Oakland Athletics: Does Ryan Noda Have a Case for Rookie of the Year?

Since being acquired by the Athletics on December 7th, 2022, from the Dodgers on waivers, Ryan Noda has surprised many by showing that he one of the best rookies in the current class and should receive some Rookie of the Year votes.

Toronto Blue Jays v Oakland Athletics
Toronto Blue Jays v Oakland Athletics / Lachlan Cunningham/GettyImages

Ryan Noda's 2023 season, to the normal eye, doesn't seem as impressive as it really has been. In 110 games, he has hit 15 home runs and recorded 49 RBIs along with a .238 average. This might not appear to be the best, but if you take a deep dive into his stats and analytics, he has a case for Rookie of the Year.

Firstly, he's better hitter than the favorite for Rookie of the Year, Gunnar Henderson. One major stat that shows this is OPS+. Ryan Noda's 2023 season has an OPS+ of 130, meaning he is 30% better than the average hitter, while Henderson's is only 125, indicating that he is still 25% better than the average player but falls short of Noda. Noda has two flaws in Rookie of the Year voting, which is he played in fewer games and also is on the Oakland Athletics. Henderson will also win it because of his defense, but overall, as a hitter, he isn't better, just an all-around player.

Ryan Noda's batting average is .238, which is quite low. However, when you consider his walk rate of 16.1%, his On-Base Percentage is an elite .376, with an OPS of .808, ahead of the league average of .733. According to Baseball Savant, he is in the top 20% for Exit Velocity on Hits, Barrel Percentage, Hard-Hit Percentage, and Sweet-Spot Percentage, which leads to many line-drives and hard-hit home runs. A ballpark he would thrive in would be Coors Field because he hits a lot of balls off the walls and has many warning track shots and should have at least 10 more home runs than he currently does with 15.

On December 7th, 2022, the Athletics claimed Ryan Noda off waivers. While he wasn't going to be able to reach the majors because of Muncy or Freeman, they could have at least tried to trade him for something, but luckily the Athletics were able to snag him up for free. Noda is known mostly for being a fastball hitter. Against the 4-seam fastball, he's batting .286 against an expected batting average of .227. He's also been really good against the slider and changeup and thrived on the few sweepers he's seen but has struggled against the sinker, curveball, and cutter. Against the sinker, he has underperformed massively with a .176 average when projections estimate it should be around .215, same with the curveball, it's .139 against a projected .144 average. The best pitch to throw to Noda to get him out is the cutter. Against the cutter, he's batting .074, which means pitchers like Kenley Jansen, who has one of the deadliest cutters, would decimate him.

The main problems with Noda are, firstly, his strikeout rate at 32.6%, and also his fielding, but he more than makes up for it with his offensive numbers. He also needs to fix how he attacks certain pitches because struggling against them will lead to even more usage against him.