Sometimes, as baseball fans, we hear and read about players being overrated and underrated, but its only when you look at numbers when you realize how overrated or underrated a player could be. I’m not writing here to criticize and talk about overrated players, but to give credit to those, that in my opinion are underrated.
To look for those underrated players I used advanced stats. One advanced stat that is used to measure the player value is WAR (Wins Above Replacement). This stat measures a player’s value in wins. The first three players in this category are Joey Votto (4.8), David Wright (4.3) and Ryan Braun (4.1). None of them are underrated. On the contrary, they’re considered superstars, and they deserve that tag. But the fourth player on this list, Michael Bourn, is a player that doesn’t get too much attention. But his performance so far is making him worthy of a 3.9 WAR. Ranking tenth on this list we have one of Bourn’s teammates, that like Bourn doesn’t get a lot of attention. I’m talking about Martin Prado who owns a 3.3 WAR.
Another way to measure the offensive production of a player is wRC+. That stat measures the “runs created” by a player, but adjusted to park and league effects. The average would be 100, so any player above 100 is above average and below 100 below average. In this category, again Votto is leading the Majors with 195, followed by Carlos Ruiz with 173 and Wright with 170. Behind Wright, there’s a player that should get a lot of attention soon, Mark Trumbo, who has a 170 wRC+. Seventh on this list is another heavily underrated player, Carlos Beltran who has accumulated a 166 wRC+. The 13th and 15th players in this list are also underrated, I’m talking about Josh Willingham (156 wRC+) and Matt Joyce (152 wRC+).
When we talk about pitchers we could also measure their production in wins. So far the leaders in WAR in the Majors are Justin Verlander (3.8), Zack Greinke (3.6), Chris Sale and Stephen Strasburg (3.2). Verlander isn’t underrated at all, and nobody should be shocked that he leads the pitchers in WAR. Greinke has generated attention after winning the AL Cy Young award back in 2009 and then being traded to the Brewers. Sale is an outsider in this competition, but he should be getting a lot more of attention. And Strasburg is considered one of the most coveted prospects in the Nationals organization, so no, he’s not underrated.
The 12th and 14th players on this list are practically invisible to most eyes. Wade Miley (2.5), who became the only D’Backs representative in the All-Star Game and James McDonald (2.3). This two pitchers have been helping out their teams a lot but aren’t getting too much attention. They’re ahead of pitchers like C.J. Wilson and Cliff Lee, for example.
Another good stat to measure pitchers is FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching). This stat measures a pitcher’s value over the aspects of the game that he can control like strikeouts, walks, hit by pitches and home runs. In this category, we see Miley’s name again ranking seventh with a 2.88 FIP and McDonald in the 11th spot with a 2.96 FIP. In my opinion they could be the most underrated pitchers in the 2012 season.
OK, enough advanced stats, now I’d like to share something that caught my attention the other day. As I was thinking about how teams, with big payrolls, evaluate players to put on the field, I realized that the hardest task, for management isn’t to find the core pieces. Don’t get me wrong, but I find it easy to spot a superstar. You look at Bryce Harper or Mike Trout and you know they’re going to be superstars. If you go to the free agent market with a lot of money, like the Angels did last off season, you’ll also find outstanding players to become the core of your team (Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson). But what about those players that you have to pair with Albert and CJ?
Lets for one moment imagine that we are Brian Cashman. As the Yankees GM, we have money to spend, but our hardest task won’t be to sign C.C. Sabathia, Alex Rodriguez, Mariano Rivera or Derek Jeter who we all know are superstars. Our hardest task is to find those “role players” that along with the superstars could make a championship team. In my opinion, the Yankees have been doing a great job this past couple of seasons by bringing cheap veteran players like Eric Chavez, Andruw Jones, Freddy Garcia and Raul Ibanez, among others, to their team. It is that task that at least in my opinion, makes you earn your salary. Everybody can spot a superstar, and if you have the money and willingness to sign him you’ll do it, but it takes a keen eye to spot the right “role players” that will make your team a championship team.
Image by SBoyd under the Creative Commons License Agreement.