NL has the edge in rookie starters

The American League has some outstanding rookie starters, but the National League has a deeper roster of talented rookie arms, writes Rob Neyer.

Updated: September 18, 2006, 4:38 PM ET
By Rob Neyer | ESPN Insider
Remember June and July? All we could talk about were those amazing young American League pitchers; particularly, Jonathan Papelbon, Justin Verlander, Francisco Liriano and Jered Weaver. They were not only Rookie of the Year candidates but (with the exception of Weaver) Cy Young candidates. In 50 seasons of Cy Young Awards, only one rookie -- Fernando Valenzuela in 1981 -- has won the award. And there were moments this summer when it looked as if another rookie really might become the second.

Verlander's going to be Rookie of the Year, and Weaver continues to pitch brilliantly, but Papelbon and Liriano are nursing injuries. And down the stretch, a few National League rookies have performed quite well, leading me to wonder whether we need to revisit all these rookie pitchers and see which league really deserves the bragging rights.

To this end, I punched in the stats for every rookie who has started more than 12 games this season. Next, I ranked them in four key categories: innings (because sample size matters), ERA (because that's the number we've decided matters), and strikeouts-per-nine innings and strikeout-to-walk ratio (because those numbers are leading indicators of future success). Here are the top 10 in each category, with an A or N denoting each rookie, depending on his league:


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