Pitcher of the Year; A Dissenting Opinion

After a three way split on the Position Player of the Year Award Managing Editor James Renwick was confident going into the discussions concerning Pitcher of the Year. After all, who could argue with a 15th round pick who battled back from Tommy John surgery, surgery to remove a tumor, and still managed to lead the Southern League in ERA and make his Major League debut this season. Apparently that somebody would be Jason Green.

Look, I know this one isn't going to be the popular choice, and in fact I was the only dissenter in the entire office who did not vote for Dustin Nippert as the Pitcher of the Year.  Call me crazy, call me uninformed, call me late for dinner if you want, but as good as Nippert was, he was exactly as good as he was supposed to be.

One pitcher was far better than expected.

In fact, matching Nippert and my selection, South Bend Silverhawks closer Matt Elliott, side by side show some real similarities.  While Nippert is regularly referred to as a 'steal' because the Diamondbacks were able to grab him in the 15th round of the 2002 draft, Matt Elliott was selected in that draft as well.  Mind you, he wasn't selected by the Diamondbacks, rather the Cardinals in the 27th round, and he never signed, instead electing to head to Dixie State College in Utah.  The Diamondbacks were able to sign Elliott in 2004 as a non-drafted free agent, and after a solid stint in the rookie level Pioneer League that year he was bumped immediately to the Lo-A Midwest League to start the '05 campaign.






Opp. Batting Avg.

Matt Elliott






Nerves, the advancement, a sophomore slump.  All of these things could have set Elliott up for a fall, but none of them did.  Elliott came out of the box hot, saving four games in seven April appearances and allowing just one earned run.  It looked as if the shine might be rubbing off in May, when Elliott allowed opponents to hit .366, but it proved the month, and not the career, was an aberration.

Elliott came back to allow just six earned runs in 36.2 innings pitched over the last three months of the season, posting opponent's batting averages of .093 in June, .086 is July, and .163 in August.  He finished second in the Midwest League in saves and led the Silverhawks to the Midwest League Championship, logging three saves and holding opponents to a .063 batting average in the postseason.  That's the difference in my mind. 

Nippert was brilliant, but the object of this game is to eventually win the World Series, and Matt Elliott pitched in meaningful games all season.  By the time Nippert came back to the Double-A Tennessee Smokies they were completely out of contention in the Southern League.  By the time he moved up to the Diamondbacks, they were essentially out of the NL West.  Nippert will be a very good Major League starting pitcher, but until he shows me that he's ready for pressure situations, I go with the guy who has already shown it.



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