I know this is about a week late on the uptake, but I just had to get it off my chest. Sorry.
While I’m going to use numbers here to “prove” my point, I will admit that the terms “overrated” and “underrated” are (a) overused and (b) relative to a number of factors that are difficult-to-impossible to quantify in terms of measuring fan perception, what counts, etc. I’m clearly as guilty of overusing them as anyone.
But why do I care about this? After all, I like Jimmy Rollins, but I’m not a Phillies fan.
During the World Series buildup, different writers whom I enjoy wrote that Rollins isn’t really a “star” despite being treated like one (whatever that means) and that he is overrated. So it wasn’t so much what they said, but who said it. No, I’m not going to name them — this isn’t a “call out.” I’m not anyone people should be afraid of being called out by, and this isn’t a lame attempt to shame anyone. The point is that even smart people usually conversant with the numbers can get carried away without examining the numbers. (Not me, of course. I’m always completely objective.)
What could these people who said Rollins is “overrated” be talking about? Obviously, in 2009, he had a dreadful time at the plate. Of course, a player is probably pretty good if he has a down year that’s so bad he ends up being “only” league average. Another complaint is that Rollins leads off, and he’s never had a particularly great on-base percentage. While OBP is very important, it’s only part of a players’ value. Moreover, it’s his manager who makes him lead off, a role for which Rollins isn’t well-suited.
More importantly, though, saber-friendly writers know that current season stats don’t tell the story about a player, right? That’s MGL 101. Rather than going through the hassle of a projection, let’s see what kind of company this player has been keeping while being “overrated.” Over the last three seasons (including 2009), Rollins has accumulated 14.4 wins, making him “only” the 17th most valuable position player in that period according to FanGraphs’ WAR. Whose company is he in? Ichiro Suzuki is at 15.0, only half-a-win away (practically nothing over three years). Derek Jeter is Mr. Overrated Guys Bloggers Love To Whine About, and he’s the same as Ichiro. Ryan Zimmerman has been exactly as valuable. Grady Sizemore has been ever-so-slightly less valuable; is he a hack? How about Lance Berkman or Adrian Gonzalez?
Look, Rollins shouldn’t have won the 2007 NL MVP, when he wasn’t even the best player on his own team (ahem). Again, I don’t know exactly who’s been doing the “rating.” But if you ask me (and you didn’t), it’s tough to imagine that a guy who’s been about as good as Ichiro!, Jeter, Zimmerman, Grady Sizemore, Big Puma, and A-Gon over the last three years deserves the “overrated” label.
Then again, does Rollins have his own cologne?