The Phillies started campaigning this week for Alec Bohm to win the National League’s rookie of the year award, listing where he ranks among rookies in various stats such as RBIs, hits, home runs, walks, and batting average.
He has a strong case to be the first Phillies player to win the award since Ryan Howard in 2005. For manager Joe Girardi, Bohm’s strongest attribute is difficult to quantify.
“I think his heartbeat has been really impressive,” Girardi said before Friday night’s game in Tampa. “Situations don’t bother him. Big situations. Important at-bats. They don’t bother him. And I don’t think you know that until you get someone in those situations.”
Bohm entered Friday leading major-league rookies in average (.333) and was second in OPS (.884). He leads NL rookies in RBIs (22), is tied for the lead in hits (49), is second in extra-base hits (14), third in homers (4), and fourth in walks (16). His competition is Padres second baseman Jake Cronenworth (.304 average, .885 OPS, ), Dodgers starter Dustin May (2.77 ERA in 52 innings), and Brewers reliever Devin Williams (one earned run in 21 appearances and 52 strikeouts in 25 innings).
The Phillies have been steadfast in their belief that Bohm can stick at third base, and his defense has improved this season. He made two errors in one inning on Aug. 21 but has made just one since. It hasn’t been perfect, but there’s been enough to believe that Bohm can handle third.
“I see him as a third baseman,” Girardi said. “I think he made improvements over the year. ... He went through that little bit of a rut where he had some bad throws, and I think it had a lot to do with his footwork. We’ve seemed to iron that out. He’s played a pretty good third base, and I think he’s only going to get better as that part of the game slows down for him and he understands the hitters in this league: who might have the swinging bunt, who’s going to bunt, who you can play really deep on. Understands the speed of the runners.
"I think it’s going to get easier for him moving forward once he understands the league better.”
And maybe there is a way to measure Bohm’s heartbeat. He’s batting .436 this season with a 1.021 OPS with runners in scoring position. In high-leverage situations, Bohm is 15-for-27 with 12 RBIs. From the seventh to the ninth inning, he’s hitting .333 with a .806 OPS. His .510 on-base percentage with runners in scoring position is tied for the third-best among all NL hitters and would rank fourth-best since 1961 among National League rookies. His 2.25 win probability added, an advanced metric to measure how much a player contributes to a win, is the second-best in the NL.
In the game’s biggest moments, Bohm hasn’t looked like a rookie. And maybe that’s enough to separate himself from the pack in the final days. Just four Phillies – Jack Sanford (1957), Dick Allen (1964), Scott Rolen (1997), and Howard (2005) – have won the award.
The Phillies will try this weekend to grab a postseason berth, and Bohm could put the final touches on some hardware.
“That has been great to see, and it’s really great for our organization moving forward,” Girardi said. “He has a really slow heartbeat and understands as a hitter how to control the strike zone.”
All major-league teams are treating this weekend as if they are already in the postseason bubble, which for the National League will be in Texas beginning with the second round of the playoffs. Everyone is confined to the hotel. “I hope you like your room,” Girardi said. But families were allowed to join the traveling party.
“I’m sure they really like having their families with them,” Girardi said. “And there’s also a lot of young kids that we have. Fathers never want to miss out on things that happen for the first time. And I think they really appreciate that MLB gave an opportunity to bring their families.”