The folks at When The What developed an interesting premise: The ultimate rookie of the year (and a runner-up), regardless of league or sport. Here is their breakdown from 2000 to present.
2000: Brian Urlacher,
As good as Urlacher’s been for the past 10 seasons, his greatest season may have been his first. Urlacher had 125 total tackles and two interceptions, but it was his career-high eight sacks that made the linebacker’s rookie year unique. Kenseth is still the only rookie ever to win the Coca-Cola 600 marathon, but he finished the season 14th in points. Elton Brand, who averaged a double-double, and Scott Gomez, who had 70 points, including 51 assists, are more worthy runner-ups.
2001: Albert Pujols,
Pujols' .329 batting average, 37 home runs, and 130 RBI make him a no-brainer here. The Nadal choice is a head-scratcher, though. Rafa turned pro in 2001 at 15, but found success only on the ITF Junior Circuit. A guy named Ichiro won the AL MVP with a .350 average and 56 stolen bases, as his team won 116 games (Pujols lost the NL MVP race to Barry Bonds, who hit a few home runs that season).
2002: Pau Gasol,
Gasol and Peppers were all right. Pau nearly averaged a double-double on a terrible team in a new city and Peppers had 12 sacks and five forced fumbles. But how can you leave off Clinton Portis with his 1,508 rushing yards and 15 rushing touchdowns? Honorable mention also goes out to Dany Heatley (67 points).
2003: Amar'e Stoudemire, Dontrelle Willis
Stoudemire (13.5 points, 8.8 rebounds) became the first prep-to-pro player to ever win a rookie of the year award. He also led the Suns to the playoffs two seasons before Steve Nash's arrival. Willis went 14-6 with a 3.30 ERA, but mostly gets the nod because of his popularity. Anquan Boldin, who snagged 101 receptions for 1,377 yards and 8 TDs, is a more worthy runner-up recipient.
2004: LeBron James,
Big Ben did the impossible as a rookie, going 13-0 as a starter with 2,621 passing yards and 17 touchdown passes. LeBron (20.9 points, 5.5 rebounds), on the other hand, won the rookie of the year award without playing for a playoff team. That same season, Denver rookie Carmelo Anthony averaged 21.0 points and 6.1 rebounds, while taking his team to the playoffs as the eighth seed. With the season on the line, Anthony dropped 41 points on March 30 game versus the Sonics, a fellow bubble team, becoming the second-youngest player to ever score 40 points in a game. He became the first rookie to lead a playoff team in scoring since David Robinson in 1989-90. In the long run, LeBron's been the better player, but Melo was the better rookie.
2005: Ryan Howard, Shawne Merriman
Howard's 22 home runs and 63 RBI as a rookie don't seem too special until you realize he only had 312 at-bats in 88 games. Howard didn't become the Phillies’ everyday first baseman until a July 1 injury to Jim Thome, yet he still managed to post respectable power numbers. Likewise, Merriman (57 total tackles, 10 sacks) didn't crack the Chargers starting lineup until Week 7, making his stats less than what they could have been. But Merriman's limited playing time was due in part to a ten-day holdout from training camp. Dwight Howard (12.0 points, 10.0 rebounds, 1.7 blocks) for runner-up, anybody?
2006: Alexander Ovechkin, Chris Paul
Man, this was a season. Ovi netted 52 goals and dished out 54 assists for 106 points, but Sidney Crosby was right on his tail with 102 points. Still, you can’t leave out Chris Paul, who put up 16.1 points, 7.8 assists and 5.1 rebounds, while sweeping every Western Conference Rookie of the Month Trophy. What about Hanley Ramirez (185 hits, 119 runs, 51 steals), Justin Verlander (17-9, 3.63 ERA), Deron Williams (10.8 points, 4.5 assists), and Vince Young (2,199 passing yards, 552 rushing yards)? "When the What" did what they had to do to narrow down this field. And they did it right.
2007: Adrian Peterson, Evgeni Malkin
Can't argue with these. Peterson became the first rookie to run for more than 200 yards in multiple games, including his 296 against San Diego on Nov. 4. If it was not for a lateral collateral ligament tear that sidelined A.D. for a month, he may have won the MVP (finished with 1,341 rushing yards and 268 receiving yards). Malkin had a stellar rookie season, becoming the first player since 1917 to score a goal in each of his first six games, en route to an 85-point season. In another year of superstars, it's hard to keep guys like Ryan Braun (34 HR, 97 RBI, .324 average, .634 slugging), Dustin Pedroia (.317 average, 39 doubles), Brandon Roy (16.8 points), and Patrick Willis (174 total tackles) out.
2008: Patrick Kane, Candace Parker
Kane and Parker both got off to fast starts (Kane had 5 goals and 11 assists in his first 12 games; Parker scored 34 points and had 12 rebounds in her debut), making them each the rookie faces of their sports. They both finished with respectable numbers, 72 points for Kane, 18.5 points for Parker, but how can you leave Kevin Durant off this list? Quietly, Durant dropped 20.3 points, while playing an average of only 34.6 minutes per game. Although it was the start of something great, Durant's rookie season was overshadowed by the season-ending injury of first oveall pick Greg Oden. And how about throwing Evan Longoria, who hit 27 home runs in 448 at-bats for the AL champion Rays, into the mix? Dustin Johnson also won his first PGA Event as a rookie in 2008.
2009: Derrick Rose,
Rose is an easy pick for his stats, 16.8 points and 6.3 assists, but also for his breakout 19.7 pointsperformance in the Bulls' classic seven-game first round loss to the Celtics. Harvin, on the other hand, is questionable. His 790 receiving yards, 135 rushing yards, and 1,156 kick returning yards made him a fan favorite, but defensively, Brian Cushing's AFC-leading 134 tackles give him an even better resumé for the runner-up position. Don't forget about Melanie Oudin, who in her first full WTA season, reached the Wimbledon fourth round and U.S. Open quarterfinals.
2010: Buster Posey,
Posey hit .315 with 67 RBI as the starting catcher for the World Series champion Giants. Don't be so quick to agree with Bradford, though, who threw 15 interceptions, while being sacked 34 times in the cupcake NFC West. Ndamukong Suh had 10 sacks and was named a Pro Bowl starter for his performance in the brutal NFC North. His first career interception ... off Bradford. Also, Neftali Feliz (40 saves), Tyler Myers (48 points for a defenseman), and Tyreke Evans (20.1 points) have to be thrown into the conversation. If we only based this off each player's first 12 games, Stephen Strasburg (92 K), would find himself in the mix.
Prediction for 2011: 1) Blake Griffin. 2) Cam Newton. Honorable Mention, Juan Agudelo.
Prediction for 2012: 1) Andrew Luck. 2) Bryce Harper. Honorable Mention, Kyrie Irving.
For a complete accounting of the ultimate rookies of the year dating back to 1960, go to WhenTheWhat.com.
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