Ok, for starters, don't get yourself all excited or anything. This is not a real award, nor has it actually happened. But it would be hard to argue otherwise.
Arguably, the top rookies so far in the AL are (in alphabetical order):
Zach Britton - Orioles
Jeremy Hellickson - Rays
Eric Hosmer - Royals
Michael Pineda - Mariners
Mark Trumbo - Angels
Most chatter to date surrounds the results of Pineda (because of his great numbers) and Hellickson (numbers almost as great as Pineda, but East Coast bias helps his cause). And those numbers for each of those guys ARE formidable, But we not just talking about numbers here. We are talking about VALUE TO THE TEAM.
Pineda: He was carrying a 2.58 ERA into the game this past Friday against the Angels, who pasted on him his worst loss of his career. Still, he is at 3.03 with a 1.035 WHIP and 2.9 BB/9 and 9.0 SO/9. Not bad for a career only 18 games old.
Hellickson: Not far behind Pineda at 3.21, 1.148 WHIP, 3.4 BB/9 and 5.9 SO/9 over the first 12 games of 2011. Those are a little off from the 10 games he posted in 2010.
(Compared to the other leading rookies in the AL, Trumbo crushes the competition in HR's, slugging percentage, runs scored and stolen bases. He also leads in OBP, Batting Average and doubles. Only Eric Hosmer is worthy of being spoken in the same sentence as Trumbo to this date.)
Both the Mariners and the Rays are falling in behind the playoff pack at the moment If either one of them turns things around their rookie pitcher becomes the near shoe-in for ROY. But of the Mariners even come close to sniffing the AL West title, Pineda will carry the chatterbox votes and win the award.
But here is my point: NONE of the other AL rookies were tasked with stepping into such a large hole in their respective teams as Trumbo has had to do stepping in to fill the expectations and dependencies surrounding "Morales version 2011". And even as he was asked to step into those shoes, we all were expecting that to be a temporary thing of a few weeks. Not only has Trumbo now been penciled in for the entire season, so far he has filled in quite credibly. Considering the skanky first half a lot of these hitters suffered through, Trumbo's production puts him up there as a top shelf TEAM MVP candidate, on a team locked in a death grip with Texas with the AL West lead, and surging (with the Rangers) towards the top of the leaderboards in the AL at the break.
Let's look at our benchmark: "Morales version 2009". 5th place in league MVP voting and the gold standard for our 2011 hopes and aspirations. Through 84 games and 306 at-bats that year Morales was hitting .288 with an OBP of .342, a SLG of .546 and OPS of .888. He had 88 hits, 17 of them HR's while drawing 27 BB's against 58 K's.
Trumbo is not Morales (yet?). Make no mistake. But how well has Trumbo - A ROOKIE - done trying to fill the fantastic numbers above?? In 84 games and only 296 at-bats (10 fewer), Trumbo is at .260 with an OBP of .305, a SLG of .483 and OPS of .788. And he has 77 hits, 17 HR's, 16 BB's against 65 K's. Those 17 HR's leads the team, and his 41 RBI's are just behind Hunter's 45. More walks would be very nice and we can assume that his propensity to see a lot of pitches will grant us this favor in the future. The bigger knock would be his gap power. Only 15 doubles and zero triples. In that same stretch in 2009, Morales had 24 doubles and 2 triples. Compared to Morales, Trumbo has sufficient speed. He has 8 steals in this window compared to Morales' 1.
So what does that comparison of Trumbo against our gold standard expectation say? Well, it tells me that although Trumbo is most definitely not any league MVP candidate, he most definitely IS one of the team MVP candidates merely for managing to close the gap between a Quinlan (which we didn't even have any more) to Morales (which is what we were hoping for). Morales was supposed to be our offensive anchor, absolutely critical to the success of this lineup. We don't have him. We might never have him again, actually. But what Trumbo is doing to make up for the loss of that huge hole in our offense vacated by injury is absolutely the most valuable thing any rookie is doing in the league for any team this season.
So not only is he on pace to compete for the AL ROY award at seasons end, Mark Trumbo can already claim the mythical title of American League Most Valuable Rookie for the 1st half of 2011. The next time you find yourself sitting in the left field bleachers, looking out at the suburbs hugging the hillsides, raise a beer to those homes just to the right of CF, which would be Trumbo's home town of Villa Park.