One of the major awards given out after every MLB season is the Rookie of the Year. The award is given in both the American League and National League. In some seasons there are lots of viable candidates and some truly talented players are denied the honor. In other seasons there is no standout performer and by default someone has to win. Sticking with the latter situation, these are some of the seasons when players won the Rookie of the Year with less impressive statistics.
2004 Bobby Crosby
In the 2004 the American League Rookie of the Year was shortstop Bobby Crosby of the Oakland Athletics. He would set several career highs that season, none of which were anything impressive. Crosby had 22 home runs included with his .239 batting average. He also had 141 strikeouts and a pitiful on-base percentage of .319.
Crosby won the Rookie of the Year handily as no one else played particularly well either. Zack Greinke and Alex Rios finished 4th and 5th in the voting, though in this particular season neither had fully developed into the All-Stars they would become.
2002 Jason Jennings
Rarely does a pitcher playing for the Colorado Rockies win anything other than an inflated ERA. In 2002 rookie Jason Jennings won the National League Rookie of the Year despite playing for the Rockies. His numbers included a 16-8 record with a 4.32 ERA. Certainly his 16 wins was a major factor and his .306 batting average probably didn’t hurt.
Outfielder Brad Wilkerson finished second in the voting, challenging with 20 home runs and a .266 batting average. This was again another year with no future superstar debuting or no surprise rookie coming up and pulling a Mark Fidrych before disappearing into obscurity.
1988 Walt Weiss
Long before Bobby Crosby had any idea that he would one day play in the major leagues, another shortstop for the Oakland Athletics had a below average Rookie of the Year season. Walt Weiss was the man granted the 1988 American League Rookie of the Year with a .250 batting average and only 3 home runs.
This was certainly a year when there was little contention in the American League for the award. Closer Bryan Harvey finished second with a 2.13 ERA and 17 saves while pitching for the California Angels. Weiss winning the vote probably had a little more with him being an everyday player and not a one-inning-a-night pitcher back when closers were still seen as a bit taboo.
1965 Jim Lefebvre
Infielder Jim Lefebvre’s 1965 rookie season was much better than the others on this list. Even with a .250 batting average he managed to hit 12 home runs and drive in 69 runs. Instead the real crime was that future Hall of Famer Joe Morgan finished second even though he had more hits, runs scored, home runs, stolen bases, and a better average.
In 1965 the voting system worked differently than it does today in that each voter would elect one player. For instance out of the 20 voters Sandy Koufax received every single one for the Cy Young. For the National League Rookie of the Year, Lefebvre had 14 votes to Morgan’s 4. Even Frank Linzy, with a .222 average in only 18 at-bats received 3 votes. It looks as if the voters this season were doing whatever they could to deny Morgan what he deserved.