11/16/09 4:15 PM EST
Niemann finishes fourth in ROY vote
Right-hander made statement in 2009 with two shutouts
By Bill Chastain / MLB.com
Andrew Bailey of the A's finished first with 88 total points. Elvis Andrus of the Rangers came in second with 65. Rick Porcello of the Tigers had 64, and Niemann finished with 21.
The BBWAA is a professional association for baseball journalists writing for daily newspapers, magazines and qualifying Web sites. The organization is responsible for voting on several awards annually including Most Valuable Player, Rookie of the Year, Cy Young and Manager of the Year.
Niemann, 26, went 13-6 with a 3.94 ERA in 31 games during his rookie campaign. His winning percentage of .684 was the second-highest winning percentage for a rookie since 1969; CC Sabathia had a .773 winning percentage in 2001.
Had Niemann won the award, it would have given the Rays the AL's best rookie for back-to-back seasons, as Evan Longoria captured the 2008 award.
At the beginning of Spring Training, the Rays had four legitimate candidates for the fifth spot in the rotation: Niemann, Jason Hammel, David Price and Mitch Talbot. The 6-foot-9 right-hander earned the job, then went on to validate that decision throughout the season.
Niemann showed marked improvement in pitching down with his fastball and with his breaking ball command. In addition, Niemann seemed to iron out his mechanics, which can be a difficult undertaking for a pitcher of his height. Although getting everything coordinated might be harder for a taller pitcher, the downward angle of his pitches can make the baseball extremely hard to hit, paying rich benefits for the big Texan.
Highlights of Niemann's season included two shutouts, which accounted for two of the five shutouts by AL rookies in 2009.
The first of those shutouts came June 3, when he threw a two-hitter against the Royals. He retired the first 14 hitters in order before Mark Teahen's two-out single in the fifth broke up the perfect game. His second shutout came against Oakland when he held the A's scoreless on seven hits on July 10 at Tropicana Field.
Niemann, who was the Rays' top pick in the 2004 First-Year Player Draft, battled injuries throughout the early part of his professional career, but was healthy enough in 2007 and 2008 to make 49 starts at Triple-A Durham. He went 2-2 with a 5.06 ERA in limited time with the Rays in 2008.
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.