total of 113 games, 112 of which he started at third base.

“The impact he had on the offensive side of things in a short amount of time, I hadn’t seen that before from a rookie in my 12 years as a general manager,” said Milwaukee GM Doug Melvin, who was quick to spread the credit with scouting director Jack Zduriencik, who took Braun in the first round of the 2005 First-Year Player Draft, and with Brewers farm director Reid Nichols.

The Milwaukee Club anticipated a great offensive production from Braun and a bit of a struggle defensively. A converted shortstop playing just his second full season at third base, Braun was sent to Triple-A near the end of Spring Training because of a slew of throwing errors. Despite spending the first seven weeks in the Minors, Braun’s 26 big league errors tied the Twins’ Jason Bartlett for most in the big leagues and Braun’s .895 fielding percentage ranked last among regular Major League position players.

Said Braun regarding his efforts: “Offensively, I’ve done well. Defensively, I just need to work harder. I have to make my defense as good as my offense. I have to be consistent. I feel like for two weeks I’ll be great, and then I’ll find a way to be terrible for two games. It’s just a process, and the more experience I have, the better I’ll be.” Regarding improvement, Braun said: “Everybody has things they need to work on. For me, defense is obviously at the forefront of my issues and my concerns and my focus. … I don’t see any reason I can’t continue to improve and eventually be a very good defensive third baseman.”

Troy Tulowitzki, meanwhile, proved to be amazing at defense. Watching him in the regular season and the playoffs was absolutely amazing. This kid’s got a cannon for an arm. This season, his fielding percentage was a whopping 0.987 (he committed only 11 errors in 155 games).

Tulowitzki was in the Rockies’ Opening Day lineup and finished with two more RBIs than Braun (99 to 97), seven more doubles (33 to 26) and 28 more runs (119 to 91). Tulowitzki finished with a .291 average, 24 home runs, and seven stolen bases.

While Tulowitzki may have trailed Braun in most offensive categories, I think the committee should have fared his team’s success. The Colorado Rockies finished the regular season by winning 14 of their last 15 games, and then they continued their streak by winning seven consecutive games in the playoffs, knocking off the Phillies and the Diamondbacks in the process.

The voting was very close. Braun and Tulowitzki split all of the first-place votes, and the only other player who received a second-place vote was Kyle Kendrick, a Phillies right-hander. Kendrick finished fifth behind Braun, Tulowitzki, the Astros’ Hunter Pence (15 points) and the Diamondbacks’ Chris Young (10 points). Yunel Escobar of the Braves and James Loney of the Dodgers also received one third-place vote apiece.

Personally, I would have liked to see Tulowitzki win this award. Sure, offense is important, but I think Tulowitzki is a better all-around player than Braun.

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~ by mlb2007playoffs on November 14, 2007.

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