The Miami Marlins are at it again when it comes to deserving Rookie of the Year candidates. In 2003, the Fish debuted Dontrelle Willis. In 2006, it was Hanley Ramirez. In 2009, Chris Coghlan surprised the world by winning the award. This year, the Fish may yet again have the best candidate for the job, as Jose Fernandez has been among the best pitchers in all of baseball, let alone among his rookie peers. Fernandez is in the leaderboard for a number of categories, and his Wins Above Replacement numbers based on multiple metrics all place him near the top of the National League. In any other season, he would be a shoe-in for the award.
But as we have been mentioning with our NL Rookie Power Rankings, this is no normal regular season with good old regular rookies.
The 2013 season is special for the sheer amount of amazing National League rookies, but alongside Fernandez is the other sensation, Yasiel Puig. And while many of the statistical arguments support Fernandez winning the award, this next stat may be the most telling: compare Yasiel Puig's Google search results with Jose Fernandez's search results.
The statistics: Fernandez's search results totaled 660,000, while Puig's totaled 6,030,000.
That is a full degree of magnitude higher for Puig than Fernandez. Granted, not all of that is positive, and a good deal of online and print ink has been spent shooting down Puig's accomplishments because of his supposedly immature attitude. But the key is that writers and fans spent a lot more time talking about Puig and his accomplishments than they have about Fernandez, even though Fernandez began the season with Miami and Puig came in halfway through.
When it comes to the national stage and winning awards, popularity trumps a lot of other arguments. That is why, despite this site's optimism about Jose Fernandez's chances of winning the Rookie of the Year, Yasiel Puig may stand as still a favorite. It is what reader Jigokusabre has been saying all throughout this latest spectacular run by Fernandez, and it is difficult to ignore.
Even with Fernandez at his very best and Puig recovering from his crazy-hot start, Fernandez has been lagging behind him in the popularity contest. After narrowing the search results to July to now, Puig still has Fernandez beat 171,000 to 73,700, a margin of more than double of Fernandez's total.
What will help Fernandez's odds in the face of an overwhelming popularity deficit? Well, as I mentioned, not all of Puig's notoriety is good, and negative publicity from the media is sure to affect voters of the award. Puig, rightly or wrongly, has been blasted by various media outlets for occasional outbursts. Fernandez, on the other hand, has been an angel and a delight to watch all the time, as evidenced by his ridiculous celebrations and his humble nature. The fact that there have not been blemishes of character from Fernandez is a positive sign.
Fernandez has also gotten recent publicity for his strong performances, which could lend to more recency in his argument. Fernandez won Rookie of the Month last month and had the month's Top Pitching Performance as well, so media folks have heard a lot about him lately. Countering that advantage, however, is the fact that Fernandez will make his final start tonight and will not be seen on the field any longer in 2013. That missed half-month will have recency ramifications.
What Jigokusabre and others have been claiming all along may be true. The popularity contest may simply be too much for Fernandez to overcome. But I hope it isn't, and I hope that he goes out and makes a memorable final impression tonight against the Atlanta Braves. That may be his best chance at winning over the popularity contest.